Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR May 2016 Contents Asia Pacific Defence Reporter M AY 2 0 1 6 39
The boats are 1,758 tons and have a complement of
31. They are equipped with DCNS’ SUBTICs combat
system, Thales sonars, Black Shark torpedoes and
Exocet anti-ship missiles. The boats have a range of
6,500 nautical miles at 8 knots and an endurance of
They are based out of Sepanggar, a point close
to Malaysia’s more serious hotspots; the disputed
Spratly Islands and the disputed Ambalat sea south-
east of the Malaysian state of Sabah.
The Malaysian Navy had generated a submarine
requirement back in the mid 80’s. They wanted a
submarine force of eight submarines to be based
at Labuan, with access to the South China Sea.
Unfortunately ambition outstripped funding realities.
The notion of a submarine force continued
throughout the 90’s with Malaysia sending officers
and sailors abroad for submarine qualification
training. This saw Malaysians going to sea on
Australian, French, Pakistani and Turkish submarines.
The Australian training was the most intense, with
RAN submarine qualifications being awarded to
RMN personnel, including the two officers that were
to become the first Commanding Officers of each of
the submarines eventually delivered by DCNS.
It was the year 2000 before a submarine competition
commenced. The two primary contenders were
DCNS and TKMS. The German’s managed to deal
themselves out of the card game when they insisted
on trying to sell the Malaysians Type 209 submarines,
when the RMN were keen on the Type 214.
A contract for t wo Scorpenes was signed in 2002.
The package included training, a training Agosta 70
submarine and a willingness to co-sail it. Of course,
there has been reported controversy with the deal
involving money making its way to now Prime Minister
(then Defence Minister) Najib Razak’s bank account
and the murder (gunshots, followed by the use of
military grade explosives) of Mongolian interpreter
and model Altantuya Shaariibuu. Rosland was quick
to state that there was no corruption at his level, and
that he had no specific knowledge of corruption at
the political level, although he clearly knew of the
The French delivered the first submarine KD Tanku
Abdul Rahman in 2008, essentially on time, with the
RMN happy with the French performance.
The second submarine KD Tun Razak was built
by Navantia in Cartagena, Spain with the crew
trained by the Spanish. Admiral Rosland reported
some diameter mismatch issues with the submarine
pressure hull, but this issue was resolved and the
submarine was delivered, again, essentially on time.
Again the RMN were happy.
Asked what he would do differently with the project
if he had his time again, Rosland stated, “ Make sure
the contract was watertight. If it is not clear ... the
discussion starts ... and the French win”. Contract
negotiations with the French is a critical activity. “The
contract must include everything explicitly; if it is not
in the contract they will not do it [without a contract
Asked about what happened after the submarines
arrival in Malaysia, the story becomes mixed.
Boustead, the local state owned shipyard responsible
for the bulk of the sustainment work, do not seem to
get on well with DCNS (the two companies are also
co-operating on a Malaysian build of the RMN’s next
generation cor vette and the program is running quite
late and quite over budget). Each boat is supposed
to be available to the Navy for 130 days per annum,
but this availability is not being achieved. The Admiral
pointed to a lack of timely spares provision as a
substantive cause of the problem, something that
people in Australia with Collins experience could no
doubt relate to.
The Navy is still receiving ‘tactical assistance’ from
the French Government, who turn up twice a year to
assist with training.
Malaysia was essentially starting from zero when it
entered a contract to build two submarines in 2002.
The journey hasn’t been perfect but they have come
a long way since that time.
REFERENCE CHECK RESULTS
And so we turn ourselves to the results of the
reference check and look to see what the RAN could
draw from the experience of others with both the
French and the Germans as partners. It might be
possible to understand from these experiences why
DCNS have been selected as the SEA 1000 design
Both DCNS and TKMS build good submarines.
With the exception of the Indian Navy, who are not
really in a position to comment on their Scorpene
since it is still undergoing sea trails, each Navy
is comfortable with, even proud of, its submarine
The Germans receive a very positive
build scorecard. It seems they are a tough
crowd to get into a contract with, because
most of the details are sorted out before
contract signature, but once they are in
contract they work hard to get the delivery
right, both technically and temporally. The
French scored well in Chile, but suffered a
little in the case of India and Malaysia. The
issues during the build seemed to centre
about contract ambiguity; a lesson for
Australia now that a French partnership and
design has been chosen for SEA 1000.
Once delivered, sustainment of the submarines
seemed to be a bit of a mixed bag. No-one seem truly
unhappy in their scoring of the French or Germans,
although in Portugal and Israel, the author sensed
a real happiness with how things have been going
The one thing that did stand out in all countries
visited however, was that the choice of a submarine
partner was heavily influenced by politics. It would
seem that a competition, like the CEP taking place
in Australia, is a mechanism for knocking out those
that don’t ‘cut the mustard’ but not a mechanism for
selecting the submarine partner and submarine. The
choice of the partner and submarine is political.
As Paul Kelly wrote in a recent article in the
Australian, “Cabinet, of course, is supreme: guided
by the Defence Minister and Prime Minister, it can
decide whatever it wants”.
Rex Patrick is a full time advisor to the Independent
Senator Nick Xenophon. The views expressed in
this ar ticle are those of the author.
The Malaysian Navy had generated a submarine requirement back
in the mid 80’s. They wanted a submarine force of eight submarines
to be based at Labuan, with access to the South China Sea.
Unfortunately ambition outstripped funding realities.
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Jacksonville
(SSN 699) prepares to moor across the pier from Malaysia's
first submarine, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, at Sepangar Naval
Base. (Royal Malaysian Navy photo/Released)
29/04/2016 6:51 PM
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