KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, July 21 (UPI) -- A French-built submarine is on its maiden voyage to Malaysia and is expected to arrive in September, a national news agency reports.
The KD Tunku Abdul Rahman has left the French Mediterranean port of Toulon, carrying 35 crew members under Commander Zulhelmy Ithnain of the Royal Malaysian Navy, Bernama news agency said.
The Scorpene-class submarine is expected to call at Jeddah, Djibouti, Cochin before stopping at the Malaysian navy's headquarters at Lumut in Perak. It will then sail for the country's submarine port at Sepanggar Naval Base in Sabah state on the island of Borneo. Sepanggar is also one of the country's main container ports.
The Rahman, launched in October 2007, is the first of two submarines ordered by Malaysia to be constructed in Cherbourg, northern France, by French shipbuilder DCNS in conjunction with Spain's Navantia.
The news agency gave no details of the armaments but the ships are thought to be set up for Blackshark wire-guided torpedoes and Exocet SM-39 sub-launched anti-ship missiles.
The deal was first negotiated with France in 2002 with DCNS and Navantia, formerly called Bazan and then Izar. The contract included the training of around 150 Malaysian sailors at the French Atlantic port of Brest and on the ship's sea trials off the coast near Loirent in March 2008.
The second vessel, KD Tun Razak, was launched at Navantia Cartagena in Spain in October 2008 and will be commissioned this October. DCNS is building the bow sections and Navantia the aft sections. It is expected to set off on her maiden voyage by the end of the year, Bernama said.
The Rahman is named after the country's first prime minister at independence in 1957. Tun Razak was Malaysia's second prime minister from 1970 to 1976.
Malaysian navy classification for the two 210-foot vessels is Perdana Menter. They have a maximum operating depth of 1,150 feet and a submerged speed of more than 20 knots. Their operational endurance is 50 days with six torpedo tubes for 18 torpedoes or missiles, according to analysts Naval-Technology.com.
Main suppliers for the ships include Calzoni for naval handling and aviation lighting; Cloudis for cabling and planning software; L-3 Communications ELAC Nautik for sonar, echosounders and underwater communications; and Schneider Electric for energy management.
The arrangement for Malaysia is similar to a contract with Chile for two Scorpenes, the first commissioned in September 2003 and the second in 2006. They replaced two Oberon-class submarines.
Ownership of the state of Sabah where Malaysia's submarine base is located is disputed by the Philippines, although there is no ongoing diplomatic activity over its sovereignty by the two countries.