Remembering Brunei's Naval Ships

[Note: I wrote the following article on Sunday morning 16th January 2011 for it to be published on Brunei Times on 17th January 2011. It was the conversation with Pehin Jalil which gave me the impetus to write this article.]

Remembering Brunei's Naval Ships
by Rozan Yunos

This writer was in Islamabad recently. Regular column readers would now be asking what have Islamabad got to do with Brunei history. The answer to that would be none.

It just so happened that this writer met with the Brunei High Commissioner to Islamabad. The High Commissioner was His Excellency Pehin Datu Penglima Col (R) Abdul Jalil Haji Ahmad. He was formerly the Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy before he retired and became a diplomat.

During the visit, this writer and His Excellency Pehin Jalil discussed issues of developments in Brunei Darussalam including the recent news that the Royal Brunei Navy had accepted two brand new Darussalam Class Patrol Vessels named "KDB Darussalam" and "KDB Darulehsan". His Excellency noted the new names and reminisced all the names of the vessels that were part of the Royal Brunei Navy.

According to the Ministry of Defence news release, with these two new corvettes, the Royal Brunei Navy will be able to enhance its capability to defend Brunei Darussalam's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The handing over ceremony took place at Lurssen Shipyard, Germany, and accepting on behalf of the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam was the Deputy Minister of Defence, Dato Paduka Haji Mustappa Haji Sirat.

The Darussalam Class is the first of its class with a length of 80 metres and 13 metres wide. It is propelled by diesel engines and has an endurance of 21 days at sea. The ship is equipped with surface to surface missile and a medium calibre gun.

Both ships are expected to start their maiden voyage back to Brunei in March and expected to arrive in May this year, in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. The ships will be manned fully by officers and men of the Royal Brunei Navy personnel.

The day before the acceptance ceremony, the third Darussalam Class ship, "KDB Darulaman" was launched, marking the first time the ship was laid into the water. The ship will undergo the Harbour and Sea Acceptance Trials before the plan delivery in August this year.

Previously, a total of four 41-metre Ijtihad Class Fast Patrol Boats have also been commissioned into service with the Royal Brunei Navy, where two of the ships began operating since March 2010 followed by another two in August 2010. The Ijtihad Class is also part of the project between the government of His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam and Lurssen.

The Ijtihad Class boats were named "KDB Ijtihad", "KDB Berkat", "KDB Syafaat" and "KDB Afiat".

The Darussalam class ships will also replace the Missile Gun Boats Waspada class which had been in service with the Royal Brunei Navy for more than 30 years.

According to Pehin Jalil in his memoir published in 2008 entitled "Memoir Wira Samudera di Muara", the Waspada class boats were named "KDB Waspada", "KDB Pejuang" and "KDB Seteria" and was launched in 1977. The Waspada class spent most of its time in the South China sea and "KDB Waspada" as the Brunei flagship was known among the ASEAN Navies.

The Waspada class vessels were built by Vosper Thornycroft in Singapore each weighing 206 tons fully loaded and armed with 2 MM38 Exocet, 30mm BMARC-Oerlikon GCM-B01 AA and 2 7.62mm machine guns. The vessels were modernised in 1990s.

Pehin Jalil was among the first few Bruneians to be trained in the Brunei Navy. He joined the Armed Forces in February 1972 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in December 1973. He was trained at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth in the United Kingdom.

By the time Pehin Jalil joined the Royal Brunei Navy, the navy was almost a decade old. It was on June 14, 1965, that the Boat Section of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces was formed. It only had 18 people including one officer from the First Battalion.

At first the Boat Section was only equipped with a number of aluminum boats, known as Temuai in Brunei Malay and Fast Assault Boats (FABs). The original role of the Boat Section was to provide transportation of the infantry to the interior of Brunei. It was not until 1966 as the Boat Section expanded that the Boat Section was renamed the Boat Company.

At that time too, the Boat Company had received three River Patrol Boats. These boats were named "KDB Bendahara", "KDB Maharajalela" and "KDB Kermaindera". All the ships were crewed by Bruneians, led by a qualified Commanding Officer. By 1968, two hovercraft vessels type SR.N5 and SR.N6 were also added to the assets of the Boat Company.

It was not until 1968 that the flag ship for the Boat Company was received. The first fast patrol craft was named as "KDB Pahlawan", a name which many people remembered as compared to the other vessels' names. His Excellency Pehin Jalil served as the XO on this vessel.

The Boat Company was then renamed as the First Sea Battalion of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment. It had 42 personnel including one officer. In 1971, the First Sea Battalion received two more Coastal Patrol Craft named as the "KDB Saleha" and the "KDB Masna".

The Perwira Class inshore Patrol Boats were received in 1974 and 1975. The Singapore-built variant of Malaysian PX class police boats; its wooden hull were armed with 20mm BMARC-Oerlikon B01 AA and two 7.62mm machine guns. These were named as "KDB Perwira", "KDB Penyerang" and "KDB Pemburu". The Sea Batallion also received two unarmed land craft utility vessels named as Damuan and Puni in 1976-1977 and two other armed amphibious warfare craft known as Serasa and Teraban in 1996.

In October 1991, the Angkatan Laut Pertama, Askar Melayu DiRaja Brunei, was reorganised and renamed as the Royal Brunei Navy due to the growth of the armed forces in Brunei.

The names of the ships will be long remembered after they have been decomissioned for the services they have rendered for the country.


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