The 3rd Submarine for Malaysia: Agosta-Class Ouessant (S623)?

November 18, 2011

The 3rd Submarine for Malaysia: Agosta-Class Ouessant (S623)?

by Mariam Mokhtar@

How much did the Malaysian taxpayer pay for the Agosta-class submarine? When was it purchased and when was it decided to hand it over to Ali Rustam?

When the Malaysian government signed a deal in 2002 with the joint naval builders, DCNS of France and Navantia of Spain, to commission two Scorpene-class submarines, it did not realise that the purchases would create an international scandal.

The controversy surrounding the Scorpene-class submarines refuses to sink into oblivion. Now, attention is focused on the little known Agosta-class submarine, the Ouessant (S623), which was completed in 1978 and served the French navy until she was decommissioned in 2001. It appears Malaysia also owns the Ouessant.

A few readers may recall very sketchy details about a third submarine which was used to train the Malaysian submariners. That was the Agosta-class Ouessant, which the “Asia Sentinel” described in its reporting on the Scorpene scandal as a “retired submarine manufactured by a joint venture between DCN and Spanish company Agosta”.

Opposition politicians have bombarded UMNO with questions about the submarine deal but have been thwarted by unintelligent and conflicting answers from the Defence Ministry. Now, the curious case of the Agosta-class submarine, the Ouessant (S623), is only just surfacing.

“The Asia Sentinel” stated in April 2010 that this third ageing submarine was leased for training purposes. However, we are now told that the Malaysian Navy has bought the Ouessant, the Agosta-class submarine. If so when? And, for how much?

Why has there been no mention of the Ouessant until we hear that it will be made into part of Malacca’s maritime museum? Gaining ownership of the Ouessant is akin to learning to drive in a 20-year-old Proton Saga, then buying the car for RM200,000 only to use it as a reban ayam (chicken coop).

So, was the Agosta thrown in as as sweetener for the purchase of the two Scorpenes? Did the French try to appease the Malaysians because one of the Scorpenes was faulty?

Malaysians first read of the Agosta-class submarine in a rather obscure report by Bernama on April 22, 2011, when the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) chief Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar said that the Ouessant was unsuitable for naval operations but would be converted into a museum piece to show the progress made by the RMN.

Abdul Aziz said, “We are expecting its arrival in August. There will be a signing ceremony between the Defence Ministry Secretary-General and the French side before it is handed over to us.

“It is a second-hand submarine we bought for training RMN personnel. Now that its services are no longer needed, it will be brought to the Lumut naval base in August”.

RM12.6 million museum project

Abdul Aziz explained that the Ouessant had been used as a training submarine for the submariners of the two Scorpene-class submarines KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Abdul Razak, which were commissioned in 2009 and 2010.

Then on the September 23, the Malaysian Ambassador to France, Abdul Aziz Zainal and the Director of International Development in the French Defence Ministry Yves Blanc, signed the documents for the transfer of ownership of the Ouessant.

The submarine was then transported on a floating dock to Malaysia in early October in an operation organised by Felda Transport. After being at sea for 32 days, the Ouessant arrived off the Malacca coast.

Malacca Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam said that the submarine would be transported to the exhibition site at the 1Malaysia Square, Klebang.

During the site visit, Ali explained that the Malacca government had been given custody of the French-made Ouessant. The submarine museum project, he said, had cost RM12.6 million and would attract more tourists to Malacca.

Earlier, Abdul Aziz denied that Malaysia’s first two Scorpenes, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Abdul Razak, were not operational and he affirmed that they were “in the open sea and operating smoothly”.

He also rubbished claims that kickbacks were involved in the purchase of the two Scorpenes, and by way of assurance, stated that neither the European Union nor the RMN condoned such acts.

Is Abdul Aziz really that naïve?The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) convention states that it is a crime to bribe foreign public officials in international business transactions.

The OECD convention may have been signed by countries in Europe, but it didn’t prevent former premier Tony Blair from stopping investigations into allegations of kickbacks by the arms company BAE and the Saudi Royal family, under the guise of national interest and security for Britain.

There are numerous questions about the purchase of Malaysia’s Scorpene submarines.Why did the Malaysian government omit to procure the weapons systems for the two submarines and why did they purchase submarines that were not fitted out for use in tropical waters?

The empty shells that were purchased then had to be equipped with torpedoes, sea-to-surface missiles and mines, all of which cost the taxpayers several millions more ringgit. Perimekar Sdn Bhd, which received the kickback in the Scorpene deal, is intricately linked with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak through his friend Razak Baginda and Baginda’s wife, Mazalinda.

Baginda and his wife are co-owners of Perimekar and it is alleged that the Scorpene deal involved kickbacks, money-laundering and a series of unexplained “co-ordination services”.

What is the actual cost of the submarines?

What does the Malaysian government mean by “co-ordination services”, “supporting the contract” and for “housing the crew” of the submarines in France? A sum of 114 million euro was paid to Perimekar for these services.

Why was KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, the company which owns Perimekar, set up just before the payout of 114 million euro? This company has done little since.

Why did the Malaysian officials forget about the maintenance contract for the Scorpenes? Why did they also forget to buy weapons for the Scorpenes, one of which was reported to have diving problems?

What is the actual cost of the Scorpene submarines? And how much did the Malaysian taxpayers pay for the Ouessant? When was it purchased and when was it decided to hand it over to Ali Rustam?

One hopes that Malaysia will not end up with three submarines in the Malacca maritime museum. We would be the envy of the world with three submarines as exhibits. Tourists will flock to Malacca to view them. Probably.

Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist.

20 thoughts on “The 3rd Submarine for Malaysia: Agosta-Class Ouessant (S623)?

  1. I have become numb from hearing and reading about such abuses. We are not getting any answer. Officials involved in the affair must be charged. I hope that it won’t just be the KSU who will be surcharged (face disciplinary action) later.

  2. A good piece of investigative journalism something Malaysia is so lacking in. The submarine scandal if it were to happen anywhere else would have brought down the UMNO-led government, along with the Prime Minister and God knows who else.

    But then this is Malaysia. Doesn’t Malaysia have the Freedom of Information Act?

  3. The practice of lining defence contracts with sweeterners (or kick backs) is too well known to be just simply dismissed with a bare denial. Why does Malaysia’s MoD shop for expensive military hardware in countries like the U.K. France and the Soviet Union and not the U.S.? Take a guess. And why does the Minister of Defence ( a post also held by the country’s Prime Minister) goes shopping for such expensive military hardware when elections are around the corner? Take another guess.

  4. Did anyone believe that all the exorbitantly expensive military wares are all for national security? It’s just a channel for siphoning colossal amounts of our money without detection, or so they thought and hope.

  5. The waters around Malaya are shallow especially the Straits of Malacca. Wonder whether the submarines were operating underwater or on the surface when navigating the Straits. Guess if the Commander gave the command to dive, it would hit bottom with the periscope still visible.

    By the way Disneyland have an old submarine for lease or sale. Maybe Royal Malaysian Navy would be interested. It is used daily to take the visitors to Disneyland underwater at the theme park. Maybe Ali Rustam would like to buy this rusted tin can for display at the Maritime Museum in Melaka besides the kereta lembu.

  6. Arms sale to Malaysia needs US Senate approval. Secondly the US have the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act that prohibits US companies from paying commission to agents of foreign government. Thus UMNO won’t buy US arms and instead go to France, Russia and other eastern bloc countries where no such law exists.

    Buy submarines without missiles or torpedoes, why? By breaking up the contracts you can earn more commissions? Buying separately will require retrofitting which will cost more.

    Why buy the Agosta sub just for training? Malaysia can always pay a friendly country to train our naval officers how to operate a submarine. Furthermore all major purchase will include training cost. Surely DCNS conduct sea trials for the subs at which time they can train the Malaysians. Even when you buy the latest BMW they send you to a driving class.

    BN Umno is getting out of control.

  7. Yeah semper, instead of modernizing and upgrading the F/A-18’s of which RMAF has 8 (not sure now), they went on a shopping spree and are now contemplating Typhoons – as if we don’t have enough flooding as it is. Imagine splitting the order to accommodate the Fulcrum MIG-29s, a totally different platform, then proceeding to the Sukhoi-30MKMs which probably has Israeli avionics – re-branded as German or Italian.. No Hebrew alphabets and all that.

    So while you guys figure out rust buckets floating/sinking in the South China Sea, the next whopper is actually already airborne! Those sinkable buckets will soon be revealed in all their glory – with a Parisian Investigative Judge holding court – if surfacing is also a function of a Submarine.

    The technological mismatch is truly mind-boggling and truly stupendous. Our Defense Ministers and their accompanying cronies are all extremely gifted Savants, or haven’t you heard? They multitask so well and are geniuses in picking up garbage, and all the Right Stuff gets hijacked into their Personal War chests. Have you noticed how ‘chesty’ their wives are? You could land a B-52 on ’em, even if they’re no longer botoxed.

  8. When they bought the Mig’s 29 all the manuals are in Russians, translated into Hindi and finally translated into BM. That’s why they have many mishap with the Mig’s, not that it’s not a good aircraft, just that the manuals, both flight and maintenance have been translated and thus lost its meaning somewhere between Russian, Hindi and BM.

    Operating a mixed bag of planes is bad as they each require extensive retraining and type rating and also TUDM have to carry a myriad of spares which will end up as junk. The TUDM spares depot is a junkman haven, that’s why they didn’t realise they lost the F-5E engines a while back. They still have spares for aircraft they have disposed off or demobilised such as the HS 125, the F-100 and the A-4 Skyhawk. They should do a garage sale.

    Have you noticed how ‘chesty’ their wives are? Yes they are practising for an over water landing. Their life vest are already inflated. ha ha

  9. A tiny country like Singapore own 4 submarines…any justification ? where do they would dive? I believe ours are used to boast the defence around Spratly Island toface threat from Vietnamese sub where they claim most of the Spratly beside China. Malacca Straits does not need submarines…a patrol boat will do.

  10. The French said,.” Here’s the deal. You buy 2 Scopenes from us and we’ll give you1 free Agosta which you can use for training
    The Malaysian minister said, ” Excellent, that’s very kind of you and we accept your offer. But could you bill us for the Agosta ”
    Done deal.

  11. Wah.., we’ve got a Tom Clancy fan-club going on here – led by freddy.

    Interesting hypothesis – submarine vs submarine – hunter-gatherer stuff, when in actual fact there are many ways to counter such threats. For instance: Airborne anti-submarine warfare, including helicopters and fixed wing aircraft; or surface antisubmarine corvettes. Much cheaper and more effective. But being truly Malaysian – we must keep up with the Joneses, after being fed on Jane’s Fighting Ships and Defence Weekly. Submarines are anachronisms unless it’s for strategic nuclear deterrence and protecting sea-lanes – for which you need many, not 2. Syiok sendiri!

    To see Vietnam Peoples Navy as a threat with their 6 new advanced Kilo class submarines coming on line is fallacious. PRCs Navy has 16 (last count) and Indonesia is acquiring 2. Comparing the unproven Scorpene and the Kilo class is like comparing Proton Saga with a soon-to-be extinct Jaguar.

  12. If not mistaken RMN has 4 anti submarine corvettes with ‘Exocet’ surface to air missile to support the two subs at spratly islands. The Vietnamese need more subs there since they claim 10 to 15 islands (atoll) spread over the spratly, so are the Chinese, hence theyneed more force. While we calim only 3 islands it doesn’t mean RMN can sit on their laurel, readiness around the clock is vital.

  13. With the US actively involved in the West Philippine Sea (er, that’s what Mdm Sec of State Hilary said), and USN planting a single Carrier Strike Force hereabouts, our RMN might as well retire or else do their coast guard duties – like stopping cigarette and human smuggling off the coast of Sabah/Sarawak or shooting at Lanuns from Sulawesi, Batam or Bintan.

    As with the billion RM per piece LCS(Littoral Combat Ships, in our case probably Sampans), what exactly is the function of these 2 Scorpenes? To me it’s a very expensive pr exercise, more akin to our apatu Angkasa-naught. Get real, the Scorpenes were and is a Scam! And to rub salt into the injury, an ancient decrepit Agosta, like a ’50’s Vespa scooter – without spare-parts, has has become another Malacca Museum piece. Now that genius of a CM is gonna use taxpayer money to scrap it, just like the Malaysian Eye-in-the-Sky Ferris wheel.

    Why can’t the folks in Malacca see that their CM is actually a Scrap Metal Junkyard Artist, in real life? You know, like those Paper-Lama recycling entrepreneurs roaming our suburbs? Who pockets the small change after scrapping the metal to Megasteel? Certainly ain’t the maid..

  14. Btw, don’t get me wrong, i have a high regard for RMN and their professionalism. Just give them the right tools, and don’t turn them into spare-parts scroungers, like what is happening to RMAF.

    Above all we need a defence minister who knows what is important, and who realizes that in this day and age, brandishing a keris vs, a shotgun ain’t smart. Even if his main intention is to rip the rakyat off.

  15. Surely RMN role in war and peace are more than just doing anti-smuggling or anti- piracy or preventing human trafficking. Nobody like wars but even so they are supposed to be prepared in any protect the sovereignty of this country aganst foreign threats from the doesn’t matte who is your enemy..whether a carrier task force like the USN 7th Fleet or a flottila of ‘sampans’ captained by one eye ‘jack-Sparrow’ lanuns.

    I agreed that RMN is in dire need of sopshticated state-of-the-art vessels and weapons to protect our vast EEZ zones from intruders.I was made to understand that the submarines project were already proposed to the govt some 10 to 15 years back..the proposal never materialised due to lack of fund from the Treasury. At least those fighting men in the Navy know actually what were required to be at par with the rest..only to be let down by lack of money.

    Of course we don’t need to spend like the US defence budget to the amount of over hundred of US billions, making her economy down the drain… Anyway you can’t blame them either. Been the world police has its colloquial consequences too. So its no surprised that the USN Task Force headed by the nuclear powered carrier are everywhere sailing, sometimes without clear task or purpose..just a show of force as The World Police..!

  16. Actually USN have 11 carrier groups.
    The last time PRC shot a coupla of missiles over Taiwan, 2 battle groups arrived off the Straits of Formosa, and scared the nuts out of the stupid, trigger happy Chinapek general who ultimately got sacked by the CCP Politburo.

    Yeah RMN, to my mind, is under-rated and they really deserve better than what these politicians are giving them. Better pay and facilities. New equipment, certainly not submarines mind you – but better LCS asap, modern aircraft surveillance, better/sophisticated sonar and radar equipment, working Bofors cannon etc. The navy really ought to shaft the expired Exocets up the A**holes of their civilian bosses. They have the money, but corruption is rampant.

  17. If politians want to put their hands in the honeypot at the expense of taxpayers, their hands will be soiled with dirty honey forever and while they can enjoy their illgotten wealth, I am sure God will be their final judge and do to them what is right.
    It is difficult for lay people to understand why such a hugh purchase has to go through middlemen, when in actual fact the deal should be government to government and cutting all corners and kickbacks or profits which could save taxpayers billions of ringgit, which could be used for medical and educational purposes.

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