11 Desember 2009PT-91M main battle tank (photo : KLSR)
“Truly Asian!” The Malaysian Armed Forces
The latest tribulation for this tourist haven is economic recession. Malaysia has been impacted by the financial tsunami, and General Tan Sri Azizan Ariffin, appointed Chief of Defence Forces on 1 September 2009, stated, “The current global economic crisis does have an impact on the Malaysian economy and for sure it has an impact on the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) whether we like it or not. As such we need to prioritise our development plan accordingly and we will proceed back as usual when the situation permits.”
The MAF is transforming into a balanced, conventional war-fighting force, and is now implementing its Fourth Dimension Malaysian Armed Forces (4D MAF) capability plan. The strategic 4D MAF plan has three key foci – joint force, information superiority and multi-dimensionality in subsurface, surface, air and information realms.
This article examines the state of the MAF, and outlines current and future acquisition programmes. Malaysia is presently implementing its 9th Malaysia Plan (9MP) covering the 2006-10 period, but further progress is entirely dependent on whatever budget the government makes available. General Ariffin hoped most of the 4D MAF plan could be funded under 10MP in 2011-15, while observers also hope tri-service interoperability and integration will be better addressed.
Malaysia faces new asymmetric threats in the post-9/11 era, particularly in the form of international terrorism, kidnappings in Sabah, smuggling and regional piracy. To enhance its counterterrorism capability, the MAF is investigating the creation of a Special Forces Command directly subordinated to the MAF headquarters. This would oversee all current Special Forces units, and possibly the 10th Parachute Brigade too.
Malaysian defence revolves around three pillars of self-reliance, regional cooperation and external assistance. Malaysia does not have the industrial capacity to produce all its military hardware, but it does wish to act independently without need of foreign assistance in low/mediumlevel security threats. Malaysia places great emphasis on regional cooperation, and encourages bilateral defence cooperation within the ASEAN framework. The Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) with the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore is an important alliance, though its significance has been lessened somewhat with Malaysia’s growing independence.
Army Needs New Wheels
The Malaysian Army’s (Tentera Darat Malaysia, TD) transformation into a conventional-warfare force is almost complete in structural terms. The 3rd Division continues to develop into a fully fledged combined- arms division, including the 11th Royal Armoured Regiment equipped with 48 Polish PT-91M Pendekar Main Battle Tanks (MBT). Malaysia’s final PT-91M rolled off the Bumar-Labedy production line in January 2009. The army desires up to 100 more MBTs to equip two further tank regiments in its armoured brigade. It remains to be seen whether the PT-91M or another MBT type will be selected, as even Poland has spurned further PT-91s for its own army.
In the field of artillery, there is a need for 155mm self-propelled howitzers. “We have decided it will be a mix of wheeled and tracked vehicles,” said the Chief of Army, General Tan Sri Muhammad Ismail. Because of Malaysia’s geographic peculiarities, air-transportable artillery systems are essential. Owing to mountainous interiors and river networks, Malaysia relies on its road networks rather than railways, so wheeled vehicles offer better mobility than tracked howitzers. The Army is reportedly impressed with the 155mm Caesar from France, and it is considered a leading contender. Meanwhile, the South Korean tracked K9 is prime candidate for the armoured brigade. Any procurement
would likely include a regiment each of wheeled and tracked howitzers in 10MP.
Eight 120mm mortars mounted in FNSS ACV-S stretched hulls will be delivered
before the year’s end to provide organic firepower to mechanised battalions.
Furthermore, approximately 40 additional ACV-300 Adnan tracked vehicles were
ordered to supplement 211 existing Adnans. Malaysia received an additional 18 Brazilian-made AVIBRAS ASTROS II Multiple Rocket Launchers (MRL) in
September to equip the 52nd Royal Artillery Regiment. These will be operational in 2010 to augment 18 MRLs already in service.
Asymmetric warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has amply demonstrated the need for armoured tactical vehicles, and Malaysia has opted for 85 Spanish-built URO VAMTAC vehicles to meet its requirement. These Humvee-lookalike vehicles can mount 0.50-cal machine guns, 40mm automatic grenade launchers or Metis-M Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM).
AW-109 light observation helicopter (photo : kbmyaf)
A key programme that has not gained traction, despite its urgency, is new armoured vehicles to replace 450+ geriatric Condor 4x4 and 184 SIBMAS 6x6 vehicles. A total of 521 8x8 vehicles to equip a battalion in each of the army’s four divisions are required. Six variants on a common platform are specified – ATGM, 25mm cannon, surveillance, command, ambulance and fitter/recovery. A global tender was floated in June 2008 for airtransportable vehicles weighing less than 25 tonnes. However, this programme has foundered, deferred yet again, in Malaysia’s current budgetary morass.
While the MAF has been buying shiny new equipment, often smaller but more essential items are forgotten. For example, troops serving in UN deployments are the only ones equipped with body armour, while those in the new Border Security Regiment on the troublesome Thai border go without. To help repel new threats like Singapore’s recently acquired Leopard 2A4 MBTs, the Army has expressed a desire for 18 vehicle-mounted ATGMs. Three finalists are the Denel Ingwe, Metis-M and Kornet-E. The army has ordered 16 FN-6 Man- Portable Air-Defence Missile Systems (MANPADS) from China, and, “For the next couple of years the army will focus its attention on getting its point-defence and short-range organisation set up properly,” revealed the Chief of Army. He is also focusing on establishing appropriate command networks to manage his air defences.
The Army Air Corps already has 11 AgustaWestland A109 LOH helicopters, but the formation will be enlarged once an air cavalry unit is formed with utility and attack helicopters some time beyond 9MP. Six attack helicopters will eventually be acquired, and the Army seems inclined towards the Eurocopter Tiger platform. However, the Tiger faces competition from the AH-64 Apache, A129 Mangusta and AH-1Z Super Cobra.