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When Mighty Battleships Can Keep The Peace
17th May, 2007

MASTERS OF THE SEA… The Lyme Bay at BAE Systems' Govan shipyard in
Glasgow, Scotland. The 16,000-tonne Landing Ship Dock vessel is expected
to go on sea trial this June. Pix: Shanti Ayadurai

By Shanti Ayadurai

KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 (Bernama) -- The Lyme Bay, a landing ship dock (LSD)
vessel currently undergoing final works at BAE Systems' shipyard in
Glasgow, Scotland, is set for its maiden test voyage from the second week
of June.

The 16,000-tonne auxiliary ship, commissioned by the UK Ministry of
Defence, will go on its sea trial after approximately four and a half
years of work carried out by more than 400 personnel involved in both the
operations and production.

"It will be a heart-touching time. No matter how many ships have been
built and set sail on their first voyage, a ship's maiden sail is always
an emotional moment," said Charles Thompson, head of communications, BAE
Systems Surface Fleet Solutions, whose remarks completely belied his
earlier brisk presentation of the hard and dry facts of the company's
surface fleet operations to Malaysian journalists visiting BAE Systems'
facilities in Glasgow recently.

The experience is not expected to be any different for Lyme Bay when it
leaves BAE Systems' Govan shipyard in Glasgow this summer.

But what will make this ship or any other ships currently being built by
BAE Systems different are the vast advancements Europe's largest defence
company has made over the years in its shipbuilding technologies and
innovations in the various areas of warship performance including combat

One of the largest LSD vessels in the world, the Lyme Bay will be capable
of transporting, to whichever part of the world they are needed, 356
troops; 1,200 metre-lengths of vehicles (e.g. 150 light trucks); 24 x 24
TEU containers, two Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP) Mk.5 and
one Landing Craft Utility (LCU) Mk10; and two Mexeflote powered rafts.

It will be also equipped with the first-of-its-kind electronic control
panels which will handle the ship's operations and systems.

On a media tour of the Lyme Bay, the facilities and features aboard the
ship shown include an aircraft landing area on the upper deck, the
captain's cabin, a cafeteria capable of providing meals for 500 personnel
at one time, the quarters for troops, the upper deck, an enormous basement
and the docking area for amphibious battle vehicles.

Close by, at the Scotstoun shipyard, a limited tour of the Type 45
destroyer warship was given. Described as the most advanced surface
warship in the world, the capabilities of the ship include a radar that
can track multiple incoming threats simultaneously, prioritise them,
assign countermeasures and deploy them to their targets. It can even track
a target the size of a cricket ball approaching at three times the speed
of sound. The first of this class of ship is expected to be ready in 2009.

The tour of the facilities around the shipyard, including the steel parts
assembling plant, made one thing obvious: the pride, passion and precision
displayed by those involved in all aspects of ship building, be it in the
cutting and moulding of a steel sheet for a vessel in production or even
simply explaining the finer points of a ship's data operating system on
the computers.

Malaysia can expect to benefit from more than just technology transfer
from BAE Systems when plans to develop the Labuan Shipyard Engineering
into a regional naval shipbuilding hub start to take off.

BAE Systems, which has pledged a "strong presence" at the Langkawi
International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition this year, will support
the development of LSE as a world-class naval shipbuilding facility as
part of its anticipated contract to supply two frigates to the Royal
Malaysian Navy.

Preparations are already underway to take on 300 apprentices for training
in Glasgow as well as train another 50 existing LSE personnel in Glasgow.
The apprentice programme covers all areas of shipbuilding including design
and technical work.

To a question on how BAE Systems, as a leading defence company responsible
for building warships and other combat weapons, sees the challenges of the
present era when the call for disarmament and peace is growing louder by
the day, BAE Systems' regional managing director for the Asia-Pacific,
Steve Meighan, said: "Britain learnt a hard lesson in the past (when it
was totally unprepared for World War II).

"To have no defence is to open ourselves to predators," he said, quoting
Article 51/52 of the UN Charter and Britain's decision 70 years ago to
give itself the right to self-defence.

"We are focused on defence, helping countries to build up their homeland
security and we are not equipping just anyone with warships."

While ships like the Lyme Bay or Type 45, with their multitude of combat
facilities and performances, will give their owner the combative edge
should the owner be in battle with any force at any time, their
capabilities can also be used to serve peacekeeping or humanitarian
purposes just as well.

Perhaps in this part of the world, where natural calamities and events
such as tsunami and earthquakes are more often the norm than a war, buying
or even chartering such ships for peacekeeping and humanitarian work would
be the better consideration.

If their purchase by a single nation bothers tax payers, assuming that the
cost of a LSD vessel is anywhere from 80 million sterling pounds to over
100 million, regional ownership could be an alternative.



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