ST Engineering gears up for unmanned-systems mothership for Singapore

Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen
Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen examines a conceptual model of the MRCV by ST Engineering. (Photo: Gordon Arthur)

Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen showed great interest in the display of ST Engineering’s Multi-Role Combat Vessel (MRCV) on the opening day at IMDEX 2023 in Singapore.

ST Engineering showed a concept model of the MRCV, which is based on ST Engineering’s Vanguard 130 hull design. However, Aw Kah Wai, ST Engineering’s senior vice president, Organisation Development, told Asian Military Review that the model remains only a concept and that the form could change.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) will replace six Victory-class corvettes with six MRCVs, with the first due to enter service in 2028.

Aw described the MRCV as a mothership for carrying and replenishing unmanned systems such as UAVs, unmanned surface vessels (USV) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV). Such systems extend the range and versatility of the MRCV, Aw explained.

The model showed a stern launch ramp for two USVs, while UUVs could be lifted by crane into the water from hull side locations. A stern flight deck could be used for UAV and helicopter operations.

ST Engineering’s Multi-Role Combat Vessel (MRCV).
A conceptual model of the MRCV by ST Engineering. (Photo: Gordon Arthur)

Automation will play an important part in the ship’s design, so the RSN can do more with less. Visible on the model were vertical-launch missile cells near the bow, which indicates the MRCV is a direct replacement for the Victory-class missile corvettes.

Saab Kockums will be responsible for the ship’s basic design, which ST Engineering will carry forward into the detailed design. The Singapore-based contractor will also perform integration, construction and is expected to support it logistically throughout its life.

ST Engineering has a range of unmanned systems that could be integrated onto the MRCVs, and these were also on display at IMDEX 2023. It makes the six metre long Mercury AUV, which can be used for seabed survey and mine countermeasures.

Additionally, ST Engineering is set to commence series production of both Veloce 15 and Veloce 60 UAVs too, presumably for the Singaporean military. These UAVs were designed by the government-owned DSO National Laboratories (DSO), with ST Engineering acting as the production partner.

The electrically powered Veloce 15 has a maximum take-off weight of 17 kilogrammes, and it is destined for the army. The petrol-engined Veloce 60, weighing up to 80kg, is ideal for naval missions with its 12-14-hour endurance. However, a company representative said it has not yet been tested from a ship. The Veloce 60 has a laser rangefinder added, something the Veloce 15 lacks.

ST Engineering also makes the Venus USV, which is already used by the RSN for mine countermeasures tasks.

However, the decision whether to adopt the Mercury, Veloce and Venus as unmanned systems for the MRCV will be taken by the RSN, so this remains unconfirmed.

by Gordon Arthur