RSN beefs up older ships with modern muscle

SINGAPORE'S ageing landing ship tanks (LSTs), which have taken part in many anti-piracy and disaster relief missions over the past decade, are being modernised to "see" better and respond faster in operations.

Last month, RSS Endurance became the second of the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) four LSTs to be upgraded.

RSS Persistence was the first to be kitted out with the new systems.

Its new capabilities were put to the test when it was deployed in the Java Sea to search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which crashed last December.

The two other ships will be upgraded by next year.

The modernisation of the LSTs, which have been in service since 2000, will:

Extend their lifespans by between 10 and 15 years;

Help them better track and thwart maritime threats with a new computer system that links all a ship's souped-up sensors and weapons, improving its command and control and surveillance;

Raise the maintenance standards for helicopter operations.

Colonel Thng Chee Meng, commanding officer of 191 Squadron, which the LSTs are a part of, said the upgrades will also allow the LSTs to better fight alongside the RSN's other warships, such as the stealth frigates and missile corvettes.

These vessels have already been fitted out with the latest weapon, communication and surveillance systems.

The most recent round of upgrades on the missile corvettes, in 2013, included installing an unmanned aerial vehicle system and enhanced sensors for better surveillance.

Col Thng told The Straits Times that the technological upgrades on the LSTs will allow commanders to have better situation awareness and to take quick, decisive action.

The LSTs have been deployed in major humanitarian and disaster relief missions around the world, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, in which the ships delivered emergency aid and relief supplies to tsunami victims in Aceh.

The 141m-long ships have also been deployed to the northern Arabian Gulf for security patrols and taken part in multinational anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

Mr Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defence industry analyst at military publication IHS Jane's, said the RSN's move to upgrade the LSTs makes economic sense.

"What you are after isn't just the hardware, but also the technological aspects that make the significant difference in the weapon.

"At a time when technology changes so quickly, upgrading is the most cost-effective way for the RSN to continue maintaining high technological capability."

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