(Former Communications Branch Members)

                                                                                                                                   Updated : 18th June 2013  

 ( Opinions expressed in this page were written in 1968 )

Fast Patrol Boats and A Small Navy

Compiled by : Choo K.C. (RO) (11-11-2011)

This article, researched and written by First Admiral (rtd) K. ARASARATNAM, (1968 Lt. Cdr. then)

  Though a small Navy might consist of small vessels she can develop them to a sufficient potential to deter any would-be Aggressors.

          Once it has been ascertained that a naval force is necessary in order to maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country the immediate treat has to be established. Malaysia has some three thousand miles of coastline and it is practically impossible that a greater number of small vessels can cover a larger area than a few large ships.

          The threat can be in the form of an open war, like Vietnam or Korea, or in a limited capacity, like the Indonesian confrontation. Any small, developing country must accept the fact that it is unable to withstand for any length of time an open attack from a great Power. The answer, therefore, is to maintain sufficient strength to counter illegal immigration, piracy, blatant infringement of territorial sea, smuggling and internal and external subversion. Also, the Naval force must be adequate to cushion the initial impact of aggression by a big power until the allies come to its assistance. It stands to reason that it a country maintains too large a force she will spend a large proportion of here budget on this force. Hence, by having a small navy a major part of the revenue can be utilized for development projects in the economic field which would benefit the county and the people more in the long term.


Let us examine the question of finance. The quotations given below are approximate and are for new ships.

TYPES OF SHIPS                          CLASS                             COST

Frigate                                         Hang Jebat (Rahmat)          $M 34 million
Patrol Craft                                 Kedah, Sabah, Kris               $M 1.5 million
Fast Patrol Boats                       Perkasa                                   $M 4 million

          A rough examination of the figures show that a frigate costs about nine times the cost of a Fast Patrol Boat and about twenty-five times more that a Patrol Craft. Unconfirmed sources have said that it will cost $M15,000 to maintain HANG JEBAT ( Rahmat ) per day whether she was at sea or not. For those who are interested in aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines, it should be obvious from the foregoing paragraphs the impracticability of maintaining such large ships when you consider the budget of a small Nation like ours.

          The question of manning these ships is also a very relevant factor. A frigate has about 12 officers and 150 men, while a Patrol Craft or a Fast Patrol Boat has 2 officers and 20 men. Hence, it can be deduced that with a smaller number of personnel, a larger number of units can be present at sea.


At this juncture, let us examine the pros and cons of a General Purpose frigate over a Fast Patrol Boat. The frigate is said to be Versatile because of various roles she can perform, Anti aircraft, Anti submarine, Aircraft-picket, shore bombardment, etc. A Fast Patrol Boat is equally versatile in that she can be used as a gunboat armed the missiles, torpedoes and also for offensive and defensive mine laying. A frigate is reputed for her long range and good sea-keeping qualities. The K.D. Perkasa, during recent trials in the United Kingdom operated under force 5-6 weather conditions – very rare in these parts. She also made a straight passage from Penang to Singapore and could therefore make a straight passage from Singapore to Kuching. These sea-keeping qualities and ranges are considered adequate for Malaysia or for any other small developing country in this region. It has also been said, that as the frigate has her radar scanner higher she can detect the enemy earlier. That is true, but she will also be detected earlier because of her size and her powerful electronic emission. In a recent exercise, the Fast Patrol Boats identified and classified a task force consisting of an aircraft carrier and a number of large destroyers at 47 miles. The Fast Patrol Boats were on classified at 15 miles. Very soon after classification the Fast Patrol Boats were within missile firing rage of the task force.

          In maneuverability and speed, the Fast Patrol Boats are well ahead of any known warships. They can attain speed in excess of 50 knots within a minute of starting her engines, and her engines, and her power-controlled steering enable her to make large alterations of course at an unbelievable rate.

          Just after the Arab-Israeli conflict last year, an Israeli destroyer, EILAT, was sunk by a Soviet-made stys missile fired from an Egyptin Komar class missile boat. The loss of the EILAT to a vessel one-eight of her size was hailed by some authorities as the opening of a new Era in sea war. In the 1930s and 40s it was generally accepted that the larger the guns the more powerful the enemy. But having larger guns means thicker armament and larger shells which would further mean heavier and larger ships. Hence the size of warships began in increase beyond all proportions. The modern trend is to have a number of small fast moving craft capable of hitting the enemy with some force. Besides, while a loss of a capital ship may cause a serious imbalance in Naval strength the loss of a small craft would not


          Let us now consider the potential of a missile.

          The Stys is a “beam-riding” missile with supersonic ram-jet motor and stubby wings. It carries the punch of a six inch shell. While this might not sink an aircraft carrier quite as easily as it did the EILAT, a salvo could do vast damage.

          The Stys, and probably a variety of other missiles, is directed throughout most of its flight by a radar signal echoing back from the target. As it closes the target, generally about 70 seconds after it shows up on radar screens, it switches to infra-red guidance or to radar mechanism in the missile itself.

          In calm seas. Predominant in this part of the world, the target stands out very clearly to infra-red sensors because of its “cool” background. Calm conditions also enable the missile to fly low over the water without disturbance to the mechanism which regulates is altitude.

          While planners from leading western Navies are having quite a headache to fine a solution to the threat from this missile, it is well worthwhile for small navies to consider how best to consolidate this advantage.

          It has not been my intention to do away with frigates in entirely as these ships are a very important component of any navy. The frigate has a very comprehensive Action Information Organization which a Fast Patrol Boat cannot afford due to space and personnel limitations. The frigate can, therefore, be used as a seaborne command centre, exercising tactical control over other surface units, e.g. Fast Patrol Boats.

          In conclusion, I might add that it is my contention that a few frigates and a number of small Fast Patrol Boats armed with all the modern weaponry, like missiles, torpedoes and the capability to mine enemy territory are quite a seaborne force to be reckoned with.



Heli Deck - onboard (seasoned) Hang Tuah 



SHIPS OF THE R.M.N. (1968) 

Compiled by : Choo K.C. (RO) (11-11-2011)

This article, researched and written by Capt.(rtd) CHOONG GAN SON (Lt, CDR then)

The Malaysian coastline extends through a distance of approximately 2,300 sea miles and this vast coastline must be considered subject to possible threat from outside agencies. Moreover, thousands of fishermen put out to sea around this coastline each day, and these hard-living citizens sail under constant fear of being pirated, which depends a great deal on shipping.

        The roles of the Royal Malaysian Navy are therefore obvious,
a.     To protect friendly and neutral shipping.
b.     To safeguard the integrity of Malaysian coastal waters.
c.     To transport troops over short ranges
d.     To keep the harbor and sea lanes open by mine-sweeping
e.     To provide naval gunfire support for ground forces.
f.      To assist and protect Malaysian fishing fleets.
g.     To carry out coastal and inshore surveys of Malaysian waters.

To fulfill the above roles, Malaysia needs a Navy, tailor made to meet its limited naval requirements, which would be compatible with Malaysia’s resources. The answer therefore is not to have many large ships, but to have enough small ships to be capable of forestalling an external assault for a sufficient duration to allow friendly forces to come to her assistance.

Onboard (seasoned) Hang Tuah

Let us now examine the size and shape of such a navy in relation to the role. Firstly, to be capable of fulfilling the roes already mentioned, in a large scale or ‘Rolls-Royce’ manner, the type of ships needed would be Aircraft Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, Frigates, Fast Patrol Boats, Minesweepers and Hunters, Troop Carriers, Survey Vessels and Patrol Boats. However, Malaysia cannot afford to collect and maintain such a large naval forces at an unacceptable cost to her welfare programme. It would suffice to add that a modern frigate costs about M$40.000.000 to build and at least about M$3,000,000 per annum to maintain,

Hence, due to the limitation of the ‘budgetary’ of our small country, the Royal Malaysian Navy presently consists of 38 ships and 20 riverine craft. Together they form the total strength of the RMN Flotilla.

The RMN Flotilla comprises 7 squadrons. The Composite Squadron consists of a Frigate and a Survey vessel. The Frigate is 1,500 tons and is armed with twin 4 inch guns, six bofors and anti-submarine mortars. The ship is also fitted with a helicopter platform for an RMAF Alouette to operate in the reconnaissance role. The frigate is named after a famous and brave Malay warrior call Hang Tuah. The survey vessel K. D. Mutiara which means ‘Pearl’ is sometimes used for V.I.P trips, because it is very well furnished and its accommodation is comfortable.

The Mine Countermeasures Squadron consists of 6 Coastal Minesweepers, which are ships of 425 tons, capable of a dual role of minesweeping and patrol as gunboats, armed with single bofors and twin oerlikons. These ships are named after real or mythical mountains in Malaysia (Brinchang, Kinabalu, Tahan, Ledang, Mahamiru and Jerai). In this same squadron, there are two Inshore Minesweepers of 140 tons, which are smaller versions of Coastal Minesweepers, but at present used as gunboats, armed with single bofors and two oerlikons. These two ships are named after fishes, Todak and Jerong.

There a 4 Patrol Craft Squadrons, with 6 in each squadron, making a total of 24 ships. These are 110 ton ships, armed with two modern 40mm bofors and equipped with radar. They are powered by high speed diesel engines and have a top speed of 23 knots. The first two Patrol Craft squadrons are named after Malaysian States and the last two squadrons are named after Malay weapons (blades and daggers)

  (Mini Destroyers)

The Fast Patrol Boats Squadron consists of 4 offensive craft, capable of operating against any type of warships, big or small. They are among the fastest in the world, with a speed in excess of fifty knots. They carry an alternative fit of 4 torpedoes or mines and can be used in the gunboat role. The 4 Fast Patrol Boats have been given the manes of Pendekar, Gempita, Handalan and Perkasa.

During the Indonesian Confrontation, RMN ships whilst on Anti-Intruder Patrol, have encountered incidences of infiltration and intrusion and have counteracted with speed and efficiency by firing for effect when the occasion warranted it.

Two Coastal Minesweepers, a Frigate and 8 Patrol Craft of the RMN have taken passage from U.K. to Malaysia. Commonwealth Naval Minesweeping exercises have also drawn RMN ships to places like Hong Kong, Thailand and India, and goodwill visits have been made to Philippines, South Vietnam, Burma and Ceylon in the past. It is envisaged that plans would be made in the future for RMN ships to also make operational visits to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, to gain broader experience, there by increasing the efficiency of the flotilla of Malaysian Men-of-war.



 Deck Hockey onboard (Seasoned) Hang Tuah



Compiled by : Choo K.C. (RO) (11-11-2011)

This article, researched and written by First Admiral (rtd) P. K. NETTUR, (1968 Lt. Cdr. then)

  The recent acquisition of four Gas Turbine Fast Patrol Boats represents a significant advance for the Royal Malaysian Navy, which now joins Navies of nation like Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Britain in being the proud possessors of modern, powerful high speed attack ships.

          Craft of similar features were used extensively in the Second World War by the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy. These Craft distinguished themselves well as Motor Gunboats (MGB) and Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) and chalked up a high reputation in the English Channel and the Pacific. Books have been written and films made of the war efforts of many of these boats, amongst them the famed United States Navy Boat PT 109 which was commanded by the late President John F. Kennedy.

          Since the second World War there has been considerable development of guided weapons with own propulsion power-torpedoes and missiles. These weapons have greater ranges that the heaviest guns and combined with strike aircraft constitute a considerable threat to large surface ships. Therefore, The tend now is for the construction of smaller ships with missile capability and every leading Navy is now engaged in building a large number of smaller ships; the elite of this class being the Fast Patrol Boats. In recent limited wars it is significant to note that Fast Patrol Boats have played their part. The escalation of the Vietnam conflict was brought about as a result of attacks on American surface ships by North Vietnamese

Fast Patrol Boats and the sinking of the Israeli Destroyer EILAT was achieved by a missile fired from an Egyptian Fast Patrol Boat. This was the first time in Naval History that a warship was sunk by a missile.

          The four Fast Patrol Boats of the Royal Malaysian Navy as Kapal-kapal Diraja PENDEKAR, GAMPITA, PERKASA AND HANDALAN   and they form the 11th Fast Patrol Boat Squadron. An unusual feature of these new ships is their construction. With the exception of the superstructure which is aluminum, the ships have been built entirely in wood using lamination techniques or plywood where appropriate. The wood used is mahogany, Canadian rock elm and marine multi-ply bonded throughout with a resorcinol or phenolic adhesive largely without metal fastenings. A thin sheathing of fiber glass prevents damage to the wood from soakage or marine borers which are constant threats in Malaysian Waters.

          These new Fast Patrol Boats are the first Malaysian warships provided the Gas Turbine power plants. They are equipped with three Rolls Royce Proteus Gas Turbines, each developing 4,250 s.h.p., for high speed work and two General Motors diesels for maneuverings. This system is referred to as CODOG (Combined Diesel or Gas) Turbines. The gas turbine propulsion provides fro rapid acceleration, deceleration and maneuvering at high speeds.

          In many other ways these versatile hips defer from other men-of-war. The wheelhouse resembles the cockpit of a jet airplane and as the watch straps in (seat-belt fitted chairs are provided) the turning and flicking of switched  brings the ship to life. Little is or has to be said; the evolution taking place is that of the precisions watch, as it must be for 96 feet of ship performing at speeds in excess of 50 knots. Interior and exterior communications and navigational equipment are also borrowed from aircraft concepts and streamlined to provide maximum us of available manpower.
                                                                     ML WORK HORSE OF THE NAVY

          Each of the Fast Patrol Boats has been equipped with suitable armament in the varied roles of torpedo boat, gunboat and minelayer. In the Gunboat role she carries one 40/60 Bofors and twin oerlikons. In the torpedo boat role she carries in addition torpedoes. To meet her role of minelayer she has only to replace her torpedoes with mines. Small arms and 2 inch rocket flares are carried in all roles. Normally four rapid release deck fuel tanks are carried in the Gunboat role to give additional range. Modern anti-aircraft and anti-ship guided missile systems are envisaged in the future and provisions have been made in the construction of these craft for this eventuality.

Each ship has a complement of 3 officers and 21 men and all key personnel have received specialized training at H.M.S. SULTAN and other contractor-furnished training peculiar to the unique equipment installed aboard the ship. Two officers have received advanced training in Britain and Denmark on torpedo boat warfare.

         All four Fast Patrol Boats have been in commission since 22nd November, 1967 and are now fully worked up. Of late, they have been participation in series of exercises with the Royal Navy off Pulau Langkawi and in the China Sea.  The craft have proved their worth in these exercises and on some occasions have managed to get through a heavily defended convoy undetected. The have also carried out fishery protection and anti-piracy patrols in the West Coast of Malaysia,