28 Januari 2015
One of the two RMN Scorpene-class submarines, KD Tun Razak (photo : Navantia)
Malaysia is looking to equip its naval base at Teluk Sepanggar with an air defence system as a pre-emptive measure against potential threats, said Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein in a media statement on 26 January.
The base, now known as RMN Kota Kinabalu, is currently home to the Royal Malaysian Navy's (RMN's) two Scorpene-class diesel-electric attack submarines: KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Razak . The base began operations in 2006, originally as the Sepanggar Naval Base, and houses the country's only dedicated submarine basing facility together with several other surface combatants.
Hishammuddin described the plan to deploy air defence systems at RMN Kota Kinabalu as a move that will prepare the RMN for possible future conflicts, adding that the service is currently focused on potential threats emanating from the South China Sea and Eastern Sabah waters.
However, the minister stopped short of elaborating on the specifics of any system being considered, saying that any decision will depend on the armed forces' requirements and government funding.
The RMN naval base at Teluk Sepanggar is close to disputed maritime regions in the South China Sea. A decision to deploy an air defence capability to the submarine base may have become increasingly important to Malaysia following manoeuvres by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) near waters claimed by Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.
China's Xinhua news agency reported in January 2014 that a PLAN task group, comprising the Type 071 landing ship dock (LSD) vessel Changbaishan (989), the Type 052B Luyang I-class destroyer Wuhan (169), and the Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer Haikou (171), had patrolled James Shoal and held a ceremony during which sailors swore to safeguard the country's sovereignty.
China has repeatedly claimed James Shoal as its southernmost land feature and continues to reinforce this by regularly dispatching naval vessels to the area. James Shoal lies approximately 60 n miles off the coast of Sarawak in Eastern Malaysia.