Republic of Singapore Navy boosts fighting capabilities with naval helicopters

SINGAPORE : The Republic of Singapore Navy has achieved a milestone in its air and sea capabilities. For the first time, it has naval helicopters working alongside its frigates to accomplish what is described as "the best of both worlds".

The Sikorsky Seahawk helicopter is one mean detection machine.

Packed with sonars and surveillance radars, it is deployed from its frigate to hunt for targets underwater or in the air.

It enables the frigate to see further, extending its range by nearly 200 kilometres.

It also moves faster — five times more than the frigate — making it niftier and quicker at spotting enemy targets.

Ken Cheong, commanding officer, RSS Stalwart, said: "Air asset in itself is very fast, very responsive. What (the ship) provides is the legs where we can transport to the area that we are operating in. And with the speed that the helicopter brings, you have the best of both worlds."

Dropping its sonar into the water, the Seahawk senses danger.

The information is relayed to the command team back on the ship.

The team has two options — deploy its missiles, or have the Seahawk attack using its own torpedoes.

Six naval helicopters were bought from American helicopter maker Sikorsky Corporation in 2005, and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean got a close look at their might, during the naval exercise in the waters off California on Sunday.

Mr Teo said: "It enables the ship—and—helicopter platform to dominate a much greater area of sea and air space, both above the surface and below the surface, that is possible either with a ship alone or with an aircraft alone.

"The fact that you can put a ship and an aircraft together sort of multiplies the capabilities of both by operating them as one system. It is a major leap forward in capabilities for the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces)."

The week—long exercise was jointly conducted with the US Navy.

Since last November, officers from the Singapore navy have been training with their US counterparts to carry out such integrated maritime helicopter missions.

They will return to set up a Seahawk squadron at the end of the year. — CNA/ms