The Victory-class Missile Corvette (MCV), RSS Valiant, shows off results of a mid-life upgrade in the latest edition of Pioneer magazine, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) monthly magazine.
Though the 62-metre missile boat's profile is almost identical to the pre-upgrade MCV silhouette, small refinements provide telling clues to the RSN warship's improved capabilities in battle management and electronic warfare defensive aids.
Two dish aerials are discernible, one on the mainmast facing forward and another aft covering the rear of the MCV. Together, these aerials provide 360-degree coverage. These are believed to be used to control Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) of an unknown type which are launched from the missile boat to sharpen the crew's battlespace awareness while at sea or in the surf zone dotted with islands.
NATALEE drones are believed to have been tested from Singapore Navy MCVs, though it remains to be seen if this is the UAV type carried aboard the missile craft.
As is evident from the above image, an eye-in-the-sky which allows RSN warfighters to see even beyond the hulls of nearby merchant vessels in congested waters allows the warship to have a clearer appreciation of its surface situation picture.
A Giraffe AMB radar replaces the Sea Giraffe. This change was previously reported in Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) literature.
Not visible are refinements that allow upgraded MCVs to share data with other SAF shore-based, aerial and naval assets securely, in real-time, over the horizon, with simultaneous data exchange and updates between SAF platforms that talk to one another. Improved battle management capabilities make MCVs better suited for littoral operations close to shore or in the busy sea lanes surrounding Singapore island.
New EW countermeasures launcher
A EW launcher of unknown type appears to have replaced the Plessey Shield chaff/flare launcher aft of the main mast. The shielding indicates a design aimed at signature reduction.
The upgraded MCVs still carry the attachment points for long range chaff rockets, which are not usually fitted for photo ops like this.
Those familiar with the MCV's original design may also notice the deletion of the Whitehead A244S torpedo tubes. When designed, the MCVs were armed with two triple tubes amidships. Just out of frame (pity!) is the aft end of the warship. It is believed the VDS has also been removed, though questions have been raised on the advisability of stripping MCVs of their anti-submarine sensors and weapons at a time when the RSN's AS capabilities should be enhanced.
The MCVs were the RSN's first warships that could hunt and sink submarines. Their appearance in 1988 made them one of the smallest warships equipped with a VDS.
The MCV mid-life upgrade extends the life of type of these warships as they approach a quarter century of active service. Force modernisation projects like these illustrate the difficulty of measuring an armed force's military potential by a straightforward numbers tally, which is the usual way newspapers do their calculation of the military balance.
MCVs have been on the military balance tables for the past two decades, but the Singapore Navy's missile craft post-upgrade are more survivable and have sensors better tuned for modern naval combat than their predecessors.