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UDT Asia: Malaysia endures submarine unavailability

11th January 2017 - 12:00 by Dzirhan Mahadzir in Kuala Lumpur

UDT Asia: Malaysia endures submarine unavailability

The Royal Malaysian Navy is due to start the overhaul of its second Scorpene-class submarine KD Tun Razak in June. 

This means that the RMN will only be operating one submarine until the end of 2019, which shows the limitation of having a fleet of just two submarines.

The overhaul will begin after the first boat, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, which entered its unavailability stage in November 2015, returns to active operations with the fleet later this year after its own overhaul, allowing Tun Razak to go into port.

Under the programme one boat is overhauled before work commences on the other, thus ensuring that the RMN has at least one submarine available for operations. Given that the time period for each submarine’s unavailability is roughly 19 months, this means that for three years the RMN will only have one submarine available for operations, at best. 

In November 2015 the RMN signed a dual contract valued at $187 million and $102 million respectively to Boustead DCNS Naval Corporation, for this work. The latter is a joint subsidiary set up by Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation and DCNS to provide support for Malaysia’s two submarines.

Submarines remain an important asset, however. The RMN’s ‘15-to-5’ fleet plan released in 2016 aims to streamline the RMN’s main ship classes down to five types, and submarines are listed as one of these classes. 

Additionally, the fleet plan postulated an extra two submarines to give the RMN a total of four boats. However, it has to be borne in mind that the ‘15-to-5’ plan represents the navy’s goal rather than a firm plan with a set timeframe and budgetary allocation.

Given the financial limitations facing Malaysia, the continuing depreciation of the national currency and the cost of submarines, such an ideal fleet of four submarines is unlikely to be achieved anytime soon. Furthermore, until the end of 2019 the RMN will be constrained by having only a single submarine available.

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