The first of Singapore's eight new locally built warships was launched yesterday.
Littoral mission vessel (LMV) the Independence boasts high-tech systems that deliver quicker and greater firepower than existing patrol vessels, and require a smaller crew. Littoral mission vessels are ships that operate close to the shore.
The warship is the first to be wholly designed and built here since the first Endurance-class Landing Ship Tank was launched in 1998.
At yesterday's ceremony, Mrs Ivy Ng, wife of Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, performed the naval tradition of smashing a bottle of champagne against its hull.
With the delivery and operationalisation of the LMVs over the next five years, the Republic of Singapore Navy will be able to retire its fleet of 11 Fearless-class vessels, after two decades of service.
The deal to build the LMVs was signed in 2013. ST Marine partnered Saab Kockums AB to design and build them while Defence Science and Technology Agency engineers put together their systems and oversaw their development.
The 80m-long vessel - more than twice the size of its predecessor - can travel further and faster.
Powered by four engines, it can hit speeds in excess of 27 knots and travel 3,500 nautical miles - as far as Sydney - for up to 14 days at sea without stopping to refuel.
RSN sailors worked with engineers and scientists to design a ship tailored to today's needs.
DSTA naval systems programme director Matthew Yong said: "We ensure our systems suit the operators rather than getting the operators to get used to the technology."
Lieutenant-Colonel Chew Chun-Chau, who heads the LMV project office, said: "We looked at sailors' height, the length of their arms and habits... and scrutinised the best place to put every button or switch on the ship's console. Even the height of the chairs is customised to the average height of servicemen."
The vessel has been fitted with high-resolution touchscreens and computer systems to streamline work processes. It is operated by 23 crew members - seven fewer than the outgoing patrol vessel.
It used to take six men to launch a sea boat on the patrol vessel. With the LMV, it takes only two.
One of its unique features is an integrated command centre that brings together the combat, engineering and navigation teams, allowing sailors to communicate faster. Only Dutch and US navy warships have such a feature now.
Lieutenant-Colonel Tay Choong Hern, who leads the warship's team, said: "It certainly makes the job much faster, so we can deliver sharper responses."
He and his crew will put the Independence through sea trials from next year, after its combat systems are installed.
It is expected to be battle-ready by 2017. The others are expected to be operational by 2020.
This article was first published on July 4, 2015.
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