The RSS Steadfast (70) is a highly advanced and modern navy frigate in service with the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). Certainly with the expansion of Chinese naval power in the Asian-Pacific region, vessels such as the Steadfast play a large role in containment and deterrence all the while defending national shores and maritime lines. One of the key design features of the ship is its very stealthy appearance, which does away with much of the traditional "detail" as found on conventional vessels and, instead, sports clean lines and fine contouring throughout. Additionally, the warship packs the latest in technological systems and weaponry to allow it to counter most any threat at sea.
During the 1990s, a review of current Singaporean naval power revealed the need for an upgraded vessel to replace the aged Sea Wolf class of missile ships. An international competition saw the Singapore requirement fulfilled by the French firm of DCNS out of Paris with the defense contract formally awarded in 2000. After the deal was secured, the French were to produce the first ship of the line - its class to be identified as the Formidable-class - while Singapore shipyards would then handle further construction of the final five vessels. Included in the agreement was the passage of all inherent technologies used within the lead ship. The lead ship - christened appropriately as the RSS Formidable (68)- was laid down in 2002, launched in 2004 and, after successfully completing its trials, was officially commissioned in 2007.
The RSS Steadfast (70) therefore became the third ship of the six-strong Formidable-class line of fighting frigates for the Singaporean Navy. Sister ships now include the RSS Intrepid (69), the RSS Tenacious (71), the RSS Stalwart (72) and the RSS Supreme (73) with the first pair commissioned in 2008 and the second pair in 2009. The RSS Steadfast herself was launched on January 28th, 2005 and officially commissioned on February 5th, 2008, alongside the RSS Intrepid and the RSS Tenacious. The six vessels make up the 185th Squadron within the Republic of Singapore Navy and supply a potent arm to the small nation's naval reach.
The design or the Steadfast exudes technological advantages in both its internal and external selections. The vessel is very clean and sports finely tuned surfaces throughout. There are no noticeable guard rails along the edges of the deck and the superstructure and armament bays are all housed under angled surfacing. There is a deck gun mount at the bow and a helipad at the stern complete with a full internal hangar area. The sides of the vessel are contoured in such a way that they integrate cleanly into the superstructure sides. The bridge is set forward of amidships while a sensor mast is fitted as part of the low-profile smoke funnel. The overall design is intended as a radar cross-section counter in much the same was as stealth aircraft are engineered. Construction is largely of steel. The RSS Steadfast is home to an operational crew of 71 officers and sailors as well as a small detachment of 19 aircrew to manage any onboard helicopters.
There is a complete hangar available at the stern of the Steadfast's design which can house up to two naval helicopters as needed. Typically, the Singaporean Navy will fit a single American Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk system, essentially the militarized export version of the hugely successful Black Hawk series and modified for the rigors of at-sea operations. The helicopter is multi-mission in its design and can be used to ferry passengers or cargo, resupply the vessel, participate in special operations, retrieve fallen airmen or scout for enemy warships and submarines.
In terms of onboard processing systems, the Steadfast is stocked with a French Thales Herakles multifunction search radar as well as a Danish Terma Electronic Scanter 2001 navigational radar. Sonar is handled through an EDO Model 980 active low frequency towed array. Electronic warfare is managed through the Israeli RAFAEL C-PEARL-M suite. The French-based Sagem Defense Securite system handles decoys from two forward and one stern launcher. Frigates such as the Steadfast are intended to operate alongside other vessels and aircraft for maximum effectiveness when dealing with potential or certain threats.
The Steadfast is a conventionally powered surface ship and, as such, makes use of diesel turbines. The type is powered by 4 x MTU 20V 8000 M90 series engines, each rated with an output of 12,200 shaft horsepower, totaling an impressive 48,800 shaft horsepower combined. This supplied the vessel with a top speed of 27 knots in ideal conditions and an operational range of 4,200 nautical miles before a refuel is required.
As a fighting frigate, the Steadfast is capably armed with an array of armament to suite mission threat levels. The frigate can, therefore, target enemies in the air, on the surface or under the surface of the sea. At the bow there is an Italian 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid deck gun for engaging surface threats in range. The gun is housed in a stealthy enclosure sporting faceted sides and angles. For long-range surface threats, the vessel mounts 8 x American RGM-84C Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Aerial ranged threats are handed by a French 32-cell DCNS Sylver A50 series vertical launch system (VLS) housing MBDA Aster 15/30 surface-to-air missiles. For anti-submarine work, the Steadfast can call upon its 2 x B515 triple torpedo mounts.