Minister of Economics, Transport, Labour, Technology and Tourism for Schleswig-Holstein, Dr Bernd Klaus Buchholz
Chief of the German Navy, Vice-Admiral (VADM) Andreas Krause
Ambassador to Germany, Mr Laurence Bay
Chief Executive, Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), Mr Tan Peng Yam
Chief of Navy, Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lew Chuen Hong and Mrs Lew
Chief Executive Officer, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (tkMS), Dr Rolf Wirtz
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
First, a very good morning. Ivy and I are very honoured to be here to launch the RSN’s first Type 218SG submarine. Today's launch is a significant milestone for the RSN and Singapore. Both Dr Wirtz and Chief of Navy VADM Krause have talked about the rich naval traditions and thyssenkrupp’s marine shipyards. Singapore is a very small nation. And you say this is a baptism; we baptise much fewer children than the Germans or other larger countries, so you can imagine how we feel today. How very special today is for us. Because I doubt if 50 or so years ago when the SAF was started and when the RSN was started, that the founding generation of that day would ever conceive that we would be seated here in Kiel. That we would come to Kiel I think it is a possibility. That we would be launching a submarine – this new big baby behind us – would have been inconceivable. And yet, here we are today, launching as well as operating a submarine in our waters. And I am delighted that on this special occasion our German friends share this special moment with us in Kiel.
It is a proud moment, but I remind all of us within the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSN that the journey here was not all smooth sailing. It required the vision and the persistence of the RSN's pioneers. Because when we first launched our submarine programme, it could have failed. We all know how difficult it is and how much resolve and persistence submariners need to have. Through dogged determination, hard work, and good friends we got here not in a single jump, but because we persisted. In fact, it was not just nine years ago that my wife and I similarly launched our RSS Swordsman in 2010, and some coincidence, thyssenkrupp was there too in Karlskrona. That day was slightly different from this. It was blistering cold, they had to bring out blankets and many warmers and it was raining. To mark that occasion, we sailed with the first crew of the RSS Archer in the Baltic Sea. In fact, we sat on the bottom of the Baltic Sea and had a three-course lunch!
The Type 218SG submarines will have greater endurance and capabilities than our previous class of submarines and will operate in the warm waters in our part of the world. They are custom-built to cater to Singapore's needs.
Singapore is a Maritime Nation
Singapore sits astride two of the busiest Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) in the world – the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca – through which about one-third of the world's maritime trade is transported. The maritime industry is a significant feature of Singapore's economy and contributes around 7% of our Gross Domestic Product. The RSN plays a key role in keeping these SLOCs open, not only for Singapore, but indeed, for the world.
Type 218SG Submarines to Respond to Evolving Threats
And the maritime environment around Singapore also faces security challenges such as terrorism, shipping of illegal arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and persons, as well as piracy. The seaborne terrorist attacks such as the 2008 Mumbai attack, where ten terrorists who arrived via boats killed more than 160 people, demonstrate the real possibility and grave consequences of terrorists infiltrating a country from the sea.
In Asia, defence spending has increased significantly, reaching US $447 billion in 2017. It has exceeded that of Europe combined. This is an increase of approximately 61% from its spending in less than a decade ago. Many countries are modernising their armed forces. Thailand, for instance, approved a plan to acquire the first of three submarines in 2017. China announced plans to expand its submarine fleet by the end of the decade. Indonesia, India and South Korea have plans to expand and modernise their submarine fleets. And in this context, the acquisition of the new Type 218SG submarines is timely.
The Strength and Relevance of Type 218SG Submarines
Our Type 218SG submarines have 50% longer endurance than our current class of submarines, and can spend more time on-station lying in wait. With a greater weapons-carrying capacity and the ability to employ various types of payloads, they also possess more firepower and are far more flexible than our current class of submarines.
These new submarines are the products of years of experience and deep expertise from Germany, as well as our experience – the shorter experience of 20 years of the RSN and the DSTA. They are a testament to our warm and growing defence ties with Germany. Closely collaborating with our DSTA, the RSN oversaw the design of the submarines, before jointly developing them with tkMS. And I am heartened by the cooperation and the efforts of the Singaporean and German industries.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Federal German Navy for your valued partnership over the years. Chief of Navy RADM Lew Chuen Hong tells me how much you have assisted through your personal contributions, as well as what the German navy has done for the RSN, and allowing our submariners to sharpen their skills through a range of German professional courses. I commend the RSN officers who have excelled in the German command and officer courses, and I am also heartened that both countries have much to learn from each other. I look forward to our continued partnership in the years to come. You are very welcome to our part of the world, especially to Changi Naval Base.
These submarines are also a testament to the continual growth and progress of the RSN. It is particularly poignant that we have here amongst us today, pioneer submariners who started this journey 20 years ago. I am sure it is a very special moment. When they first started, I think the submarine was slightly smaller. They bear personal testimony to how far the RSN has transformed over time. We of course also have the Commanding Officer and the crew of our new ships – I am sure when they look at this, they are waiting to sail – who will be instrumental in bringing these submarines into operation., and I wish them a fulfilling journey ahead.
Christening – Invincible, Impeccable, Illustrious, Inimitable
The submariner's creed reads "To our adversaries, we are Invisible. To our enemies, we are Invincible." It is a statement that every submariner should be familiar with, having recited it from the first day of training. It is a key part of their identity. And it is also in that context that the RSN has decided to christen this new class of submarines the Invincible-class, indomitable whether in spirit or physically. Fitting too, is the christening of this ship as Invincible.
The second-in-class will be named Impeccable, carrying the hallmark of excellence, inspiring her crew to always attain the highest standards. The third will be named Illustrious for her to leave stories to inspire generations to come. The fourth and final boat will be Inimitable – peerless, distinctive and second-to-none.
The four boats – Invincible, Impeccable, Illustrious, Inimitable – signify our highest aspirations, for the RSN and for Singapore, to strive to be exceptional, regardless of challenging circumstances. Today is a baptism and christening, and these are good names for our new children to grow up and make our future brighter and protect Singapore. I charge our submariners to live up to them, to serve with distinction and continue to safeguard Singapore in the years to come.
Onwards and upwards, and for today, deepwards. Thank you.