CHERBOURG (France): Malaysia’s first Scorpene submarine was launched Tuesday signifying yet another leap in the nation’s pursuit of new technology.
KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, named after the country’s first Prime Minister, was unveiled in a historic ceremony at the DCNS dockyard here, about 400km from Paris.
In keeping with maritime tradition, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor broke a bottle of water against the submarine’s sail to signify the official launching and naming of the vessel.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s wife then unveiled a plaque with the submarine’s name and called upon “Allah to bless her and all who serve and sail with her”.
Accompanying her were Royal Malaysian Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Ramlan Mohamed Ali, DCNS chairman Jean-Marie Poimbeouf and Submarine Force Project Team head Laksamana Pertama Rosland Omar.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, French Defence Minister Herve Morin, Defence Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Zainal and senior officials from both countries witnessed the ceremony.
Later, the VIPs toured the submarine which is equipped with torpedoes, sub-surface to surface missiles and sea mines.
The vessel was one of two bought by Malaysia in 2002, with both being jointly constructed by DCNS of France and Navantia of Spain.
In his speech, Najib said the submarine was named after the Tunku in recognition of his contribution in leading the country to independence.
“His courage, wisdom and foresight had steered our nation to what it is today,” he added.
He said the submarine acquisition was part of the Malaysian Armed Forces’ modernisation programme which could contribute significantly towards creating a more balanced capability.
As a maritime nation and given its geographical setting, it is inevitable that Malaysia’s national interests and security concerns are closely related and associated with the seas, he said.
He said commercially, more than 90% of the country’s domestic and international trades were dependent on sea transportation.
On the seabed lies underwater pipelines that transport Malaysia’s oil and gas ashore as well as cables that link major international communication networks.
“It is thus crucial for Malaysia to have a small but credible and effective naval force to not only safeguard its sovereignty and maritime interests but also contribute to the region’s maritime security and safety,” he added.
Najib said the project signified a major leap into high technology defence acquisition, providing the impetus for the local industry to acquire cutting-edge technological knowledge and expertise.
KD Tunku Abdul Rahman is set to sail home, manned by the country’s first submarine crew in January 2009 while the second vessel, to be named KD Tun Razak, is expected to be delivered by October 2009.