09 Juli 2011

Defence White Paper 2011 Strengthens RBAF's Future Capability & Credibility

09 Juli 2011

Pilatus PC-7 of the Brunei Air Force/Angkatan Tentera Udara Diraja Brunei (photo : Scramble)

Bandar Seri Begawan - The primary fundamental responsibility for any government is to provide and ensure the security of its country and the safety of its people by putting its young men in uniform and arming them with the best weapons and machines available with which to defend and protect its sovereignty, its way of life, its culture and its values.

For only by ensuring that a stable environment can be maintained could its people prosper to pursue happiness and prosperity, and, more importantly, decisions be made without fear of external coercion.

Traditionally, the conventional concern for any military force has been to protect its borders and its interests against the possibility of attack or coercion by other foreign powers.

However, today that prospect, while still not unthinkable, is considered less likely thanks largely to the growing interdependence, transparency and interconnectedness of almost every country in the world, which has often been referred to as a global village.

But within every military thinking, there can be no room for complacency as the current and future security outlook is still wide-ranging and often opaquely complex.

Issues such as international terrorism and its links to extremist groups within the immediate region remain a serious concern.

The illegal movements of people, drugs, arms and finance challenge the integrity of national borders and the domestic stability of countries.

CN-235 of the Brunei Air Force (photo : Scramble)

Competition for, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources, present significant challenges to a country's sovereignty, whether in remote border areas or adjacent maritime zones.

The increasing reminders of the frequency and ferocity of natural disasters that always leaves behind a miserable trail of devastation and destruction continues to be a grim reminder that despite all our best efforts.

Nature does not respect national boundaries.

The double-edged sword that is the information revolution, whilst producing substantial benefits in communication and efficiency, also carries with it the shadow of information or cyber warfare by generating the ability to disrupt an entire country without firing a single shot.

Despite all these newly-emerging threats potentially lurk over all our horizons, other more traditional security considerations still prevail.

With technological advancements and increasing developmental growth, many countries have begun to introduce and add more advanced military systems to its arsenals in a bid to ensure their own security as a legitimate demand and right to self-defence.

Bell 212 of the Brunei Air Force (photo : clickandrender)

But despite the best efforts at promoting transparency by diplomatic engagement, total trust is not always completely unattainable and inherent suspicions will continue to remain.

Against the backdrop of the global economic meltdown, as some parts of the region recover and regain economic growth, some rebalancing of the roles of the major Asia-Pacific powers appears likely, and although everyone of them share a common vested interest in this shift to occur peacefully and constructively, the possibility of tensions arising over specific issues still cannot be pragmatically ruled out.

One such instance is the issue over the South China Sea.

While the strengthening of the regional security dialogue provides important opportunities for any disputes that do arise to be settled peacefully at the conference table, it is important that several outstanding issues, such as the development of the South China Sea, as well as the future of the Korean peninsula, continue to be confined within this framework.

Similarly, in everyone's shared interest of sustaining regional growth, providing secure sea lines of communication has become even more essential to both access to resources and towards maintaining robust international trade.

Given Brunei Darussalam's modest size, it has long become apparent that a constructive and collaborative approach to all these challenges is key, as has been often mentioned and repeated by the highest echelons of the government.

Brunei clearly cannot go about it alone but since it does also share many of these security concerns with its neighbours, an effective response would depend upon closer cooperation, both politically and militarily, as well as with civil enforcement agencies.

Scorpion light tank of the Brunei Army (photo : Military Vehicle)

It was thus with these principles and issues in mind that t
he latest Defence White Paper was created. At its very core, 'Defending The Nation's Sovereignty: Expanding Roles In Wider Horizons' reaffirmed that the essential building block for every country to have is its inalienable right and ability to provide for its own security - by ensuring its own stability, responding independently to any more immediate challenges to the integrity of its land borders and interests in adjacent maritime areas and to be willing and able to contribute further a field to crisis management, stability and peace operations.

Furthermore the new Defence White Paper improved upon the important foundations that had already been first laid out in the country's inaugural Defence White Paper in 2004 and its subsequent update in 2007.

The policies that it sets out and the actions and capabilities it proposes have two important objectives: (1) To ensure that Brunei Darussalam is not only able to provide for its own security but also to be able to make a robust contribution to promoting a stable regional environment; and, (2) To be able to maximise the operational effectiveness and flexibility of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) across the vast myriad of new security agendas.

Similarly, in the international perspective, the White Paper underscores the importance of regional security cooperation in responding to the new security challenges by strongly continuing to endorse the current efforts, already underway, to establish the Asean Political Security Community and the close professional cooperation being fostered by the Asean Defence Ministers' Meetings. It further documents the importance of the willingness of all the countries in the region to contribute to crisis response, stability and peacekeeping.

As it stands, the primary focus of the Defence White Paper is, quite rightly, on how Brunei should further develop its own capacity to protect the country and its people, as well as promote its interests, which are more often than not shared with its neighbours, in this increasingly complex world.

Four essential qualities have been identified as crucial to this development.

The first is 'knowledge'.

The Defence White Paper simply explains this as the need to promote the greatest possible transparency of developments in both the country's strategic and operational environments, which is essential to the early identification of issues, the RBAF's ability to take the initiative and, where appropriate, for a timely and measured response.

Developing the RBAF's maritime surveillance and patrol capabilities and its capacity to monitor activities in more remote border areas has been accorded the highest priority.

The need to progressively strengthen control of the national airspace has also been acknowledged.

At the more strategic level, the White Paper aims to enhance the links between policy and intelligence to support national decision-making.

The second quality is 'integration'. The 2007 Defence Update had given much priority to networking the armed forces through advanced command, control and communications and establishing the RBAF Joint Operations Centre.

KDB Darulehsan (photo : Stephane Saisssi)

Developing a common operational picture and linking deployed forces to both each other and to strategic-level command was essential to maintaining the initiative, achieving military outcomes matched to national objectives, and the most optimum use of resources.

Further strengthening the comprehensiveness of the available information and developing joint force planning and the habits of cooperation would further make integration a defining quality of the RBAF's operations and it would also facilitate closer cooperation with other national agencies and, whenever appropriate, the country's security partners, which the latest Defence White Paper had set out for the establishment of a new Joint Planning Committee to oversee these developments.

`Speed' is the third quality where the ability to deploy rapidly in response to intelligence and to be able to manoeuvre within the area of operations is essential to responding to crises, preventing or deterring possible incidents and being able to maintain the operational initiative.

The demanding operational terrain in much of the country places a premium on movement by air or water. As such, important initiatives will include the replacement of the Royal Brunei Air Force's medium lift helicopters and the Royal Brunei Navy's (RBN) landing crafts, as well as the acquisition of fast, manoeuvrable shallow water craft.

The Royal Brunei Land Forces' protection of mobility, essential in stability and peacekeeping operations, will also be upgraded; whilst the RBN's new fleet will provide a flexible response capability for the maritime environment.

The fourth and final essential quality is 'weight', which carried with it two considerations. Firstly, security operations, by their very nature, carry a significant element of risk, even in lower level theatres of hostilities, thus making it important for deployed forces to have the necessary protection and firepower to be able to accomplish their missions.

Secondly, closely matching the level of force deployed to the mission will often be important to a successful outcome, which demonstrates resolve but also the objectives being sought.

Thus, further development of the RBLF with more potent short-to-medium range direct firepower to complement its enhanced mobility protection would make it a much more flexible national instrument, making it able to contribute more effectively across a range of contemporary operations, as well as provide the basis for the protection of national assets and infrastructure should circumstances deteriorate at any point in the future.

Progressive development of the country's air defence capability is also one of the focuses of the White Paper to strengthen control over Brunei's immediate approaches.

Maximising the operational effectiveness of the RBAF along these guidelines can only be accomplished with a comprehensive and integrated approach to planning, which the White Paper also addresses.

The four most important elements are: (1) Significant strengthening of the Ministry of Defence's policy, joint operational and joint capability planning processes; (2) Providing guidance on force preparedness, the smart use of technology and personnel development; (3) Developing close coordination with civil _agencies that share responsibility for responding to the new security agenda, and; (4) A clear articulation of how the RBAF would be best able to draw upon its fundamental strengths to make an increasingly effective contribution to regional security cooperation.

As it reaches its half-century mark, the RBAF has undoubtedly come a long way since its inception as a small infantry force 50 years ago.

The new Defence White Paper is set to ensure that the RBAF continues to evolve as a modern, balanced force that is well matched to the country's security priorities, whilst armed and equipped with the flexibility to protect and promote Brunei's interests in this complex world.

(Borneo Bulletin)

See Also :

Sharpen Maritime, Land Watch
07 Juli 2011

THE Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) will cooperate with other government agencies to enhance its capability in the monitoring of national interests, particularly its natural resources, within the country's maritime and land borders.

The army's Defence White Paper (DWP) 2011, launched yesterday, stipulated developing a "comprehensive recognised Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) picture" as one of its "more immediate priorities".

"This should seek to capture the full range of external activity impacting upon the nation's control of its territory and boundaries and enhance domain awareness on land, air and maritime."

A document summarising the DWP said that aside from the "illegal" exploitation of natural resources, competition presented significant challenges to a nation's sovereignty, particularly when such activities take place in remote areas close to the borders or in adjacent maritime zones.

Increasing transparency of the operational environment would help the RBAF identify any security challenges early and issue a quicker response, the DWP said.

The procurement of the two Darussalam Class offshore patrol vessels, KDB Darussalam and KDB Darulehsan, commissioned in May, supported the navy's efforts to maintain a "continuous presence in adjacent waters".

To further develop that capacity, the military planned to acquire surface surveillance radar "to provide continuous, all-weather surveillance of movements in the more immediate maritime approaches".

More fixed-wing aircraft, equipped with enhanced sensors, were also in RBAF's procurement plans. The new aircraft "will transform the maritime surveillance capability currently provided by the (Royal Brunei) Air Force's CN-235", the DWP said.

Speaking to The Brunei Times, Defence Permanent Secretary (Administration and Finance) Hjh Suriyah Hj Umar said the propeller-driven CN-235 transport plane has "limited capabilities" and thus, the forces were on the lookout for new maritime patrol solutions.

"But that is something we need to study first," she said.

"With our new patrol vessels, it's (the KDB ships) been working very well. (They are) something to complement the eyes from the sky."

Hjh Suriyah noted the solutions had to be capable of Brunei's 200-nautical mile EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

Other capabilities included fitting "modular sensor suite" on new medium-lift helicopters, that the air force will procure to replace its ageing fleet.

The sensor suite would include infra-red and thermal imaging capabilities to strengthen the capacity for helicopters, particularly those patrolling over land.

"Coverage of potentially illegal activities across the nation's land borders is made difficult by their remoteness, the difficult terrain and the jungle canopy. A consistent high level of ISR needs to be provided, closely integrated with land force patrols," the DWP said.

The activities included illegal logging and trespassing, while on water, surveillance would be stepped up to prevent poaching of fish stocks, acts of piracy and other transnational crimes.

However, the RBAF assured that the responsibility of enforcement will remain "primarily with civil agencies".

(The Brunei Times)

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