Speech by Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, at the Launching Ceremony of the First Littoral Mission Vessel

Speech by Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, at the Launching Ceremony of the First Littoral Mission Vessel

Second Minister for Defence Mr Lui Tuck Yew,
Minister of State for Defence Mr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman,
Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral Lai Chung Han,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning.

Thank you Barry[1], for sharing with us what a long and difficult journey it has been in the last 29 months, but we are here. My wife, Ivy, and I are very honoured to be here, to launch this ship. We have many people here, as Mr Barry Desker said. Distinguished people here to witness the birthing and christening of this ship. And what a beautiful backdrop, look at that. Brings me back memories. The last time my wife and I had to do the same, it was in Karlskrona, Sweden, with the submarine.

As I said, there are many distinguished people here - Minister of Transport, Second Minister for Defence Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Minister of State for National Development and Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki and his wife, Chief of Navy and previous Chiefs of Navy, Mr Kwa Chong Seng[2] and his board members from ST (Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd). And I think that it reflects this shared labour that we all have. This ship is designed and built in Singapore, so I think we want to thank all the partners, who have delivered it on time and to do it in 29 months - it's a significant achievement. And I am excited that in not more than a couple more months, February next year - that is the target anyway - that you will hand it over to the Navy and make sure that it is seaworthy and that it performs. I am sure it will.

The launch of this Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) - this new class of vessels - is symbolically very apt, because we are doing it in Singapore's Golden Jubilee year. It is a birth of something stronger, more capable; that we are ourselves are taking charge, and I think there is rich symbolism here. But, the LMVs, in truth, continue this remarkable voyage that the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) first embarked with two wooden hull boats 50 years ago. You can forgive us for being a bit reflective on our Golden Jubilee year, but we've been through a lot. And the first two boats, as most seamen will remind you, were the RSS Panglima and RSS Bedok. Along the way, the RSN has encountered many storms and rough seas. But today, the RSN is respected by its peers. So, when I meet other Chiefs of Navies, I, and I say oh I am the Minister for Defence. They say, oh your Navy is very respected. I can see that there is a mark of respect. I think that that mark of respect is well won. You remember how we performed in the search operations for Air Asia flight QZ8501. When I received the news that the Air Asia flight went down, I was overseas, I gave a call to Minister Ryamizard[3] in Indonesia, at 12 o'clock noon - I remember. Said we want to help, he said well, thank you, and then he cleared it very quickly in a few hours. (The crew was) called back, (they) launched (the ship), and we were out. And finally, it was one of our ships, MV Swift Rescue, that had the capabilities to locate the sunken fuselage.

So, along the ways, along our 50 years, we have chalked up minor victories. You have one of well-fought reputation of being a professional navy, and a full suite of surface, sub-surface and anti-air capabilities. I say that rather glibly - surface, sub-surface, anti-air capabilities. I can tell you, your pioneers in the RSN would have never envisioned the day when we will have all this capabilities. Am I right? So, it's in our Asian tradition sometimes not to laud ourselves for our achievements, but as I say, on this Golden Jubilee year, we will allow us some "un-Asian" latitude to congratulate ourselves, because like Singapore, the RSN has come a long way. And for this, we have to thank the successive generations, we have to thank our pioneers, and the successive generations of our leaders, our servicemen and women, because it was dominantly due to the fact that the people of RSN believed fervently in this mission. They believed that they could protect the waters around us, that we have continually moved "onwards and upwards, and never looking back", and that today we are able to stand here together amid peace and security in our surrounding seas.

So today, the RSN's mandate has enlarged many miles before, beyond what we originally conceived - constantly watching over Singapore's waters, safeguarding our sovereignty, ensuring that the sea lines of communications, which are vital for our economic well-being, are kept open and safe. And from time to time, we respond to assist in international efforts, as we did in the Gulf of Aden against pirates and in the search for Air Asia flight QZ8501.

Joining us today to celebrate another milestone in RSN's journeys are those who operated the previous Independence-class patrol craft, and the Fearless-class patrol vessels which were used in the 70s and 90s. Included in our presence is the first Commanding Officer of our first patrol craft, MAJ (Ret) Alan Aw. Alan and the people who serve with him will remember and bring back memories of the difficulties and adventures that they had. And, the LMV Independence is certainly more capable compared to what you have sailed. It is more automated. By the way, the basic manning is with 23 people. It has more intelligent systems and greater fire power. But - new ship, new technology, leaner manning - nothing can replace the spirit of the men and women of the RSN in ensuring success for every mission. 

The LMV is not just another new ship but instead will lead the way in how we use technology to overcome operational demands. That is the ethos of Singapore, as we celebrate our Golden Jubilee. How we look at our problems and say, we can overcome, even if you have a reduction of manpower, we will do it. There will be a way that we can find, that we can surmount our challenges and find that spirit which our founding fathers did, to move Singapore to new heights. The Independence will have various mission modules - medical containers, unmanned systems, to respond to different circumstances. And, if you look carefully, unlike the previous patrol vessels, the LMV will have a helicopter deck to extend its reach.

So, I would to like to recognise this strong partnership between the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), the defence technology community and our local industry partners, that made this ship that you see behind me and many more of the same class that will come - the LMVs - possible. The LMVs, as Mr Barry Desker said, are uniquely Singaporean, having been planned, conceptualised and built locally to meet our requirements. DSTA engineers worked closely with the RSN so that the new ship will require half the maintenance time compared to the patrol vessels, and allow more time out at sea.

Their names, as I said this is a christening (of the LMV) as well and I'm very happy that the RSN asked Singaporeans, what would you like these new ships to be called? There are many suggestions, but in the end, the the Chief of Navy and his staff decided that they would choose the names that reflected the values of our founding fathers and the pioneer generation of Singapore. Very apt for SG50. And the names will be IndependenceSovereigntyUnityJusticeIndomitableFortitudeDauntless, and Fearless. These are fine names, and I charge the RSN to live up to them.

So, to launch a ship with these capabilities after 29 months is a proud achievement for all of us. But RSN's voyage continues with the other seven LMVs and beyond. I am confident the Republic of Singapore Navy will continue to push forward with the same steadfast spirit as those who came before you, to continue to enhance your capabilities to keep our seas safe and secure, as we look beyond horizons.

Congratulations, and thank you.


[1] Mr Barry Desker, Chairman, Singapore Technologies Marine Ltd.

[2] Mr Kwa is Independent Non-Executive Director and Chairman of the Board of Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd.

[3] Minister of Defense of Indonesia.

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