Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral Lew Chuen Hong,
President and CEO of ST Engineering Mr Vincent Chong
President of ST Engineering Electronics and Defence Business Mr Ravinder Singh,
It is a great honour to be here today to commission the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) fourth and fifth Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs).
Singapore has often been referred to as a gateway between the East and the West. Trade has been and will always be the lifeblood of Singapore. Our lack of natural resources means that most items are imported and we depend on cross-border trade for many things. These include resources that we require on a daily basis such as food, building materials, electricity and petroleum. Our survival and prosperity are interdependent on our connectedness with the rest of the world.
Today, maritime trade remains vital for modern Singapore, contributing 7% to our GDP each year and sustaining about 170,000 jobs for Singaporeans. As a maritime nation in a maritime region, Singapore's security and success are inextricably linked to the sea. We rely on freedom of access to the sea without the burden of tariffs for economic prosperity. It is therefore critical that the Singapore Strait and the Malacca Strait remain open and undisrupted. In this regard, the role of the RSN is crucial to Singapore's survival as a nation. The RSN secures our Sea Lines of Communication, safeguards our continued free access to the sea, and protects our way of life.
The RSN has been, and always will be, committed to the sacred duty of preserving our maritime sovereignty. For many years, Singapore has benefitted from peace and order in our maritime domain, but this should not be taken for granted. In today's ever-changing security landscape, we must always be ready to guard against potential aggressors that threaten our existence. As an island, Singapore's long coastline makes us exceptionally vulnerable to seaborne threats, from sea robberies and piracy to terrorist attacks from the sea. Piracy threats, in particular, can severely disrupt commercial shipping. Other incidents, like the 2008 Mumbai attacks, demonstrate the real possibility of terrorists gaining access into a country via the sea, and the gravity of the resulting damage. Through the years, we have also seen how the maritime space can become an arena for contestation and a cause of tension among powerful nations.
These threats have the potential to severely impact Singapore's economic interests and stability. The RSN hence works to ensure Singapore's security by collaborating closely with other agencies and sharing information to gain insights on how to better combat maritime terrorism. To ensure round-the-clock security, the RSN's Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF) also works closely with various national agencies such as the Police Coast Guard (PCG).
During the DPRK-US Singapore Summit earlier this year, the RSN led various national agencies in ensuring the security of the waters surrounding Singapore for this international high-stakes event. Through the Summit, the RSN strengthened security by using its LMVs, Patrol Vessels and Landing Ships Tank to escort vessels transiting through surrounding waters. Besides this, strict checks were also conducted on commercial vessels entering and departing Singapore waters. Considering the complex nature of these security operations and the limited time that the RSN was given to coordinate these prior to the Summit, the success of the security effort was no easy feat. It is a testament to the RSN's ability to rise to the occasion when called upon.
In addition to its traditional role in coastal security, and maritime patrol and surveillance missions, the RSN also plays an important role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as Search-and-Rescue (SAR) missions. To accommodate this wider range of maritime missions, LMVs adopt a concept of ‘modularity', which allows them to be easily configured to suit a variety of mission demands. These mission modules allow the LMV to be equipped with mission-specific capabilities, such as operation of unmanned systems, conduct of helicopter operations, and delivery of medical aid. This increases efficiency and grants the RSN the flexibility to deploy the LMVs for different purposes and needs.
To cope with the reality of a shrinking Singapore population, the innovative design of the LMVs also enables the operation of a large-sized vessel by a relatively small crew. The LMVs only require about 80 percent of the manpower needed to operate current patrol vessels, a feature made possible through the harnessing of technologies and the streamlining of work processes as a result of vessel redesign. The resulting lean manning of the vessels demands more of RSN sailors, who have had to undergo training to equip them to take on multiple roles on-board the ship to ensure smooth operations.
Apart from reduced manpower, the LMVs are also designed to be more intuitive for users. Today, there is an increasing emphasis on smooth user-experiences for all kinds of gadgets, and our LMVs are no exception. This will benefit the future operators of LMVs – the younger generation who have grown up in the digital age and will better appreciate smart designs.
10. To maintain the RSN's military edge and harness technology to aid learning, the new LMV Simulation Centre (SIMCEN), named RSS Daring, will officially open today. The RSS Daring will leverage on technology, like Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence, to integrate training on navigation, technical skills and warfare. It will also support a full range of training from operator component training to mission-based training, giving the LMV crew valuable experience to ensure operational readiness. Training will be made more effective by using analytics to monitor the crew members' performance. This will allow for prompt correction to enhance learning retention and speed.
The LMV programme has progressed remarkably over the years, with five of the eight vessels operationalised over a short period of less than one and a half years. By 2020, all eight LMVs are scheduled to be operational.
Thus far, our LMVs have also performed commendably. The first three LMVs – RSS Independence, RSS Sovereignty and RSS Unity, have been put to the test since their commissioning last year, participating in various exercises with foreign counterparts in the region, including the inaugural ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise in Thailand last year as well as bilateral exercises with Thailand and Indonesia this year. RSS Independence and RSS Unity were also involved in the DPRK-US Singapore Summit in June this year. Their role in ensuring the security of the key global leaders present at the Summit was vital in bringing about the success of the Summit, and showcasing Singapore as a competent host for the historic event.
With today's commissioning, RSS Justice and RSS Indomitable will officially join the active service of the RSN. Justice and indomitability are two attributes that drive the RSN in its mission to secure our Sea Lines of Communication. Both also guide the RSN as it strives to ensure that Singapore continues to enjoy fair economic relations with our international trading partners and that the RSN will always rise to the occasion with an indomitable spirit, ready to respond to potential seaborne threats when called upon.
To the pioneer crews of RSS Justice and RSS Indomitable, I am confident that you will embody and live up to the names of your ships as you embark on countless future journeys to defend our seas with courage and a sense of justice. Congratulations to the RSN once again as well – may it continue to be a powerful and indomitable force in the years to come. I wish you all fair winds and following seas. Thank you very much.