SINGAPORE - In the 1970s, Mr Teo Chee Hean was a young Naval Officer serving onboard the first of three classes of warships to be called Sovereignty. Nearly 50 years later, Mr Teo was onboard the Sovereignty again, but this time as Deputy Prime Minister, to officiate the ceremony launching Singapore's latest warship.
At the press of a button, Mrs Teo Poh Yim, wife of Mr Teo, smashed a bottle of champagne on the hull of the Sovereignty in accordance with naval tradition, signalling the launch of the second out of eight Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs) built for the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).
"The name Sovereignty has a deep personal meaning for me, as I had sailed with the first RSS Sovereignty as a young naval officer in the 1970s," Mr Teo shared in his speech today at Benoi Shipyard, site of the launch ceremony.
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The eponymous RSS Sovereignty was a 'B' Class Patrol Craft, safeguarding Singapore's territorial waters in the 1970s. It was replaced by a Fearless-class Patrol Vessel in the 1990s.
Before he launched his political career, Mr Teo was the Chief of Navy until 1992, having climbed up the ranks as an SAF scholar.
"I also had the privilege of being involved in shaping the programme for the Fearless-class patrol vessels, which the ship we launched today will replace.
"It is thus especially meaningful for me to be here at the launch of the new LMV, Sovereignty, version 3.0 today," said Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security.
The LMVs are designed and built locally by ST Marine, in collaboration with Swedish defence giant Saab Kockums AB, after a contract was inked with Singapore's Ministry of Defence in 2013.
Construction on Independence, the first LMV, started in Sept 2014, and the first LMV was launched on July 3, 2015, also at ST Marine's Benoi Shipyard.
Both Independence and Sovereignty are expected to be commissioned in 2017, after completing its sea trials.
Remarkably, the two warships have been built on time and within budget, a rarity in expensive defence projects where cost overruns and delays are the norms in other militaries.
The LMVs are bigger than the Fearless-class warships it will be replacing - nearly 30m longer at 80m, and 2.5 times heavier.
"The LMV will be an integral part of RSN Task Groups and be able to support the full range of SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) missions well," said Mr Teo.
"The longer endurance of the LMV, and its systems which are designed for reliability and maintainability, will allow it to conduct operations that are more persistent, and at longer ranges and further distances."
The LMV can sail continuously for up to 14 days, covering 3,500 nautical miles (6,482 km), with speeds in excess of 27 knots (50km/h). The Fearless-class ships had speeds in excess of 20 knots (37 km/h) with a shorter range and endurance.
"At the high end (of maritime threats), we have helicopters and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). As for the lower end of the threat, we have things like water cannons and long range acoustic devices," Mr Teo said.
Reflecting the growth of the RSN, Mr Teo said: "I have seen our defence forces grow from the beginning, and how each evolution has brought more capability, more effective forces and also more efficient use of resources and our manpower. That is a continuing commitment to our defence. So that one part is very important.
"But I am also very conscious that no matter what equipment we have, it is the tenacity, the resilience, the willingness of our people to defend Singapore which ultimately, can make the difference. That will always be required."