LUMUT: The Defence Ministry is satisfied with the status of the littoral combat ship (LCS) project, with one of the six ships expected to be ready next year, says Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.
He said his visit to the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) base here on Monday (Jan 9) found that overall, the construction of the ships – being implemented in stages according to suitability – was on schedule.
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"For the first ship, there is only one more block to complete, and it won’t take long. The engine, propeller and gearbox have been installed, with only the electrical equipment and weapons (yet to be installed).
"I am confident that this first ship will be ready in 2024 before undertaking seawater testing and being commissioned,” he told a press conference after the visit.
Mohamad was previously quoted as saying that the ministry would see to the culmination of the LCS project so that the RMN could strengthen its defence of national waters.
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He said he would continue the efforts implemented by the ministry, the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF), the Finance Ministry, the Economy Ministry as well as the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) in bringing the LCS project to completion.
He also said he had consulted the Finance and Economy Ministries as well as his own in order to be able to explain the actual situation with the LCS project.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in its report on Aug 4, said the government had paid RM6.083bil to Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) in a deal that was allegedly signed via direct negotiation, but not a single vessel had been delivered to date.
On Oct 2, former defence minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was reported to have said that construction would resume as soon as negotiations ended in December.
Asked about the status of the other ships, Mohamad said they would take about two to three years to complete.
"Some need to be checked in terms of leaks, artillery and electronic control unit. We hope that all previous problems will be resolved. This includes the issue with middlemen which is almost resolved where from now on, we will deal directly with vendors.
"There are also some who ask why we continue this LCS project (given the ongoing economic uncertainty). My answer is simple: matters pertaining to national sovereignty and defence cannot be compromised. You can say whatever you like but my ministry remains focused on this,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Mohamad said all 39 blocks of housing quarters for members of the Armed Forces and civil servants in the area would be upgraded in stages for the comfort of the residents.
Monday's programme was also attended by Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Mohd Reza Mohd Sany and Defence Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Muez Abd Aziz. – Bernama