Singapore Navy's Golden Jubilee: PM Lee Commissions First Littoral Mission Vessel
RSS Independence

05 May 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officiated at the commissioning of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN)'s first-of-class Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV), RSS Independence, at Changi Naval Base today. The commissioning ceremony was held in conjunction with the RSN's Golden Jubilee celebrations, which commemorates 50 years of the RSN being the maritime force for a maritime nation.

 

With the commissioning, the RSS Independence becomes fully operational and will join the rest of the Navy to fulfil a wide spectrum of operations to safeguard Singapore's waters, protect its sea lines of communication and contribute to regional peace and security. Designed and built locally, the Independence-class LMV is jointly conceived by the RSN and the Defence Science and Technology Agency. It pushes the boundaries of engineering and design in delivering a more capable, faster and mission-flexible ship with better seakeeping and endurance that can be manned with a leaner crew to replace the Fearless-class Patrol Vessels. Featuring many innovative "firsts", the commissioning marks a significant milestone in the continued transformation of the RSN into a sharper, smarter and stronger Navy.

 

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, PM Lee highlighted the significance and historic value of the name of RSS Independence. PM Lee said, "It is a significant and historic name. Significant, because protecting Singapore's independence has always been a core mission of the RSN. Historic, because the name "Independence" carries the legacy and spirit of the RSN pioneers starting from the first RSS Independence, the patrol craft, which played a key role during the Laju ferry hijacking in 1974." PM Lee further commended the efforts of RSN personnel past and present in transforming a fledgling constabulary force of just two wooden ships into a strong maritime force today. Emphasising the RSN's vital role as the front line of Singapore's maritime defence, he added that the RSN servicemen are entrusted with a vital mission to protect Singapore's sovereignty and safeguard us from threats from the sea, and addressed the Navy saying, "It is now your duty to sail the ships of the next generation Navy, and keep Singapore safe and secure, in peacetime as in war."

“ It is now your duty to sail the ships of the next generation Navy, and keep Singapore safe and secure, in peacetime as in war. ”

- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

As part of the commemorative activities, PM Lee launched the RSN50 Commemorative Book titled "A Maritime Force for a Maritime Nation - Celebrating 50 Years of the Navy". The book features articles and interviews chronicling the experiences and achievements of the men and women of the RSN. PM Lee also launched the RSN50 Doodle Wall, an art mural that depicts Singapore's rich maritime heritage alongside the progress of the RSN. An RSN50 time capsule, comprising items symbolic of the RSN's key achievements over the past 50 years, was then sealed by PM Lee.


At the event, PM Lee also interacted with personnel from the RSS Independence during a visit to the ship, where he was briefed on its systems and capabilities. He was hosted by Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Lai Chung Han, with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen and other senior officials from Ministry of Defence and the SAF in attendance.

Mr Ong with past Commanding Officers of RSN's Patrol Vessel, RSS Unity.

PM Lee (left) presenting the commissioning warrant to Commanding Officer of RSS Independence Lieutenant Colonel Tay Choong Hern (right).

Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Navy Day Celebration and Commissioning of First Littoral Mission Vessel RSS Independence

Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence, men and women of the Navy, past and present, distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen.

 

Today marks the 50th birthday of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). I am honoured to celebrate this Golden Jubilee with all of you, and on this occasion to commission the first-of-class Littoral Mission Vessel, RSS Independence.

50 years ago is also when we first introduced National Service (NS). That was a radical but essential move. As a newly independent country, we had to build up the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) from scratch. We had just separated from Malaysia, Konfrontasi was barely over, the Vietnam War was hotting up, and Southeast Asia was a troubled and unstable region. The British bases and forces were still here, but the British were anxious to withdraw their forces, and in fact withdrew all their forces by 1971, earlier than expected. Many doubted that Singapore could survive.

A strong defence force was an absolute necessity and the only way to have one was through universal National Service, and that required the support of every Singaporean - parents to prepare sons for NS, wives to look after the home, and employers to make alternative work arrangements during in-camp training. So that generations of young men could answer the call of duty to put heart and soul into protecting our homes and our loved ones. Because we traded with the world, and the sea was and still is our lifeline. We needed a strong maritime force to protect our sovereignty, defend us from seaborne threats, and keep trade - our lifeblood - flowing.

At Telok Ayer Basin on this day 50 years ago, we created the Singapore Naval Volunteer Force. It was a makeshift force. All we had were a handful of volunteers from the Singapore Division of the Malayan Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, and the Singapore Women Auxiliary Naval Service. Our fleet consisted of just two seaworthy wooden ships - RSS Panglima and RSS Bedok - plus one third ship, RSS Singapura, moored to serve as the navy headquarters!

What our pioneers lacked in technology and resources, they made up for in their determination and resourcefulness. We sent midshipmen abroad to Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, to train and gain operational experience. They worked hard to build and modernise the Navy. They acquired and passed down the art of sea-faring and the skills and discipline of seamen. Progressively, we equipped the Navy with more up-to-date hardware, starting with six patrol crafts in 1968, one of which was the first RSS Independence, and gradually added Missile Gunboats (MGBs), Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs), minesweepers, and Missile Corvettes (MCVs). It was only in 1975 that the Navy was named the Republic of Singapore Navy, one of the three services of the SAF.

Thus starting from two wooden ships, we now have a full-fledged Third Generation Navy - a fighting force including submarines, frigates, maritime patrol aircraft, unmanned vessels and unmanned aircrafts. Professional and courageous fighting men and women, who have been tested in real operations - Officers and men who have carried out counter-piracy missions in the Arabian Gulf, search-and-rescue operations after aircraft incidents, and coordinated patrols in the Malacca Straits. A navy that is admired at home and respected beyond our shores!

Today, the RSN reaches another milestone with the commissioning of the Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) RSS Independence. This is the first of the RSN's next generation warships. It is also the first Navy ship to be completely designed and built in Singapore, in close collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Agency.

It is therefore apt that she is named RSS Independence. It is a significant and historic name. Significant, because protecting Singapore's independence has always been a core mission of the RSN. Historic, because the name "Independence" carries the legacy and spirit of the RSN pioneers starting from the first RSS Independence, the patrol craft, which played a key role during the Laju ferry hijacking in 1974.

I am very glad that the pioneers of the RSN, and members of the crews of the first and second RSS Independence ships are here today, to witness the commissioning of LMV RSS Independence, including Major (Ret) Alan Aw, the first Commanding Officer (CO) of Patrol Craft Independence, and Captain (Ret) Philip Tay, who was CO during the Laju hijacking, as well as members of the Singapore Division of the Malayan Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and the Singapore Women Auxiliary Naval Service. Some saw active service in Tawau in East Malaysia during Konfrontasi. Several were present at Telok Ayer Basin on the 5 May 1967, 50 years ago, when the Navy Ensign was hoisted for the first time. Your presence honours the new RSS Independence and its crew, and reminds us what the Navy is about: not just capable ships and up-to-date technology, but fighting spirit and dedication to the nation.

To the CO, Lieutenant Colonel Tay Choong Hern and the crew of the LMV RSS Independence, and to the men and women of the RSN, you inherit a proud history, and are entrusted with a vital mission. It is now your duty to sail the ships of the next generation Navy, and keep Singapore safe and secure, in peacetime as in war. Onwards and upwards! Thank you.

Fact sheet: RSN50 - Navy Day Commemorative Activities

 

Introduction

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) celebrated its 50th Navy Day on 5 May 2017. In commemoration of its Golden Jubilee, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the RSN50 Commemorative Book and RSN50 Doodle Wall, and sealed the RSN50 Time Capsule to recognise the achievements of its servicemen and women, past and present.

 

RSN50 Commemorative Book

Figure 1: RSN50 Commemorative Book Cover

 

The RSN50 Commemorative Book is titled "A Maritime Force for a Maritime Nation - Celebrating 50 Years of the Navy" and comprises a collection of more than 50 articles. It includes articles written by academics and diplomats, feature stories about the RSN’s 3rd Generation transformation, and interviews with RSN personnel such as pioneers, NSmen and current servicemen and women. The book tells the history of the RSN through the adventures of its people, and pays tribute to their hard work and dedication in building a well-balanced and capable maritime force that stands ready, strong and committed in the defence of Singapore. The book will be distributed to all in-service RSN personnel, Navy pioneers and NSmen, as well as Navy personnel from the SAF Volunteer Corps.

 

RSN50 Doodle Wall

Figure 2: RSN50 Doodle Wall

 

Based on the RSN50 theme"Maritime Nation, Maritime Force", the RSN50 Doodle Wall is an art mural depicting Singapore’s rich maritime heritage and key milestones in the RSN’s history. It traces the evolution of the RSN alongside Singapore’s growth as a maritime nation, and reaffirms the RSN's commitment as the unwavering pillar of Singapore’s maritime defence.

The mural was launched by PM Lee, who was the first to colour on the RSN50 Doodle Wall. PM Lee coloured the crescent moon on the valour at sea statue on the doodle wall in gold.

The artwork will also be displayed at SAFRA Punggol and SAFRA Toa Payoh during the June holidays for the public to colour on.

 

Location
Date
SAFRA Punggol
27 May - 11 Jun
SAFRA Toa Payoh
13 Jun - 26 Jun

 

RSN50 Time Capsule

Figure 3: Artist's impression of RSN50 Time Capsule


The RSN50 Time Capsule contains items representative of the Navy's key achievements over the past 50 years, contributed by the RSN's various formations and departments. This includes achievements in naval diplomacy, deployment structure and engineering and logistics capabilities. Former Chiefs of Navy also contributed items that reflect a key milestone of the RSN during their tenure. The time capsule was sealed by PM Lee, who also placed the RSN50 Commemorative Book inside.

Other items include a framed poster of the ports-of-call during Sail Navy 2000, the RSN's first round-the-world voyage; a replica of the new littoral mission vessel, signifying the capability of the future RSN; and aspirations of our Navy personnel for RSN75.

The time capsule will be opened when the RSN turns 75 in 2042. It is specially designed to look like a typical compartment on board an RSN ship. Like how a watertight door maintains a ship's watertight integrity, this time capsule is meant to preserve the integrity and timelessness of the artefacts sealed within.