SHAH ALAM: The Army celebrated its 83rd birthday yesterday (March 1) and its obvious its feeling the pain of the current economic downturn though so far the plans announced earlier remained intact. However, the delivery of new assets will be “slowed” down to reflect the challenging fiscal environment.
Speaking at the anniversary celebration in Port Dickson, Army chief Jen Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor said due to the current economic conditions, the delivery times of the assets would need to be adjusted.
“For example, if the asset is supposed to be supplied within two years, now we will make it three years,” he added. One of the assets likely affected by the adjustment is the Gempita 8X8. Last year only 27 Gempitas were handed over to the Army though the original plan was for 40 units.
Nonetheless, despite the difficulties, Raja Affandi announced the Army was standing up two new brigades – a Rocket Artillery Brigade and 31st Infantry Brigade – and the second Army Air Wing squadron, Rejimen 882.
The setting up of the 31st Brigade is covered here while the Rocket Artillery Brigade which controls the two Astros II regiments – Rejimen 51 and 52 and the Rejimen 62 – equipped with the Arthur weapon locating radars – is the culmination of the plan announced around six years ago. It is likely that the brigade finally got its official funding from the Public Services Department this year. It is also likely all this while the positions in the brigade were “borrowed” from other units in the Army.
The second PUTD squadron stood up – Rejimen 882 – is for the new, medium helicopter squadron, the Nuri helicopters handed over by the RMAF. According to the email Q&A for 83rd anniversary, the squadron has received three Nuri while the fourth one is undergoing flight test prior to the handing over. Two of the Nuri was received at Lima 2015.
Rejimen 882 will eventually operate up to 12 Nuri helicopters for troop transport and utility roles. Meanwhile, the Blackhawk helicopters to be handed over Brunei this year will be operated with the AW109 light helicopters already based in Semporna, Sabah as part of the combined arms ESSCOM Brigade which is still being formed up.
Apart from the Blackhawks and AW109, six MD Helicopters MD530G light scout attack helicopters are expected to join the unit in 2017.
Raja Affandi said funding for the setting up of the headquarters and other facilities of the ESSCOM brigade has been approved under RMK11. The brigade is under the operational control of the Task Force 450, which is the fore-runner of the new Fifth Division.
According to Raja Affandi, the Army will be receiving 56 Gempita in various variants in 2016. Most of the IFV variant will be sent to units in Sabah which is already operating the 27 vehicles delivered so far. Other Gempita variants to be handed over to the Army are the Armoured Fighting Vehicle with 30mm turret and AFV with the 30mm turret and ATGM. These variants will be operated by mechanised and armour units.
On the AV4, Raja Affandi said the 20 vehicles expected to be delivered this year will be operated by the Armour Squadron of the ESSCOM brigade.
On the offer of M109 A5/A6 SPH by the United States under the Excess Defence Articles (EDA) programme, Raja Affandi said the Army had accepted the offer and was in the process of finalising the procurement. “If the procurement is completed, it will boost the firepower capability of the Army especially for units operating in Sabah”.
Malaysian Defence had reported on the SPH offer from the US recently. The Army is expected to field 24 M109 SPH upgraded to the latest A6 standard with another six vehicles used for spares and training.
Meanwhile, the Army is to take delivery of a squad level simulator system this year. The Small Arms and Leadership Immersive Virtual Training Simulator (VIRTSIM) is expected to be fully operational later this year at the Kem Sirajuddin in Gemas.
The tender for the simulator was published in mid-2015 and the selection of the multi-modal transport operator (MTO) was decided late last year. The simulator is used by the US Army (known as the Dismounted Soldier Training System) and also the FBI.
According to its manufacturer, Motion Reality of the US, “The VIRTSIM system allows training in a range of re-configurable environments. User-customisable scenarios can be configured within these environments to train individuals in direct action, counter-terrorism, react to contact, or other Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) based on the Current Operating Environment (COE).
Meanwhile, Raja Affandi confirmed that the 18th Battalion of the RMR has been transferred to the 10th PAC Brigade effective on Sep 10, last year. With the addition of the 18th RMR, the PAC Brigade now has four infantry battalions which is peculiar to the Army.
As the PAC units are heavily tasked for various operational and training missions, its likely the addition of the 18th RMR will bring some relief to the soldiers of the brigade.
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