The defence ministry is satisfied with the progress of the littoral combat ship (LCS) construction project, with one of the six ships expected to be ready next year, says its minister Mohamad Hasan.
He said his visit to the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) base in Lumut today found that overall, the construction of the ships, which will be implemented in stages according to suitability, was on schedule.
"For the first ship, it is now 70% (complete). There is only one more block to complete, and it won’t take long.
"The engine, propeller, and gearbox have been installed. Only the electrical equipment and weapons (have 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 reported as saying that the defence ministry would realise the construction of the LCS project for the RMN to strengthen its defence of the national waters.
Mohamad said he would continue the efforts implemented by the defence ministry, the Malaysian Armed Forces, the finance ministry, the economy ministry as well as the Armed Forces Fund Board in realising the completion of the LCS.
He also said that he had consulted the finance ministry, economy ministry and defence ministry, in order to explain the actual situation regarding the LCS issue.
The Public Accounts Committee, in a report on Aug 4 last year, said the government had paid RM6.083 billion to Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd in a deal allegedly signed via direct negotiation, but not a single vessel had been delivered to date.
On Oct 2 last year, former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein was reported as saying that the construction of the LCS project would resume as soon as negotiations ended in December 2022.
Asked about the status of the other ships, Mohamad said they were currently 22% to 48% complete in terms of the installation of electrical and electronic equipment, weaponry and various other technical matters.
"I was informed that the other ships will take two to three years to complete. Some need to be checked in terms of leaks, artillery, and ECU (electronic control unit). We hope that all previous problems will be resolved.
"This includes the issue with middlemen which is almost resolved. From now on, we will deal directly with vendors only.
"There are also some who ask why we continue with this LCS project (despite 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 the defence ministry remains focused on this," he said.