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Military Capabilities

IMDEX 2017: Singapore takes further steps towards enhancing regional submarine safety

19 May 2017

Key Points

  • Singapore has announced a number of initiatives in a bid to improve submarine operating safety in the region
  • Initiatives are being pursued amid a steady increase in the number of submarines in the Asia-Pacific region

MV Swift Rescue, which has been slated for a SGD10 million upgrade over the next two years. (Singapore Ministry of Defence)MV Swift Rescue, which has been slated for a SGD10 million upgrade over the next two years. (Singapore Ministry of Defence)

Against the backdrop of a proliferation in underwater fighting platforms across Southeast Asia, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has announced a series of measures to promote submarine operational safety in the region.

The measures were disclosed by the RSN's chief, Rear Admiral Lai Chung Han during his presentation at the International Maritime Security Conference, which was held in conjunction with the IMDEX 2017 maritime defence exhibition in Singapore.

Among these measures include the allocation of SGD10 million (USD7.1 million) to upgrade the RSN's submarine rescue ship, MV Swift Rescue , and its related subsystems. The 83 m vessel, which has been operational since April 2009, is presently the only ship on Southeast Asia that is capable of mating and conducting collective rescue and transfer of distressed submariners while under pressure.

The platform is equipped with a 25-tonne submarine rescue vehicle (SRV) known as the Deep Search and Rescue-6 (DSAR-6), a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and recompression chamber that can rehabilitate up to 40 rescued submariners.

The RSN has, however, not given further details on the upgrades that will be conducted, with Rear Adm Lai saying only that these will result in "better submarine rescue capabilities" for the RSN. However, he has disclosed that the upgrades will take place over the next two years.

Beyond hardware, the service also revealed that it is currently in talks with India, Russia, and Thailand to establish separate bilateral submarine rescue arrangements with the countries.

If successfully established, these arrangements will add on to the list of bilateral submarine rescue frameworks that the country already has, such as the one with the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN), which was concluded recently, and the one with the Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL), which was established in 2012.

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