Singapore will be acquiring two new submarines that are expected to be delivered from 2024, in a move to replace its older and ageing underwater war vessels, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced on Tuesday (May 16).
Singapore also needs to make the purchases to keep pace with the growth of navies in Asia and to be an effective force, even as it continues to work with other navies in tackling common security challenges, said Dr Ng, at the opening ceremony of the 11th International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (Imdex) Asia.
Together with two other submarines of the same Type-218SG model that were ordered previously and expected to be delivered in 2021 and 2022, the two new buys will ensure the Singapore Navy continues to modernise and keep pace with the growth of navies in Asia, he added.
"At steady state, the four Type-218SGs in service will complement each other in maintenance, logistics and operations, and have better capabilities to protect our sea lines of communications," said Dr Ng.He noted that more than 50 per cent of global container traffic now moves through the Asia-Pacific. Singapore itself has seen an increase of 20 per cent over the last decade, from 480 million tones in 2006 to almost 600 million tonnes last year.
To protect their interests, Asean countries, Australia, China, and India have all increased the strength of their navies and naval budgets in Asia-Pacific are expected to increase by 60 per cent through 2020
Citing statistics from US-based naval analysis and advisory agency AMI International, Dr Ng added that by 2030, there will be approximately 800 more warships and submarines operating within the Asia-Pacific region compared to today.
Dr Ng also stressed the importance of multilateral cooperation to combat transnational threats such as terrorism, piracy and illegal smuggling of weapons of mass destruction.
"Individual counties need to work together, even as each appropriately strengthens their navies and other maritime security agencies," he said.
He cited how Singapore has been part of joint patrols in the Malacca Straits and offered assistance for joint patrols by Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in the Sulu Seas to deal with security issues.
But as seas become busier with commercial and military activity, practical procedures and platforms are needed to prevent or managed unintended incidents at sea, he said.
He added that the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, or Cues, has been a success and should be expanded to include coast guard and non-military ships.
The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is also seeking to develop a code of conduct for submarines to enhance underwater and submarine operations safety.
Singapore began its submarine journey between 1995 and 1997 when it acquired four Sjoormen-class submarines from Sweden which were built in the 1960s. They underwent refurbishment and were named as Challenger-class vessels.
In 2005, Singapore bought and upgraded a pair of Swedish Vastergotland-class submarines, which are called Archer-class vessels.
These submarines are fitted with the state-of-the-art Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system that allows them to last six weeks at sea - twice as long as the Challenger-class submarines.
The AIP system will also mean the fleet is better prepared to hide from enemies and provide expanded capacities for operations like anti-submarine warfare or trailing surface ships in areas such as the South China Sea or the Malacca Strait.
In November 2013, Singapore had inked with German defence contractor Thyssenkrupp Marine System to buy new Type-218SG submarines.
It marked the first time Singapore was buying new submarines, which are new-generation diesel-electric subs to be built from scratch and expected to be delivered from 2020. The Type-218SG subs will also be fitted with the AIP system.