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Ng: Timely to buy new “BMW” submarines in response to China, Indonesia, Thailand, India, S Korea

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his wife, Ivy Ng who is the CEO of SingHealth, were in Germany yesterday (18 Feb) to launch Singapore’s first Type 218SG advanced submarine, which has much more firepower.

The submarine built by the German defence contractor Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) has many advanced capabilities and was named “Invincible” by MINDEF. It is one of the 4 submarines ordered from MINDEF. The other 3, named “Impeccable”, “Illustrious” and “Inimitable”, will be delivered from 2022.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Ng said that Singapore faces threats in the maritime domain, including terrorism, the shipping of illegal arms, weapons of mass destruction and people, as well as piracy.

He also noted that in Asia, many countries are modernizing their armed forces. Citing countries such as China, Indonesia, Thailand, India and South Korea that are planning to expand their submarine fleets, Dr Ng added, “In this context, the acquisition of the new Type 218SG submarines is timely.”

He also pointed out that Singapore sits astride two of the busiest sea lines of communication in the world – the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca – through which about one-third of the world’s maritime trade is transported.

“So I think that most people will receive this development by the RSN with assurance that it is able to do its part in keeping our sea lines of communication open not only for Singapore, but the world.” he said.

The ceremony was attended by senior defence officials from both Singapore and Germany. The new submarine will undergo sea trials in Germany before it is delivered to Singapore in 2021.

Rear-Admiral Cheong: Like driving a BMW

In an interview last year, Rear-Admiral Cheong Kwok Chien, RSN’s head of naval operations, likened the submarines built by TKMS to be like BMW cars on the road.

“German submarines are like BMWs, so we are very glad we decided on this class of submarine,” Rear-Admiral Cheong told the reporter.

“This new build is designed for Singapore roads, tailored to our ergonomics, size and driving range. Even the horn sounds better,” he added.

A Type 218SG German submarine and Rear-Admiral Cheong Kwok Chien, RSN’s head of naval operations

The contract for the first 2 has been reported to be worth more than 1 billion euros or S$1.6 billion. Hence, with the 4 submarines, the total cost would be more than S$3.2 billion.

Previously, RSN operated second-hand retrofitted Swedish submarines but now, MINDEF has decided to buy new “BMW” ones – German submarines likened to be like BMWs on the road with a better sounding “horn”.

In any case, the cost of the contract for the first 2 “BMW” submarines is already more than the S$1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament yesterday.