LUMUT: The first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) built by Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd here for the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) is expected to be operational in 2019. Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Johari Baharum said the construction works which started last year is 50% complete and expected to be completed by April 2019 in time for the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima). "RMN wants the ship to be ready before Lima," he told reporters after officiating the keel laying ceremony for the second LCS ship at Boustead Naval Shipyard here today. The first LCS is one of the six ships costing a total of RM9 billion to be built by Boustead and handed to RMN by 2023. The vessels will be the most sophisticated and capable warships in the RMN inventory. It is capable of 4-dimensional warfare capabilities to counter electronic, air, surface and underwater threats which is integrated with state-of-the art combat system. The ships have strong stealth features which will reduce detectability to minimise detection by enemies. According to Mohd Johari, entry of LCS built with French technology is part of the modernisation and restructuring of RMN's assets. Among them are the reduction of 15 classes of ships to five which will cut down on operational costs and reduce dependency on foreign countries to have more efficient logistic management. He said the vessels will be stationed in the country's waters and also Exclusive Economic Zones. "The presence of this ships will strike and effectively check kidnapping and robbery incidents in the sea," he added. Meanwhile Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd managing director Tan Sri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor said they will push to complete construction of the first ship in time for Lima. "However we face problems for such heavy machinery and complex projects which is a universal issue in terms of technically competent and articulating skills workforce. "We bring in technical expertise from France to overcome the problem especially for the combat system ... the other workforce are 100% local," he added.