ASEAN Navies in a Perspective - Part II

- G.V.C. Naidu



Malaysia occupies geo-strategically an important position—the Straits of Malacca on the west coast and the South China Sea on the east. In addition to the peninsular Malaysia located far away from the states of Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia is faced with a number of maritime disputes with most of its neighbours:

— Claims for some of the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea.

— An on-going dispute over the province of Sabah and the waters surrounding it with the Philippines.

— Dispute with Indonesia over the islands of Sipadan, Sebatik and Ligitan in the Celebes Sea (in a mutual agreement it has been referred to the International Court of Justice for adjudication).

— Dispute with Brunei over the Limbang Salient dividing Brunei.

— Dispute with Singapore over the ownership of Pulau Batu Putih Island in the Straits of Johore.

Recent events in the South China Sea have certainly made the Malaysians very concerned, but they have not completely overcome their suspicions about both Indonesia and Singapore. Malaysia needs to have a credible defence force, without being unrealistic, even if it were to protect its maritime interests.

At the time of Malaysia's independence, the country had to grapple with serious problems which threatened the very existence of the country. At the domestic level, it had to deal with a delicate racial balance and growing Communist insurgency, and at the external level, its very creation as the Malaysia Federation was vehemently opposed by Sukarno (through his "Konfrontasi" policy), and the Philippines strongly objected to the inclusion of Sabah province in the Malaysia Federation. The British experiment of creation of a Malaysia Federation by merging Singapore with Malaya did not work out and in 1965, Malaysia expelled Singapore. Thus, more critical to Malaysia's security was to cope with the sensitive issue of racial balance and deal with insurgency movements. In these circumstances Malaysia had no option but to retain (and depend on) the strong British connection and become part of the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) consisting of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore for its external security requirements and concentrate its energies on addressing the internal security issues. The 1965 developments in Indonesia and the formation of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967 considerably eased the pressure and enabled Malaysia to concentrate on tackling the insurgency problem. Nonetheless, as far as its Navy is concerned, Malaysia faced a serious problem because major command and training facilities were built by the British in Singapore. It was only after building a large new naval base at Lumut did the Malaysian Navy shift a major portion of its training establishment in 1979 and the Fleet Operations Command Headquarters in 1981.15 The naval recruit training centre is still based in Singapore at Woods which would be shifted to the new base that is being constructed in the state of Johore Baru in the south which is expected to be operational by the end of 1997. This facility will engage in monitoring developments in the South China Sea and the Malacca Straits.16

In the mid-Sixties, the modest Royal Malaysian Navy comprised entirely the British-supplied ships: one ex-British Loch class frigate (commissioned in 1944 and delivered to Malaysia in 1964 after a few fittings), six coastal minesweepers, two inshore minesweepers and four fast patrol craft.17 Except placing an order for one general purpose Yarrow type frigate in 1966 and four missile boats in 1967 from Britain, no major additions were made to the Navy till the early Seventies. The earlier old and outdated Loch class frigate was being used for training purposes. Four more new missile boats were ordered from the UK in 1972 and 1973. Thus, the effective strength of the Navy in 1973 was two frigates (including the one meant for training), eight missile boats—4 Perdana class completed in 1972-73 and the older 4 Perkasa class which were re-armed with SS-21 missiles in 1971; six coastal minesweepers and 24 patrol craft.18

In 1976, the Malaysian Navy ordered four fast attack craft from Sweden to be delivered by the end of the Seventies, fitted with anti-ship Exocet missiles, and in 1977, acquired one frigate, the ex-UK Mermaid, as a replacement for the Loch.19 By the late Seventies, the Malaysian Navy had two frigates, four fast attack craft (fitted with Exocet missiles), six fast attack craft (with gun), 22 patrol craft and five minesweepers.20

It was during the Eighties that Malaysia started thinking in terms of expanding its armed forces in general to make them more external oriented. The insurgency had virtually been contained, political stability firmly established and the economy was witnessing a fast growth rate. In 1981, Malaysia ordered two Type FS 1500 German HDW frigates (which were armed with Exocet missiles and other guns and commissioned in 1984) and one offshore patrol vessel from South Korea with a provision to build the second one in Malaysia. Around this time, Malaysia also toyed with the idea of obtaining a submarine; however, it was postponed indefinitely. Probably the mid-1980s economic depression might have deterred this expensive proposition.

The relative external peace found since the Indonesian confrontationist attitude under Sukarno, the end of the Communist insurgency, and the end of the Cold War in a way infused a sense of urgency to pay more attention to the armed forces in the late 1980s which has been long overdue. Malaysia struck a massive US $3.5 billion deal with Britain in October 1988 for the supply of Tornado aircraft (which could also be employed for naval attack role—it was, however, later replaced by the Hawk aircraft because of costs and high technological sophistication), medium-range artillery, naval helicopters and ground-to-air missiles. It was also strongly rumoured that two second-hand Oberon class submarines were also part of the deal, but they were later dropped probably because of the enormous costs involved.21 However, in the first phase of a major modernisation of the armed forces, the Air Force received the initial emphasis leading to the acquisition of several types of modern aircraft from diverse sources.

The Navy could not be neglected for long because of concerns spurred initially for Soviet presence at Cam Ranh Bay and close Moscow-Hanoi defence links and later for offshore oil and gas installations, the South China Sea dispute, and the new maritime interests acquired under the Law of the Sea.

During the first phase of recent modernisation, in November 1990, it was announced that Malaysia would acquire two new and two second-hand (for training purposes) submarines, but once again a decision was postponed. Nevertheless, Malaysia never gave up the idea. The Malaysian Navy's emphasis in the 1990s seems to be to concentrate on strengthening its surface combatant force, beefing up its patrol force, building up a strong strike force and creating a submarine arms. Reportedly the Malaysian submarine personnel have been trained in India, Australia and Pakistan.22 Hence, it is most likely that Malaysia would acquire submarines sooner than later. Malaysia's maritime concerns, especially the developments in the South China Sea, have already manifested in new purchases. In 1992, it acquired 48 French MM-40 Exocet and several Seawolf ship-to-ship missiles for its two Yarrow (Lekin in Malaysia) class general purpose frigates (acquired in 1992 and 1996),23 and four B-200T maritime patrol aircraft from the US,24 and in 1994 it ordered 50 AGM-84A Harpoon anti-ship missiles (for F-18 aircraft)25 and one ex-US Newport class LST landing ship (it can carry 400 troops and up to 500 tons of equipment and vehicles) in support of its Rapid Reaction Force.26 In 1995, Malaysia acquired two Assad class corvettes from Italy (which were originally constructed for Iraq) fitted with Otomat MK-2 ship-to-ship missiles to be delivered after modernisation and refit.27

By the mid-Nineties, the Malaysian fleet consisted of three frigates (two Yarrow Lekiu class frigates armed with 8 MM-40 Exocet Block II SSM and British Seawolf SAM missiles), 4 missile corvettes (including two Assad class), 14 fast attack craft (8 armed with armed with MM-38 Exocets), 20 patrol craft (two offshore and 18 inshore), four mine countermeasures and three LST amphibious ships. Acquisition of four Beachcraft B200Ts (with a range of about 3,200km) has considerably boosted the maritime patrol capability to take care of the Malacca Straits and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on both sides, but not necessarily in the South China Sea.28 Both the recently acquired F-A/18D fighter-boombers and 28 Hawk fighters have been equipped with Harpoon and Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles.29 Malaysia has embarked on a US$1.6 billion New Generation Patrol Vessel Programme which might result in the building of altogether 27 ships spread over 20 years in the new Seventh Five-Year Plan starting from early 1996. Initially, this programme would involve 6 ships.30

As part of the FPDA, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAFF) operates two P-3Cs on rotation from the Butterworth base (near Penang) for suveillance purposes in the surrounding waters. A small number of RAAF F-18As are also located at the same base which conduct joint exercises with Malaysia and other FPDA countries.

Further to its membership in the FPDA and close defence links with Australia, Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a number of countries, including Britain and India. Although the MoU with India was meant to cover a larger area (including joint development of certain defence equipment), so far it appears to be confined to the training of pilots and ground personnel for the 18 Russian Mig-29 Fulcrum Malaysia has procured, and cooperation in the supply of spare parts to these aircraft.

In view of its geography, a long coastline of nearly 4,200 km, important sea lanes of trade, vast maritime assets and a number of maritime disputes, the Malaysian Navy needs capabilities for both offshore surveillance and coastal defence; and because the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak are separated from peninsular Malaysia, it also has to have sufficient reach. Considerable sea-lift capability and air defence are also required if Malaysia is to defend its claims in the South China Sea. The present Malaysian naval and air capabilities seem to be inadequate if it has to safeguard its maritime interests.

In addition to the Lumut base (headquarters of the Royal Malaysian Navy the, infrastructure is being created to shift the naval recruit centre from Singapore, the long-delayed development of a major new naval base at Sandakan in the province of Sabah is being taken up and the forward Labuan base (Headquarters of Naval Region Two) would be downgraded.31

Now that the Royal Malaysian Air Force has undergone considerable modernisation—the Malaysian Air Force operates a variety of modern fighter aircraft: British Hawk 100 and 200, US F-18A Hornets (equipped with Harpoons), MiG-29 Fulcrums, 35 refurbished Skyhawks, etc.— perhaps next is the Navy's turn, which might witness considerable expansion. Malaysia formed a Rapid Reaction Force in 1994 and plans have already been announced for the Next Generation Patrol Vessel programme totalling 27 boats at a cost of nearly US$1.6 billion.32 It is likely that the new emphasis would be on obtaining sea-going ships such as frigates and building of a submarine force.


Like Indonesia, the Philippines too is an archipelagic state consisting of nearly 5,000 islands and a coastline and other maritime assets commensurate with that. However, defence build-up was not considered expendient because till recently the Filipinos did not perceive any external threat. The strong American connection—a bilateral security treaty (1951), membership in the US-sponsored South-East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO), the operative arms of the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty (better known as the Manila Pact, created in 1954 but wound up in 1976), and the largest American overseas military bases at the Clark Air Field and Subic Bay naval base (since 1952)—virtually underwrote the country's external security. Because of chronic armed insurgency and separatist movements, the major concern had been internal security. While most other countries in South-East Asia have overcome these problems to a great extent, they still dog Manila. The Philippines has been faced with two kinds of armed insurgencies: the Muslim separatist movement in the southern islands of Sulu and Mindanao and the Communist movement. Though the intensity has come down after Ferdinand Marcos was driven out of the country in the wake of the popular movement for democracy in February 1986 and with the signing of an agreement with the Muslim Moro National Liberation Front in 1996, the insurgency has not been brought fully under control.

Probably the Philippines never took seriously its external security aspects when it refused to renew the lease agreement with the Americans for the extension of bases (the US completely vacated the bases in November 1992) till the dispute for the islands in the South China Sea started hotting up.The first taste of the likelihood of threats the country would have to face came in the form of some guardpost structures the Chinese built up in 1995 on the Mischief Reef claimed by Manila. The second rude shock came in early May 1997 as part of increasing Chinese forays in the form of Chinese ships which sailed to occupy the Scarborough Shoals located well within the Philippines 200-mile EEZ.36 Though technically the Sabah issue remains unsettled between the Philippines and Malaysia, it is most unlikely that it would lead to an armed conflict.

Because the Philippines was an American colony, Manila and other regions were some of the most bombarded places in the Asia-Pacific during World War II. After independence, while the American presence ensured external security, the priority was economic reconstruction and fighting insurgency. By becoming a member of the SEATO and contributing non-combat troops to the American war effort in Vietnam, the Philippines was firmly in the US camp during the Cold War.

Because no sea-borne threat was perceived, the Navy had been the most neglected service. The Navy was also considered not important because its role was limited in the anti-insurgency operations. Whatever ships Manila acquired in the initial phase were basically for patrolling purposes and most of them were supplied by the Americans in the late Fifties and early Sixties. By the mid-Sixties, the Philippines Navy had 12 escort vessels, 2 command ships (one of them was supplied by Japan in 1959 as part of the war reparation agreement), 2 coastal minesweepers, 18 small patrol boats, and 6 landing ships (3 LST and 3 LCM).34 A Coast Guard was established in 1967 as a specialised branch of the Navy to assist in the anti-insurgency operations.

In the late Sixties and the Seventies, the Philippines acquired a large number of American vintage ships because either these ships had become too old for the US Navy, or were transferred under the Military Assistance Programme. Many of the ships were transferred from South Vietnam in the early and mid-Seventies when the Americans decided to withdraw their troops from the Vietnam war in 1973. This also coincided with the growing intensity of the Communist insurgency (which in part led to the declaration of martial law by Marcos in 1973). The important among these were 8 frigates: one ex-US Bostwick class (built in 1943, transferred in 1967), one ex-US Savage class (transferred in 1976 from South Vietnam), 3 ex-US Casco class (transferred in 1975), and 3 ex-US Cannon class (1976); 3 PCE827 class corvettes (from South Vietnam in 1975-76), one Admirable class (from South Vietnam in 1975); 11 patrol vessels (built in the US in the early Forties), 9 patrol gunboats, 18 Swift (ex-US navy) inshore patrol craft (transferred between 1966 and 1970), 4 ex-US patrol minesweepers (2 in mid-Fifties and 2 in 1972), 31 ex-US landing ships-23 LST,35 4 LSM and 3 support ships, and 71 landing craft (LCM).36 The most notable development in the mid-1970s was the acquisition of a large number of patrol craft: 2 Vosper class (1975), 5 US PGM-39 and 79 class (1975, as part the Military Assistance Programme from the US), 2 ex-US PC461 class (1976) and 4 Kaqitinqan class (commissioned 1979) large patrol boats; 31 Australian-built De Havilland (1976-78), 28 improved Swift MK-1,2,3, class (delivered between 1972-76) coastal patrol craft.37

Thus, by the mid-Eighties, the Philippines Navy appeared to be reasonably well equipped (especially in view of increased American presence since the early 1980s) with 7 frigates, 10 corvettes, 86 patrol craft, including 13 large and 73 patrol coastal craft, and 31 LST and 61 LCM landing ships. But most of these ships were old with an average life of more than 40 years and this problem became too acute in the early 1990s which forced the Navy to scrap many of the older ships and bring the remainder to an operational standard. The only major addition in the mid-1990s were the 5 Tomas Batilo class fast attack craft (ordered from South Korea in 1995-96), 12 US Jose Andrada (1989-93) and 12 Korean Conrado Yap (1993) coastal patrol craft, and 2 US Frank S. Besson class LST landing ships (93-94). By 1996, the Philippines Navy fleet composition was : one vintage Cannon class frigate, 10 corvettes of the 1940s generation, 5 South Korean Sea Dolphin class fast attack craft, and 30 inshore patrol vessels. The amphibious capability consisted of 7 LST (commissioned in the 1940s in the US and transferred in the Seventies) and 42 LCM/LCU (ex-US mostly minor) landing ships. And the 7 PADC Islanders combat aircraft for maritime patrol and search and rescue (SAR) operations and one unarmed helicopter (SAR) were part of the naval aviation.38 The Coast Guard numbering around 2,000 personnel (who are interchangeable with the Navy) and about 9,000 Marines have been basically used for anti-insurgency purposes. In the early 1990s, considerable debate to modernise its armed forces took place and it was rumoured that the Navy and Air Force would be thoroughly modernised (especially in reaction to Malaysia's arms acquisition), but those plans had to be scaled down because of a serious resource crunch.

In early 1995, the Philippines discovered the hard way the military vulnerabilities it would have to face in the absence of American troops when the Chinese started asserting their sovereignty over the Philippines-claimed islands and when it became clearer that the mutual defence treaty with the US was worthless because it did not cover the bilateral disputes concerning land and maritime issues, including the Spratlys. The generous American aid (which was mostly in grant form) too fell from US$800 million in 1991 to a paltry $1.2 million in 1995.39

In 1995, a US$5.5 billion naval procurement plan spread over 15 years was announced which would include offshore patrol vessels, corvettes, fast attack craft, SAR ships, etc. As the economic realities settled in, it was scaled down to US$2 billion by December 1996 in which the first phase consisted of 2 corvettes, 3 offshore patrol vessels, 2 fast patrol craft and 6 small naval craft. The first priority was offshore patrol vessels.40 So far only two major programmes have been announced: 3 Peacock class corvettes to be transferred by the Royal British Navy from Hong Kong after its handover to China in July 199741 and 3 offshore patrol vessels tenders for which have been issued in 1996.42

The Philippines Navy was reorganised from 1996 into four operation commands composed of Naval Forces North (Cagayan), Naval Forces West (Palawan), Naval Forces Central (Cebu) and Naval Forces South (Tawi-Tawi) and there are Coast Guard and Marine commands.

The Philippines Navy is at a critical juncture: on the one hand, after a long time, the country is politically stable and its economy appears to be on a high growth-rate path emulating its ASEAN neighbours and it would like to concentrate its energies to keep up the momentum rather than divert scarce resources for defence building, and on the other, the incidents in the South China Sea and the repeated Chinese incursions are unnerving. As was admitted in early 1995, the Philippines is in no position to counter the Chinese encroachments, but, at the same time, it simply cannot give up its claims. Even though the bilateral security agreement with the US continues to be in place, it is unlikely that the Americans would participate in a war on behalf of the Philippines in the South China Sea. The Philippines would have to enhance its security linkages not only with the other ASEAN nations, but also with powers outside South-East Asia. Secondly, it would have no option but gradually build up a credible Navy in the long run which can make an attack on the Philippines-claimed islands an expensive proposition.


Singapore is a small city state with a population of just 3.5 million. Like most other South-East Asian countries, Singapore too witnessed tumultuous developments in the Sixties. Because of its strategic location and a thriving entrepot but confronted with rampant political unrest, the British did not think Singapore could defend itself as an independent nation. It was merged with Malaya as part of the Malaysia Federation but given Malaya's own domestic delicate racial balance, Singapore with its population predominantly of Chinese origin, could not continue to be part of Malaysia and was expelled in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew, who was the Prime Minister of Singapore since independence till the early Nineties, firmly believed that to survive and prosper as a nation, the country should be politically stable and its defence forces should be strong. Singapore considers itself as a small island of refugees in the ocean of Malays. Viewed against its size, Singapore has been one of the largest spenders on defence and maintains a large number of armed forces.

Singapore's approach towards defence is multi-faceted. It is both technology and economic development oriented. Thus, one of the objectives of the comprehensive approach toward defence is to create a substantial base of defence industries and technology development (led by the state-owned Singapore Technologies Holding Pvt. Ltd. consisting of 48 different companies) and manufacture and export arms in select fields. For example, Singapore has already successfully developed two types of artillery, 155mm guns, and built modern patrol vessels (which it has already sold to Brunei, India, etc.). One would not be surprised if Singapore aims at developing infrastructure to repair and upgrade fighter aircraft and naval ships. The first instance of this ambitious attempt came in the wake of comprehensive upgradation of F-5E/F and A-4S Super Skyhawk fighters, involving both structural and equipment modifications Singapore decided to undertake in the early 1990s.43 Singapore also strongly believes in deterrent as the best strategy which is necessitated by the fact that Singapore thrives as a major regional hub for financial and business activities which demand a tension-free and politically stable atmosphere. Thirdly, in the event of a war, a swift and effective offensive response involving all three services would be mounted, called Integrated Warface concept so that a war is fought in the enemy's territory. In order to achieve this objective, because of limitations of maintaining a large number of armed forces, its forces are highly hi-tech oriented.44 And fourthly, Singapore's external defence links are widespread which Singapore strongly believes are vital.48 In addition to its defence cooperation with many of its ASEAN neighbours (especially training of its forces in Brunei and Indonesia and joint exercises with all other ASEAN nations except Vietnam), Singapore is a member of the FPDA and has close defence links with the UK, Australia, the US, Taiwan, etc. Since 1992, Singapore and India have been involved in regular joint naval exercises off Andamans, and Singapore has made use of the Indian missile testing facilities at Chandipur to test out its guns and missiles. In 1994, the Singapore Air Force entered into an agreement with Bangladesh which allowed the former to use Bangladeshi air bases for long-term training. When the Philippines refused to renew the lease agreement, Singapore offered the US an expanded use of its facilities by the Americans. Under this agreement, the US sends aircraft to Singapore several times a year for training assignments. There are about 280 American military personnel based in Singapore.46

Because of its location on the edge of a small strait, Singapore offshore claims are very limited with virtually no EEZ and except a minor dispute with Malaysia, there are no unsettled maritime boundary issues. However, Singapore is the largest port in the Asia-Pacific and heavily dependent on trade-related economic activities (which are mostly sea-borne and amount to more than three times the GDP), keeping open the sea lanes of communication becomes a major priority of the Singapore Armed Forces-Navy. Singapore is also actively involved in the anti-piracy activities in the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea along with other neighbours.

When Singapore became independent (on August 9, 1965), the Republic of Singapore Navy had only two small vessels and there was no Air Force. The Republic of Singapore Navy was formally established in 1967. Probably the first major order the Singapore Navy placed was for 6 fast patrol boats in 1968 with Vosper Thornycraft (3 type A and 3 Type B)—two to be acquired and the rest to be built by Singapore Ship Building and Engineering Company (SBEC). The first of this category, Independence, was completed in 1970. Towards the end of the Sixties, 4 Lurssen Vegesack design missile boats were also ordered (the second pair was built in Singapore in the mid-Seventies).47 Thus, in 1973-74, the Navy had a small force of 6 fast patrol craft, 1 seaward defence ship (transferred from Malaysia in 1967 as part of Malaysia-Singapore separation48 ), 1 landing ship and 2 landing craft.49

By the late Seventies, the Singapore Navy was already well on its way towards expansion. In addition to 6 Vosper fast attack craft, it had acquired 6 Lurssen "TNC 45" class missile craft (fitted with Gabriel II SSMs), 1 old large patrol craft (Ford class) for training purposes, 2 ex-US Redwing coastal minesweepers (transferred in 1975), 6 Ex-US 511 class LST (the first one was delivered in 1971 and the rest in 1976) and 6 landing craft.50 By the early Eighties, the Singapore shipbuilding industry was already in a position to build patrol craft. The SBEC successfully built 12 Swift class patrol boats (in the early Eighties)51, undertook the task of building 5 Victory class missile corvettes (first one was built by German Lurssen Werft in 1986) fitted with torpedoes and Harpoon SSMs, and a large number of other small ships for Coast Guard activities. The SBEC also built and delivered one Tiger-40 hovercraft as a logistic support craft for trials. It was estimated that at least three more of this category would be built. More importantly, Singapore also acquired 4 Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes for surveillance purposes in areas around Singapore and the South China Sea. In 1988, Singapore undertook a major review of its armed forces and defence policy called SAF 2000 Study (including Navy 2000).

By the mid-Nineties, the Singapore Armed Forces-Navy had achieved an impressive build-up. Probably the most important in the recent past was the decision to acquire 1 Swedish Sjoormen (A12) class diesel electric submarine in September 1995 for training purposes.52 It is likely that Singapore would acquire 4 to 6 submarines in the near future. The second important development is the greater punch that has been put into the ships by equipping them with a variety of accurate, modern and powerful missiles. For instance, the Baraj surface-to-air missiles (SAM) are added to the 6 Victory class corvettes in addition to the Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Similarly, the 7 Sea Wolf craft are armed with Harpoon and Gabriel SSMs and Sinbad/Mistral SAMs. Singapore is also building a new, Fearless, class of missile craft numbering around 12. These are once again to be equipped with Gabriel II SSMs and Mistral Sadral SAMs. The first batch of 6 are to be commissioned between 1997-98. The Singapore Navy has also ordered 4 Bedok class minehunters in 1991 (Swedish Kockums/Karlskrona design) and the first ship in this category has been delivered in 1994. In accordance with the overall emphasis on high technology orientation, the Navy is being strengthened by electronic warfare (both supportive and counter-measures) systems.

By far the most important decision was to buy a second-hand diesel-electric submarine (from Kockums of Sweden called Sjoormen) in 1995 for training purposes. About 40 personnel from Singapore are reported to have been undergoing training in Sweden. Although no announcement has so far been made, it is most likely that the Singaporean Navy would be the second Navy to operate submarines in South-East Asian soon.53 Simultaneously, Singapore became the first country with which the Indian Navy for the first time undertook a four-day joint ASW exercises in the Aandaman Sea in March 1994 involving an Indian Foxtrot submarine and two frigates and two corvettes from Singapore.54 Singapore will soon launch its new missile corvette programme called New Generation Patrol Vessel with design assistance from Swedish Kockums to be built by the Singapore Shipbuilders during 1997-98.55 The other reported major programme is the 1994 order for 4 LST/LPD landing ships.

By 1996, the Singapore Navy comprised three operational commands: the Fleet, Coastal Command (COSCOM) and Naval Logistics Command (NALCOM)56 and the fleet strength consisted of: 6 Victory class missile corvettes with 8 Harpoon SSM, ASTT and Barak SAM; 6 Sea Wolf class missile fast attack craft with Harpoon and Gabriel SSM and Sinbad/Mistral SAM, 5 Fearless class missile offshore patrol craft with Gabriel SSM and Mistral Sadral SAM (eventually totalling 12 ships), 3 Vosper (Independence) class fast attack craft, 12 inshore patrol craft, 12 Swift class coastal patrol craft, 4 Bedok class minehunters, 3 LST (2 US LST-511 (Endurance) and one UK Sir Lancelot (Perseverance), one Tiger-40 hovercraft, 65 Coast Guard ships and a number of other smaller boats,57 and 4E-C Hawkeye air-borne early warning system.58 Singapore inducted 5 Fokker Maritime Enforcer MK2 into service in September 1995, replacing maritime patrol Skyvans which were in operation since 1989.59



15. Peter Lewis Young, "ASEAN Naval Bases: New Bases and Reorganisation", Navy International, March 1986, p.138.

16. Asian Defence Journal, March 1997, p.53.

17. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1967-68, pp.186-87.

18. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1973-74, pp.217-18.

19. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1979-80, p.337.

20. Ibid.

21. Far Eastern Economic Review, November 24, 1988, pp.23-24.

22. See the "Introduction", Jane's Fighting Ships, 1996-97, p.25.

23. These frigates can also accommodate a light helicopter, Jane's Defence Weekly, December 17, 1994.

24. Sipri Yearbook, 1993, pp.508-09.

25. Sipri Yearbook, 1994, p.532.

26. Sipri Yearbook, 1995, pp.532-33 and Jane's Defence Weekly, November 12, 1994.

27. Sipri Yearbook 1996, p.509.

28. Military Balance, 1996-97, p.190-91.

29. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1997-98, p.426 and Flight International, December 15-21, 1993.

30. Jane's Defence Weekly, February 26, 1997.

31. Jane's Defence Weekly, October 9, 1996.

32. Defence News, Spetember 11-17, 1995.

33. Far Eastern Economic Review, June 5, 1997, p.5.

34. Military Balance, 1967-68, p.34.

35. Many of these ships served as cargo ships in the Western Pacific under the US Military Sealift Command. These were mostly used for general cargo work in the Philippines. See Jane's Fighting Ships, 1979-80, p.401.

36. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1973-74, pp.248-51 and Jane's Fighting Ships, 1979-80, pp.397-404. See also Military Balance, 1981-82, pp.86-87.

37. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1986-87, pp.414-20.

38. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1997-98, pp.507-511.

39. Defence News, April 2, 1995.

40. Jane's Defence Weekly, February 2, 1997.

41. Defence News, March 17-23, 1997.

42. Jane's Fighting Ships 1997-98, pp.508-09.

43. David Saw, "Defence Asia 1989: Active Region, Small Show", Military Technology, June 1989, pp.95-96.

44. See Tim Huxley and David Boey, "Singapore's Army: Boosting Capabilities", Jane's Intelligence Review, April 1996, pp.174-80.

45. For instance, see the interview of Tony Tan, Defence Minister of Singapore, "Singapore: At the Heart of Change", Military Technology, February 1996, p.18-23.

46. Arujunan Narayanan, "Singapore's Strategy or National Survival", Asian Defence Journal, January 1997, p.11.

47. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1973-74, p.266.

48. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1967-68, p.235.

49. Military Balance, 1973-74, p.56.

50. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1979-80, p.424 and Military Balance, 1981-82, p.87.

51. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1986-87, p.448.

52. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1996-97, p.630.

53. Jane's Defence Weekly, February 21, 1996, p.3.

54. The four-day anti-submarine exercises with the Indian Navy off Visakhapatnam in March 1996 were the fourth joint exercises between these two Navies since early 1993. Asian Defence Journal, April 1996, p.216, and Jane's Defence Weekly, March 19, 1994.

55. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1997-98, p.627.

56. For details of fleet composition, see David Boey, "Singapore's Fleet Gets Boost From Navy 2000", International Defence Review, December 1995, pp.67-71.

57. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1996-97, p.630.

58. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1997-98, pp.626-631.

59. Singapore's land-based Air Force consisted of about 137 aircraft and 20 armed helicopters, International Defence Review, December 1995.