Navy unveils new maritime security flotilla, with armed ships that can go alongside vessels quickly
SINGAPORE: The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) on Tuesday (Jan 26) inaugurated its new Maritime and Security Response Flotilla (MSRF), aimed at boosting Singapore's maritime security capabilities.
The new flotilla will initially operate four Sentinel-class maritime security and response vessels (MSRV) and two maritime security and response tugboats (MSRT).
The MSRVs are equipped with a range of capabilities for more calibrated options against a range of maritime security threats.
For instance, they come with front and rear guns and a smaller machine gun, as well as side fenders to go alongside vessels of interest quickly.
The MSRTs will help the RSN better respond to and assist with incidents at sea, as well as support operations at base.
The four MSRVs are refurbished vessels, but from 2026, the flotilla will operate new purpose-built vessels, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a release on Tuesday. These vessels are expected to be larger and can operate at sea for longer periods than the Sentinel-class MSRVs.
Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral Aaron Beng officiated at the MSRF's inauguration ceremony held at RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base on Tuesday morning.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had first announced that the RSN was restructuring its maritime security units and getting new ships in March last year, in response to rising sea robbery incidents and a greater spectrum of threats.
"In recent years, maritime security threats have grown in scale and complexity," MINDEF said on Tuesday. "Examples include sea robbery threats in the region, and intrusions into Singapore territorial waters."
READ: SAF to restructure intelligence and cyber defence units, acquire new ships for maritime security amid evolving threats
There were 34 sea robbery incidents in the Singapore Strait last year, data from a regional maritime information sharing centre showed. This figure has been rising over the past few years.
"The capabilities raised by the MSRF will provide flexibility to meet the increased demands and a wider scope of maritime security operations, and offer greater persistence to protect Singapore’s territorial waters," MINDEF said.
In line with other international maritime security agencies, the MSRF's vessels will bear red "racing" stripes on their bow, MINDEF added.
MARITIME SECURITY AND RESPONSE VESSEL
The MSRVs are refurbished RSN patrol vessels that have been decommissioned and replaced by the newer littoral mission vessels.
They have been refitted to extend their operational lifespan, and installed with capabilities that can respond to incidents of differing severity.
These new features include enhanced communications equipment, improved visual and audio warning systems, a fender system and modular ballistics protection.
The four MSRVs are named Sentinel, Guardian, Protector and Bastion. The first two will enter operational service on Tuesday, while the rest will be refurbished and operationalised in the coming months, MINDEF said.
MARITIME SECURITY AND RESPONSE TUGBOAT
The MSRTs have been acquired under a long-lease arrangement and will serve as "dedicated tugboats", MINDEF said.
Tugboats in other militaries have typically been used to assist, escort or tow other vessels. Some tugboats can pull large missile cruisers or aircraft carriers.
FUTURE PURPOSE-BUILT VESSEL
The future purpose-built vessels will work with RSN's littoral mission vessels and unmanned surface vessels to respond to maritime incidents and protect Singapore's territorial waters, MINDEF said.
These vessels will be able to operate at sea for up to a few weeks and be designed for lean manning with modular capabilities, MINDEF added. Dr Ng had said in June that these ships could even have unmanned systems.
The ships are still in the early stages of concept design.
MINDEF said the MSRF will form an "important part" of the restructured Maritime Security Command, which builds up, trains and maintains the capabilities of RSN platforms deployed primarily for maritime security operations.
"The MSRF will strengthen Singapore’s ability to deal with maritime security threats that have grown in scale and complexity through the years," MSRF commander Lieutenant Colonel Lee Jun Meng said.
"The additional capabilities will provide us with more flexibility and a wider range of responses, and allow us to be deployed for greater persistence to safeguard and protect Singapore’s territorial waters."