SINGAPORE: The Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) 50 years of existence is a reminder that it is not just about capable ships and up-to-date technology, but fighting spirit and dedication to the nation, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (May 5).
In a speech delivered at the commissioning ceremony of the navy's first littoral mission vessel (LMV), RSS Independence, Mr Lee noted that the RSN's beginnings were rooted in how the sea was and still is Singapore's "lifeline".
"We needed a strong maritime force to protect our sovereignty, defend us from seaborne threats, and keep trade – our lifeblood – flowing," he said. "So at Telok Ayer Basin on this day 50 years ago, we created the Singapore Naval Volunteer Force.
"It was a makeshift force. All we had were a handful of volunteers from the Singapore Division of the Malayan Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and the Singapore Women Auxiliary Naval Service. Our fleet consisted of just two sea-worthy wooden ships – RSS Panglima and RSS Bedok.
"Plus a third ship, RSS Singapura, moored to serve as the navy headquarters!" added Mr Lee."
"But what our pioneers lacked in technology and resources, they made up for in their determination and resourcefulness," he said.
"We sent midshipmen abroad to Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, to train and gain operational experience. They worked hard to build and modernise the navy. They acquired and passed down the art of sea-faring and the skills and discipline of seamen."
RSS INDEPENDENCE A “SIGNIFICANT, HISTORIC NAME”
From two wooden ships, Singapore now has a full-fledged third-generation navy, Mr Lee said.
"A fighting force including submarines, frigates, maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned vessels and aircraft. Professional and courageous fighting men and women, who have been tested in real operations," he said.
"A navy that is admired at home and respected beyond our shores."
Mr Lee also said it was apt for the new LMV to be named RSS Independence.
"It is a significant and historic name. Significant because protecting Singapore’s independence has always been a core mission of the RSN. Historic because the name Independence carries the legacy and spirit of the navy's pioneers," he explained. "Starting from the first RSS Independence, the patrol craft which played a key role during the Laju ferry hijacking in 1974.
"To the men and women of the RSN, you inherit a proud history, and you are entrusted with a vital mission," Mr Lee concluded. "It is now your duty to sail the ships of the next generation Navy, and keep Singapore safe and secure, in peacetime as in war."