03 Mei 2010

Defence in Malaysia: Industrial Development & Additional Capabilities (2)

03 Mei 2010

Of local design and manufacture, the vehicle has yet to win an order since it’s unveiling in 2006 (photo : Deftech)

In addition lies the fact that Malaysia’s defence industry is largely competing against itself for a small domestic market, in July 1999 the Malaysian Defence Industry Council was created to serve as a forum for the defence industry, the Council being headed by the defence minister and comprised of government officials and the heads of local defence companies. Under it are six working groups dealing with the six specified defence industry fields deemed strategic by the Malaysian government; Aerospace, Maritime, Weaponry, Automotive, Information Communications Technology and Commonuser Equipment, each being headed by a representative from the companies in the defence industry. However, given that the companies involved are competitors in a smallMalaysian domestic defence market, it is not surprising that little has come out in the form of a common approach to the industry’s development or joint development/cooperation efforts between the companies. The recent cooperation between three companies Composite Technologies Research Malaysia (CTRM), System Consultancy Services and Ikramatic System, to form a consortium to develop the ALUDRA (Allianced Unmanned Developmental Research Aircraft) UAV was a result of a government directive to the companies to collaborate rather than compete against each other in developing a UAV for the Malaysian Armed Forces.

There has been little interest among Malaysian defence companies towards mergers or consolidation, the only exception being Deftech’s MYR6 million ($1.75 million) takeover of MMC Defence in January 2007 and renaming it Defence Services, MMC Defence was the local industrial partner for Poland’s Bumar in the supply of 48 PT-91M MBTs to Malaysia and provided in-country support for the tanks. The move allowed Deftech to ensure additional work for itsmain factory in Pekan, which was used to assemble 259 FNSS ACV-300 AFVs ordered by Malaysia. Deftech also provides various wheeled vehicles for the Malaysian army ranging from its Handalan II truck design to various other truck and wheeled vehicles from it’s foreign partners which include Daimler Chrysler for G military vehicles, Alvis for Supacat, Mowag for Duro vehicles and Iveco for heavy duty military trucks. In 2005 Deftech completed a 69 vehicle order for Handalan II trucks for the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. The company’s indigenously designed 4x4 AV4 light armoured vehicle illustrates the problem faced by Malaysian defence companies, having debuted the vehicle in 2006 with the expectation that the Malaysian Army would purchase the vehicle, the company has had to instead face the reality that there is little interest by the Malaysian government to purchase the AV4.

Manufactured by Deftech, the truck is in widespread use with the Malaysian Armed Forces and is also used by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (photo : Deftech)

For research and development, the Malaysian Defence Ministry has the Science and Technology Research Institute for Defence (STRIDE) which along with conducting its own research and development programmes, collaborates and provides limited funding for local defence companies for R&D and also provides technical and scientific evaluations for the Malaysian Armed Forces. However, STRIDE has only a small funding allocation for R&D, for the 2006-2010 timeframe, it was only allocated MYR17.5 million ($5.1million) a figure that clearly precludes any significant R&D programmes.

Since his appointment in 2009, Defence Minister Dato’ Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been pushing two initiatives in regard to the Malaysian defence industry. The first one calls for the establishment of an ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Defence Industry Council to promote cooperation and trade between ASEAN member countries in their respective defence products. However there has been little response from other ASEAN countries as to whether they would be willing to create and support such an organisation. Coupled with the fact that many ASEAN countries see little need to purchase defence equipment from fellow ASEAN members, it appears highly unlikely that the idea of an ASEAN Defence Industry Council will be realised. The second initiative is the proposed establishment of a Defence Technology Park in Malaysia which is to serve a regional hub for the both defence research and production. The proposed Defence Technology Park covers 492.5 hectares of land located at Sungkai in the peninsular Malaysian state of Perak. A two year study plan for the proposal to be carried out by Masterplan Consulting was announced at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) 2009 show. At the same show, French Defence Minister Herv_ Morin stated that France was looking to assist Malaysia in developing its indigenous defence industry with the potential for outsourcing work to Malaysia in regard to French defence sales in the region though he also stated that this was all in the preliminary stage and would depend on which field of defence industry that the Malaysians were wanting to develop.
Another products of Deftech (photo : Deftech)

In terms of future major local defence industry manufacturing programs, only two programmes are expected to materialise soon, both of which are naval shipbuilding programs, the first onewill be the follow-on Batch 2 ships of the Kedah class Next Generation Patrol Vessels, ofwhich sixwould be built and which would be larger and armed with antisurface and anti-air missiles in contrast to the lightly armed first batch whose armament consists only of a 76mm main gun and two 30mm cannons. The programme was originally thought to be of secondary consideration in contrast to the proposed local construction of two BAE Systems Batch 2 Lekiu class frigates, however with the government indefinitely postponing the frigate programme, the Batch 2 NGPVs have come to the fore, particularly with Boustead Naval Shipyards, which built the Kedah class, nearing completion of the final ship of the six ship class. At LIMA 2009, Malaysian PrimeMinister Dato SeriNajib said that the Batch 2 NGPV was of priority as Boustead had some over 2000 local subcontractors dependent on its shipbuilding work. However, he did not indicate as to when the Malaysian government would actually allocate funding and begin the programme.

The other shipbuilding programme would be the Malaysian Multi-Purpose Support Ship (MPSS) program. With the RMN’s loss of its LST KD Sri Inderapura in October 2009 to a ship fire, it is expected that the programme, which was postponed in 2008 for financial reasons would be started again with a decision made this year. The requirements call for up to three ships, with the joint capacity of two ships able to completely transport an entire Malaysian Rapid Deployment Force Battalion. Individual ship requirements are for a capacity of 500 troops and 100 vehicles, an 18 knots speed with 8,000nm endurance using diesel engines, landing deck capacity for 2-3 helicopters and storage capacity for four helicopters and four LCM along with a possible installation of a missile system for point defence and the ability of the ship to act as a command platform and floating headquarters for joint and amphibious operations. The Malaysian industrial requirement would allow the lead ship to be built in the country of origin of the design but the remaining ships would have to be built in Malaysia. The purchase of a 66 percent stake in South Korean shipbuilder TKS Co Limited by Malaysian shipbuilding company NGV Tech, a deal which was signed at LIMA 2009, has led to speculation that the Korean Dokdo design would be chosen and that NGV Tech would be the Malaysian company for the programme though nothing concrete has emerged to indicate that this was the case.

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