Steadfastness and sacrifices of the submariners

KD Tun Razak, berthed at Awana Porto Malai jetty from Monday 5 Dec till Friday 9 Dec

I was in Langkawi for LIMA 2011 this week. I was given the trust by the Minister of Defense and Chief of Navy, to be given the honour of the first new media practitioner and blogger to go inside the Perdana Class submarine, KD Tun Razak.

I boarded the 1,800 tonnes Perdana class submarine at Awana Porto Malai jetty on the morning of Wednesday, 9 December and was escorted on board by the executive officer of the vessel. I was taken around the ship end-to-end and was shown the workings on how the two Pielstick diesel engines were used to charge the 180 batteries, front and back, which in turn power the electric motors on the back to propel the submarine. I also had the preview of the Blackshark torpedo they carry on board and the brief of the working of the combat system.

It was state of the art conventional submarine and it is fully automated. I must say it is very impressive.

KD Tun Razak’s hull was laid in DCNS yard in Cherbourg, Northern France but was finished at Navantia yard in Cartagena, Spain. The complement of the boat is 32, where there are 12 officers and the rest are enlisted men. These are creme’-de-la-creme’ of Royal Malaysian Navy’s best, where 169 were selected and initially trained in French Navy’s NAVCO, Brest since late 2004.

KD Tun Razak is the sister ship to KD Tunku Abdul Rahman. She arrived on our shores in July 2010, with her first maiden docking in Malaysian waters carried HRH Sultan of Selangor Tuanku Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (who is also the Captain-in-Chief for the RMN), Deputy Defense Minister Dato’ Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad and Chief of Naval Forces Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Hj Jaafar. Awaiting at TLDM Lumut jetty is HRH Sultan of Perak Tuanku Sultan Azlan Shah.

KD Tun Razak calls TLDM Kota Kinabalu at Sepanggar Bay, Sabah as her home and that is also where the Submarine Forces Command is at. The current Panglima Markas Angkatan Kapal Selam was the project team leader when the submarines were constructed in Cherbourg.

The officers’s cabin onboard of KD Tun Razak

Amongst other things that I witnessed in the boat is how the officers and men live and do their daily work and live their lives, as submariners. Spaces are very scarce and confined with great constraint. The officers and enlisted are separated in two different cabins. However, they share bunks because space is so limited and they don’t even have the luxury to be issued a bunk each, even though the bunk space is no larger that the size of a coffin and its stacked up to four levels.

They have a very small space to eat and dine and where they do recreation. The mess table is the size of typical senior manager’s desk where up to 18 men eat at any meal time. As the space is limited, they have to serve every meals in two separate batches, to accommodate everyone for a chow. The full galley to prepare the meals and wash up then onwards for up to 45 persons, is only the size of the forward galley in a typical B737-400.

These brave men have only the space of two shoe boxes to store personal belongings. Hence, they don’t have much luxury to bring a lot of personal items on board, which include clothes. None of them have the luxury to do any washing of clothes on board. There are two small latrines, which dedicated as ‘big’ and ‘small’ respectively for its usage. There are also two shower cabinets. Fresh water is desalinated from sea water. However, out of practice (especially to conserve energy even in peace time), the submariners don’t take showers during their rides at sea. The only individuals who have that luxury are the persons who are serving food; the cook and stewards.

All foods are stored in the freezer, below the galley. This enable the submarine to operate up to 7 weeks, before they need to stock up for fresh supplies.

This is sacrifice the submariners made, who volunteered for this job. They do this job with pride and dedication, and they sacrifice their lives and comfort for the nation. Imagine part of their training is to be in France for a good five and a half years, away from family and friends.

Life is the submarine isn’t really easy. They work all time. At any one moment, at least eight men would be on watch. All systems must be in full working order and their sensitivity and awareness of their surroundings is a critical factor whenever they are at sea. It is much more complex than flying. Whenever they are on the surface, they have to abide international maritime laws. The fact that these submarines are able to dive to depths below 1,000 feet and even brought His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong Tuanku Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Almarhum Sultan Mahmood for such feat (on 10 March 2011), means that the crew must be very focused in their job to maintain safety and operationalbility.

It took eight days for the officers and men of KD Tun Razak to sail from their home at Sepanggar Bay to Langkawi of a distance of almost 1,300 nautical miles, where they did diving drills in some parts of the journey. Imagine, both ports are within Malaysia. That would be just part of the navy’s theatre of operation.

As a maritime nation, the vastness of body of water around and between Semenanjung and Sabah and Sarawak warrants for the nation to have a formidable navy. The responsibility to protecting our sovereign right in the waters and one of the most busiest commercial waterways in the world, is multiplied. That is on top of the exclusive economic zone where 20% of the economy is dependent on it.

It is very expensive for the Government to maintain a large navy, for the workload requirement to protect all these areas. The decision to acquire the two submarines in June 2002 was strategic in nature, even though it was said to be costing RM 3.4 billion at that time. Any invading naval force would do their evaluation on the strength and capability of their enemy before they launch the strike and engage their adversaries in the sea. The two submarines provide our navy with a ‘multiplier factor’ equivalent of 10 surface ships, for any adversaries considering into direct sea battle engagement.

Each of the submarines could be armed either 18 Italian-French made Whitehead Allenia Blackshark torpedoes or 18 MBDA SM 39 Exocet missiles or any 18 combination of both. On 26 July 2010, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman did a successful live firing of the Exocet missile from the depth of 180 feet.

The acquisition and operation of the two submarines placed the RMN at another level, as compared to other navies around the region.

It is unfair for Opposition MPs such as Nurul Izzah Anwar to demean the submarine force and lied about its inability to operate. Moreover, to foreign press when she is abroad. Her intention is very clear; she wanted to politicize the acquisition of the submarines as wasteful spending by the Federal Government.

To prove the Opposition leaders and pro-Opposition skeptics wrong, Defense Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamid this afternoon would fly in Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, Deputy Chief Ministers Prof Ramasamy and the Dato’ Mansor Othman along with Fleet Operations Commander Vice Adm. Dato’ Jamil Osman on board KD Lekiu and transfer them to KD Tun Razak, for one and half hour dive around the waters 60 nautical miles west off Langkawi. This is for the benefit these Opposition MPs/ADUNs to see for themselves and dispel the lies about “The submarines are not able to dive”.

The steadfastness and sacrifice of the submarine force and Royal Malaysian Navy should not be questioned.

*Updated 1000hrs

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 07:10  Comments (16)  

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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Take the bastards to the bottom of the ocean and leave them there.

  2. Good one brother. It must be very claustrophobic inside there. Great sacrifice from our naval worriors.

    Wonder how the diesel engines got their oxygen. For that matter the human too. And how do they got rid of the CO2. It can’t be bubbling to the surface. It would be tell tale sign of their where about..

  3. Having submarines in Malaysia’s naval fleet is not a luxury but a strategic necessity. I believe the submarines have many more features and capabilities that are not made public for security and strategic reasons. So, that’s ok. There are submarines that can stay underwater without being detected or difficult to detect. That will give it added advantage in the surveillance of the maritime zones against intrusion or any acts of aggression and could intercept or send signals to patrolling naval ships.

    The oppositions who denigrate the 2 submarines have simply run aground with ideas. They are stuck in some shallow waters waiting to be ‘rescued’ by our patrolling naval vessels.

  4. Bro, who doesn’t know the fact narrated by you.
    The issue is- why do we need that super expensive subs?
    Basis of the procurement? Plucked somewhere at the golf course, coffee shop or while jockeying at KoK somewhere or while having fun in London or France?
    Concept of employment eeelek ma…. operating like orang tempang.
    Yes great sacrifice by the navy wallas but don’t forget someday someone will have to answer and everyone is waiting to get the truth and GOD willing it will be soonest. and you bet !

    • You are a low class arsehole. “Plucked somewhere at the golf course, coffee shop or while jockeying at KoK somewhere or while having fun in London or France?” Some one should trace you and make you explain your assumptions. You think it is that easy to make decision . It take years. I was once in the service .

      You know the alternate to buying submarines, and if I were to choose? I would procure thousands of surface to surface missiles including scud. And use it. They will be very effective..

  5. Nobody questions the need for submarines. What is being questioned is the kickbacks and why Perimekar is usurping Defence Ministry’s role.

  6. Eagle said ..”who doesn’t know the fact narrated by you..”
    Well. I for one do not – and am grateful for all the facts that have been narrated and I am more enlightened. Anything that supports our nation’s defence strategy is reassuring. Jangan nanti kalau jadi apa2 bila nak berak baru gali lobang.
    Come on, why is it with u guys nothing the govt does is right. I am not a blind suppporter of BN neither do I associate everything negative with the govt.
    As for “operating like orang tempang” , foot ! I salute the sacrifice – and skill – of the submariners.

  7. Salam Bigdog,

    Be careful Bigdog. This is a national security matter. Any information divulged would be deemed sensitive.

    There is a reason why the opposition are raising hue and cry over the submarine issue. They want information, the more confidential the better, and not just whether it is able to dive.

    Such information that you provided may be nothing to ordinary folks or laymen. But any intelligence personnel will tell you that any information concerning national security, no matter how minuscule, is considered vital. The photo of you inside the officers’ cabin is one example of a dead giveaway. Even the layout of the officers’ cabin, including the pillows, mattresses and other materials, are important information, not to mention the two Pielstick diesel engines, the Blackshark torpedo, etc.

    Worse still, bringing Lim Guan Eng and any opposition member inside the submarine means we have fallen into their trap. They can now see what’s inside and how it works.

    And knowing the opposition’s local and foreign networks (especially those of that “Anugerah Tuhan”), what is there to stop them from passing the info to other (including foreign) parties? This has nothing to do with proving the skeptics wrong, this is a national security matter, full stop! The issue of kickbacks or corruption is another matter altogether.

    Hope you will be more discreet the next time you post article concerning security matters. The opposition are good at springing traps to elicit sensitive information. Don’t fall into their traps!

    Just a friendly advice.

    • What’s wrong of letting the opposition to go into the submarine, after all they will be the next federal gov after election.

    • Are you sure the subs are that secret, considering that they were made in France, a NATO ally. It would be a different matter had they been made secretly in Malaysia to a Malaysian design.

      The mission aspects of the crew are probably more secret than what’s in the sub.

      Anyway, I guess the sub is about the size of a railway coach.

  8. Mohammed…Just tell the rakyat why we need that super expensive subs? Don’ get emotional! Tak payah nak ugat orang la ini bukan hak kamu seorang! pooraaah….
    Kayzee… just tell the rakyat its concept of employment… mike tahu ke? kalau nak tahu gi baca buku perang kat laut yob!

  9. “Just tell the rakyat why we need that super expensive subs?”

    Majority rakyat are very happy with this purchase.” Only the minority, read opposition, make noise about it..

    Are you suggesting that the Navy needs to go to rakyat every time it wants to upgrade its attack and defence capabalities? Give detail breakdowns of the puchase? Down to every technical, every electronics and weaponary ? I dont think they should. And you should not write this,

    “Plucked somewhere at the golf course, coffee shop or while jockeying at KoK somewhere or while having fun in London or France?”

    There some gullible people who believe that this is how our goverment make decisions, unless you yourselves believe it.

    I still think they should trace you and make you explain.

  10. One of my nephews was involved in buying the subs’ batteries, from Germany. When I asked him whether it was true that the subs could not dive, as the opposition were claiming then, he wryly smiled and said: “better let our enemies think that the subs cannot dive.”
    Now, thanks to PM Najib, some opposition leaders and members of the local media were told: “Now everyone of you can dive.”

    • This sub is like a present “hybrid power” power system isn’t? except its desel engine is not geared to the prop shaft.

  11. There are h=just too many arm chair military strategists who do not know what they are talking about. Worse they think that that the jonnas are the transformers.
    You just don’t need the subs but a ocean going navy to go with it to be rally guard our EEZ. Any way the point is not on the subs but on the money. Who made how much?
    That is the question the tax payer is asking. If the government is not forthcoming or truthful then it is the responsibility of the opposition to ask.
    Otherwise it will be another NFC or PKFZ. Can the nation survive this kind of shenanigans?

  12. […] Malaysian Navy, volunteered and then selected to undergo submarine training in Australia. It is a very tough service for any seaman to specialize. It requires unsurpassed dedication, commitment and to certain extend, passion. The highly […]

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