Ex-Navy chief: Malaysia’s littoral combat ship launched in 2017 actual uncompleted vessel

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — The littoral combat ship (LCS), which was launched in Lumut, Perak in 2017, was not a mock-up or dummy, but the actual vessel that had yet to be completed, Malaysia’s former Navy chief said today.

Retired admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin, who was the immediate past Navy chief, said he was himself present at the 2017 ceremony for the littoral combat ship’s launch as the Navy chief then.

While saying he understood and respected the public’s questions on why the ship was launched when it had yet to be completed, Ahmad Kamarulzaman sought to correct the negative perception against the Royal Malaysian Navy in order to protect its dignity and reputation.

“It’s important for me to tell the actual fact so that the public will not continue to be confused due to statements by some who are populist and politicking,” he wrote in a statement posted on his Twitter account today.

He explained that it was common to launch war ships ahead of their completion.

“The launching and naming of a war ship before it is fully completed is a tradition and practice of TLDM (Royal Malaysian Navy) since long ago. Not the first time in Lumut in 2017. This is also common practice in other countries,” he said.

He was weighing in on the Malaysian Navy’s procurement of six littoral combat ships (LCS) in a RM9 billion contract directly awarded to Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd, with the 2017 ship launch linked to this project.

He cited the testimony given by the Navy’s LCS project team’s former director-general and retired Navy captain Azhar Jumaat at the parliamentary bipartisan watchdog Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) proceedings on December 11, 2021.

Ahmad Kamarulzaman noted that Azhar had told the PAC that it was a Navy tradition to launch warships in terms of their technical capabilities and to hold a naming ceremony for such warships at the same time.

Kamarulzaman then noted as example that a littoral combat ship built by Naval Group for the United Arab Emirates government and launched in France was also a ship that had yet to be fully completed.

“So the accusation — that the LCS launch in Lumut in 2017 was done to cheat and confuse the public — is not true,” he said. He stressed that the LCS launched in Lumut in 2017 was not a dummy model.

“I have to tell the public that what was launched in Lumut then is the actual LCS ship that was in the process of being built, not a dummy. This includes the ‘mast’ that was said to be fake,” he clarified, adding that this was also explained to the PAC previously during PAC proceedings.

“So let there not be anyone deliberately raising this issue for their own interests to the point of being willing to confuse the public,” he added.

Ahmad Kamarulzaman became Malaysia’s 16th chief of navy on November 18, 2015 and was succeeded on November 30, 2018 by admiral Tan Sri Mohd Reza Mohd Sany who is the current navy chief.

Based on Malay Mail’s check of the PAC’s August 4 report on the LCS project, a ceremony to launch and name the first littoral combat ship was carried out in 2017 with Perak’s Raja Permaisuri Tuanku Zara Salim and Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah present, with the ship named Kapal Diraja Maharaja Lela.

Azhar was recorded as telling the PAC that the launching according to industry standards was to test the ship’s balance when lowered to the water, and that it was a tradition and which did not mean the first littoral ship had been completed.

The PAC report also recorded the PAC being told that a mast costing RM400,000 was attached to the first littoral combat ship at the 2017 ceremony to possibly give the impression of it being more beautiful than it actually was.

The PAC’s report said the RM9.128 billion, 10-year contract from October 2013 to October 2023 was awarded through direct negotiation to contractor Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd for the supply of the six LCS.

The PAC report also said the Malaysian government had to date already paid RM6.083 billion to the contractor, but none of the six LCS vessels have been completed. Based on the original schedule, five of the six LCS vessels should have been completed and handed over by August 2022.

According to the PAC, the project had run into cost overruns of RM1.4005 billion as the government’s payments to the Boustead Naval Shipyard was not fully used for the LCS project, noting that the RM1.4 billion overrun included RM400 million that was spent to pay off an old debt for the New Generation Patrol Vehicle project.

The PAC report said equipment kept in storage for the LCS project is estimated to be worth RM1.7 billion, with an estimated 15 per cent of these already obsolete.