May 16 (UPI) — Singapore is expanding its fleet of submarines to better protect its growing commercial interests in the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait.
Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said Tuesday two German-made Type 218SG diesel-electric submarines are to be purchased from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reported Tuesday.
“In addition to the two previously announced, the Republic of Singapore Navy will acquire two more Type 218SG submarines to replace its older submarines, with an expected delivery from 2024 onward,” Ng said.
Two submarines of the same model were already ordered with a delivery date between 2021 and 2022.
Singapore has been seeking to replace older submersible craft in order to modernize its navy and stay competitive with its ASEAN neighbors, The Straits Times reported.
“At steady state, the four Type-218SGs in service will complement each other in maintenance, logistics and operations, and have better capabilities to protect our sea lines of communications,” Ng said.
The Singaporean official added 800 more warships and submarines are expected to be operational in Asia-Pacific by 2030, referring to a study from AMI International, a U.S.-based naval analysis firm.
Economic activity centered on Singapore has grown remarkably since 2006.
Ng said more than 50 percent of global container traffic moves through the Asia-Pacific, and Singapore has witnessed a 20 percent increase in container shipping in the past decade.
Singapore did not begin acquiring submarines until the ’90s, when the country purchased four Sjoormen-class submarines from Sweden, built in the ’60s.
Two Swedish Vastergotland-class submarines, also known as Archer-class vessels, were upgraded with Air Independent Propulsion systems that allow them to stay submerged for up to six weeks.
Singapore’s ASEAN neighbors have been deploying submarines in greater numbers.
In 2009, Vietnam acquired six Russian 636-MV submarines. Indonesia plans to deploy three 1,400-ton submarines that were built in Germany and South Korea, according to Yonhap news agency.