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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Formidable class frigates of the Republic of Singapore Navy

Written by D-Mitch

RSS Formidable leading vessel of the Formidable class frigates
Photo: Republic of Singapore Navy
The Formidable class frigates are multi-mission stealth frigates of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) or else Angkatan Laut Republik Singapura, which are quipped with state of the art weapons and electronics. DCNS was awarded in 2000 by the Republic of Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to design and to build six frigates of the project Delta, a smaller derivative of La Fayette class of French Navy, but with much more advanced characteristics such as low radar cross-section, acoustic, infrared and electromagnetic signatures, better sea keeping qualities and increased endurance but also equipment and weapons. The agreement included a technology transfer after the construction of the first frigate at DCNS' Lorient yard in France while five more were built in Singapore by the Singapore Technology Marine (STM) at the Benoi shipyard. The first of the class, RSS Formidable was launched in 2004 and she was commissioned in 2007. All the ships were commissioned the period 2007-2009, they are the only frigates serving in RSS and they form the 185 Squadron. The frigates of the class, due to their advanced armament and electronics, are considered among the most advanced surface combatants in Southeast Asia!

The six frigates form the 185 Squadron of the RSN. Photo: Republic of Singapore Navy

The general characteristics of the class is a full displacement of 3,200tons, length of 114.8m, beam of 16.3m, maximum speed of more than 27knots and a range of approximately 4,200n.m. with the cruising speed of 18knots. The ship is highly automated and thus it has a crew of just 71 (!) persons while it includes about 15-19 more persons to serve the organic helicopter of the ship.

Formidable class frigate

Super Rapido gun. Photo: cxcheng
Launch of Aster 15SAM
Each frigate has one main naval gun on the bow deck, the most popular in the category, the fully automatic OTO Melara Super Rapido gun of 76mm/62cal. The gun is capable to intercept air and surface targets at a distance of 4 km (at 85 degrees) and 16 km (effective 8 km) respectively unleashing 120 rounds per minute weighting greater than 6kg each. The gun has excellent performance in any kind of role, such as air defence, anti- surface, anti-missile and shore bombardment role.The gun is mounted in a stealth cupola in order to reduce radar cross-section.

Formidable class frigate of the Republic of Singapore Navy. For a higher resolution image click here.
VLS and Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid gun. Photo by melvil
 The VLS behind of the main naval mount consists of 32 cells in total and particularly 4x8 modules of Sylver A43 VLS for MBDA Aster 15 anti-aircraft/missile missiles for local and area defence (medium range). There are reports that only two modules are of Sylver A43 VLS while the other two are of the larger A50 VLS for the longer range MBDA Aster 30. The Aster 15 is vertically launched and autonomously guided with a maximum range of greater than 30km and a speed of higher than Mach 3. The missile provides protection to the vessel against a full spectrum of air threats such as anti-shipping missile including sea-skimming and high diver missiles, supersonic and subsonic missiles, anti-radiation missiles UAV and aircrafts (see video) with a very high single shot probability . ASTER’s terminal dart is a lightweight, highly manoeuvring and agile missile equipped with a high-performance active RF seeker with capability against stealthy targets. Thanks to the unique combination of aerodynamic control and direct thrust vector control called “PIF-PAF, the missile is capable of high g manoeuvres. Together, these features give ASTER an unmatched hit-to-kill capability. The system has an extremely quick reaction time with high rate of fire and it provides full coverage under any kind of weather. The Aster 30 has a two-stage propulsion system achieving the incredible speed of Mach 4.5 and the range of 100-120km.

RSS Formidable, lead ship of the class, at RIMPAC 2012

Harpoon launcher. Photo: cxcheng
Launch of Harpoon missile
Photo: Singapore Navy
The usual load of surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) of the ships is eight (8) Boeing RGM-84C Harpoon anti-ship missiles in two Mk141 quad launchers amidships. These missiles have a range greater than 120km, sub-sonic of speed of 860km/h (Mach 0.9) and they carry a warhead of 221kg. Harpoon missile has a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory, active radar guidance and it is capable to perform the so-called pop-up manoeuver which it is a rapid climb of the missile to about 1,800m before diving on the locked target. However there is space amidships and anchor points for mounting six (6) quad launchers (three on each side)and thus giving to the vessels the amazing power of 24 SSMs! This load is unrivaled by any kind of warships worldwide with the exception of those carrying cruise missiles.

Due to the large space amidships, there is the possibility to remove missile clusters and to install a launch and recovery system to handle two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) for embarked Naval Diving Unit combat divers.

RHIBs amidships instead of more Harpoon launchers. Photo:
RSS Intrepid with Typhoon mounts.
Typhoon mount. Photo: David Boey
The secondary armament includes two Rafael Typhoon Mk25 naval stabilized gun mounts of 25mm on the port and starboard corners of the helicopter hangar. The mounts are produced jointly by Rafael Armament Development Authority Ltd and General Dynamics Land Systems and they incorporate a stabilized sensor ball (Rafael Toplite) with electro-optical TV, laser rangefinder, and infrared sensor, a fully-stabilized mount, and a remote firing option using a fire control console mounted inside the ship. The mount has stealthy panel coverings and a laser target designator TLS. The Typhoon allows the frigate to lock-on and fire-on-the-move without a standing gunner behind the gun, and to fire in nighttime and adverse weather conditions using the stabilized sensor ball. The mount’s main weapon is the M242 Bushmaster 25-mm chain gun, a proven NATO standard auto cannon with 2.5 km range and selectable rates of fire. The rate of fire is 180 rounds per minute, with the system providing 168 rounds on-mount. There is also a coaxial mounted 7.62mm machine gun on the Typhoon mount. Other secondary armament may include 2-4 heavy machine guns like the CIS-0.50 which is manufactured by ST Kinetics of Singapore and it has a rate of fire of about 600rds per minute.

RSS Steadfast arrives in Pearl Harbor after participating in RIMPAC 2016.
Notice the Typhoon mounts and the new decoy launchers.
CIS 0.50 heavy machine gun.
Photo: Republic of Singapore Navy

A244/S Mod 3 torpedo. Photo: EuroTorp
The Anti-Submarine Warfare weapons (ASW) include two EuroTorp triple torpedo launchers of 324mm for the A244/S Mod 3 light-weight torpedo. The torpedo has a speed of 30-39knots and a range of 13.5km with low speed while it carries a warhead of about 42kg. The operational depth is 10-800m. The same torpedo is used by the frigate’s helicopter.

The torpedo launchers of RSS Tenacious. Photo:

Herakles radar. Photo: Thales
Thales Herakles is installed in a radome on top of the main mast which is a rotating 3D passive electronically scanned array multi-function radar in the E/F-band (S-band) combining air and surface surveillance and fire control radar and thus performing all functions involved in the establishment of air and surface pictures. Herakles performs target detection and tracking, environment mapping, target classification, weapon assignment and deployment and missile uplink guidance. Herakles is optimized to detect and track multiple SSM, ARM, diving missiles, fighters and helicopters in littoral environments. Herakles provides 3D surveillance for up to 250 km (200 km on aircrafts, 60 km on missiles and 20+ km for sea skimming missiles). and it has a track capacity of more than 500 air and surface targets. Each ship is equipped with two Terma SCANTER 2001 navigation radars. One of the radar systems is utilized primarily for navigation and surveillance, whereas the other guides helicopters when landing on the frigates.

RSS Steadfast.
Photo: David Boey
RSS Tenacious with STIR.
Photo: David Boey

RSS Teenacious and EO sensor.
Photo: David Boey

RSS Tenacious with STING
Stir 1.2 EO Mk2. Photo: Thales
Some of the vessels such as RSS Tenacious, RSS Stalwart and RSS Steadfast have received recently various improvements, including the Stir 1.2 Mk2 of Thales on bridge roof, a highly capable medium-to-long range tracking and illumination dual-band (I/K) radar system. A full set of electro-optic equipment (TV/IR/laser) complements the system for optimal performance in demanding environments, The system has been designed primarily to control point and area defence missile systems such as NATO Sea Sparrow, ESSM, Aster and Standard Missiles. A secondary application is the direct control of various caliber guns. All STIR configurations have optional TV/IR tracking capabilities. STIR technology stands for high accuracy, excellent performance and extensive ECCM capabilities. The extreme stable front end results in excellent detection of small targets in sea and land clutter environments. The high dynamic range of the low noise receivers in combination with advanced coherent Doppler processing ensure the detection of stealth targets in heavy clutter.The instrumental range (air and surface) is 120km for the I-band and 36km for the K-band.

Fast attack craft INS Tarshish of Israeli
Navy. Notice the new sensor on the main mast
Najir 2000 multi-sensor on an Endurance
class LPDs. Photo:

New multi-sensors have been added also as it is clear that the EO sensors in the above photos are not of Najir 2000 type as it is reported in the online source and if they were delivered like that then for sure they have been replaced with new optronic directors of another type during the years. Originally the ships were delivered with two of these Najir sensors. It is quite certain that the sensors in the above photos have Israeli origin as they look identical with the new Multi Sensor stabilized Integrated System (MSIS) of Elop ElectroOptics Industries Ltd. (El-Op), a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd., a system that was installed on  Saar 4.5 fast attack craft. This sensor performs surveillance, target acquisition, weapon aiming and fire control missions. The new generation MSIS is comprised of a daytime TV camera, in addition to the third generation FLIR, and a rapid laser rangefinder. The system features flexible compact sensor packaging, high performance stabilization and high sensitivity and resolution.The MSIS, after the installation of the Stir fire control radar, has been relocated on the main mast.

Improved Formidable class frigate of the Republic of Singapore Navy. For a higher resolution image click here.

NGDS. Photo:
The new decoy launchers covered
Each of the vessels is equipped with three eight (8) barrel 130mm Sagem NGDS (New-Generation Dagaie System) multiple decoy launchers to counter a variety of threats such as anti-ship missiles and torpedoes. Two decoy launchers are in front of the bridge and behind the VLS while the third one is located at the top of the helicopter hangar (it seems that the third launcher has been removed from the vessels). NGDS is integrated in the ship's combat system's detection and warning system and can react automatically to current or emerging threats, in extremely short times. Each system is equipped with a single dual launcher including decoys (infrared, radar or acoustic) adapted to the threat to be neutralized. The NGDS system adapts to all types of munitions: electromagnetic or IR decoys, Active Offboard Decoy (AOD), Anti-Torpedo Decoy and/or laser jammer, deployed at short, medium or long range. The launchers are linked to a computer that selects the decoying best-suited technique. The Electronic Warfare Coordination Center provides the commanding officer with the ship’s tactical situation and coordinates the various Electronic Warfare (EW) tactics: threat evaluation, tactics optimization, coordination of decoys, radar jammer and more generally, electronic countermeasures Electronic Support Measures (ESM). Some of the ships which were mentioned earlier, have been spotted with different decoy launchers, the SAGEM NGDS II, which are a newer version of the EADS NGDS as it is advertised on company's website and it looks very similar with the only one photo that the system is uncovered (see photos and information here). The new configuration is two forward launching systems replacing the two previous NGDS and two WASS countermeasure launching systems atop the hangar.

The forward covered
decoy launchers

The new decoy launcher

The aft  covered WASS launchers
With the older decoy launchers

WASS launching system
Steadfast with the WASS systems
The Leonardo-Finmeccanica WASS anti-torpedo defence countermeasure launching system, in surface version (C310) is formed by a launching network with 8 or 12 barrels. The system assures the ejection at suitable distance of countermeasures that can both represent dummy mobile targets (MTE) and generate disturbance noise for the acoustic head of the enemy torpedo (Jammers). The C310 represent Defence Systems Division' high-performance anti-torpedo countermeasure system. It's designed to resist the attacks of the most technologically advanced torpedoes, wire-guided or not (launch-and-forget). They are realized with electronic items that generate disturbance noise for the acoustic head of the enemy torpedo. This kind of countermeasure can both represent dummy mobile targets (MTE) and generate disturbance noise for the acoustic head of the enemy torpedo (Jammers). The combination of mobile decoys and jammers has the purpose of cheating the torpedo, which directs its attacks towards the dummy targets, thus allowing the ship to perform an evasive countermeasure. The definition of optimal reaction results using a elaboration software (ORACOM) that, based on multiple parameters, elaborates the more suitable operation to maximize surviving probabilities, even against last generation torpedoes with high potentials against countermeasures.

RSS Steadfast after the modernization program. Photo: Mathieu Gaudreault

ALOFTS. Photo: Republic
of Singapore Navy
Each frigate is equipped with an EDO ALOFTS Model 980  active low-frequency towed-array sonar (Variable Depth Sonar). ALOFTS (Active Low Frequency Towed Sonar) provides long, medium, and short-range detection, localization, classification, and tracking of submarines in blue and littoral water environments. ALOFTS combines a proven active acoustic source in a variable depth body with an attached towed array to receive active sonar signals. The towed array also provides a full passive sonar capability. Shipboard processing equipment is implemented with the most modern state-of-the-art COTS processing and telemetry electronics. The system includes a torpedo detection capability for self-defense purposes. Automatic detection and tracking are provided for both active and passive operations, greatly reducing operator workload.

The 185 Squadron of RSS. Photo: Republic of Singapore Navy

LRAD 500X device on RSS Intrepid
Photo: cks2k22
The vessels' electronic support measures (ESM) system is the Rafael C-PEARL-M radar intercept. However, it is clear from the pictures that the ESM suite includes also jammers, possibly of Israeli origin as Israel is the last years the main supplier of Singapore's Navy. So it might be a configuration off the most advanced, SEWS-DV EW system with different jammers but unfortunately there is not enough information about it and we can only assume. The improvements included also two Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) 500 X-RE which is a high-intensity directional acoustic hailer designed for long-range communication and issuing powerful warning tones.  LRAD can broadcast in any language with authoritative and highly intelligible communication. LRAD provides military personnel with a powerful, penetrating warning tone that can be followed by clear voice broadcasts in host nation languages to warn and shape the behavior of potential threats. LRAD employs directed sound technology to move the security engagement envelope from 50 meters (without LRAD) to in excess of 3000 meters (with LRAD). One device is fitted on the portside aft of the bridge and another one is fitted on the same position to starboard.

S-70 landing on a Formidable class
S-70 inside the hangar
Scan Eagle UAV

The bridge
Each vessel carries a Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk helicopter, six of which were ordered in 2005 and they delivered in 2010 to equip the ships. The frigates carry also a Scan Eagle UAVs which is launched via a Super Wedge launcher. Data communication systems are likely to be of Link Sigma, a variant of Link 11 for the RSN ships. The control and management of all communications (internal, external, satellite) is provided by the SuperneT ST2600 Shipboard Integrated Communication System. The Combat  Managemnt System is locally developed (DSTA/ST Electronics system) and it integrates all sensors and weapons on board.

Frigate Steadfast at RIMPAC 2008. Photo: Republic of Singapore Navy



    1. Very Good Analysis
      Good Start with the new blog D-Mitch :-)

      1. Thank you so much for your nice word! More analyses will follow, stay tuned ;)