S300 SAM system. A cheaper alternative to purchasing 100-odd 4th-generation fighters.
Absalon-class combat support ship. A much better ship for RMN’s MPSS requirement. See below
KUALA LUMPUR: Life is unfair. Even while the Armed Forces are still reeling from the necessary but painful cuts to its procurement and development budget from the Ninth Malaysian Plan within one year from now, the Government is expected to table the next five-year development programme.
And all of this is happening as the nation grapple with what some experts expects to be the worst economic downturn in decades surpassing even the 1997 Asian economic crisis.
The decade-old crisis precipitated one of the worst cuts into Malaysian defence spending with only operational funds were made available during the 1998 to 2000 period.
Even as we wallow in this hard times, other countries notably our southern and northern neighbours, Singapore and Thailand, respectively, have announced plans for the expansion of their defence budget. Singapore claims the economic uncertainties may well be a prelude to a regional crisis and therefore its needs the money to prepare for any eventualities while Thailand cited its southern conflict as the impetus.
Other big spenders, the US, China, India and France have also announced bigger defence budget, all claiming the necessity to spend on defence in this troubled times.
As for Malaysia, the knee jerk reaction to a downturn was always to cut defence spending. Without a large local defence industry this may well be wise but for the armed forces its almost like a death knell.
Everyone expects the armed forces to defend the country but everyone expects soldiers and sailors to do it pitchforks! Money has always been tight for us but coupled with our political inanity meant that procurement and development programme for the armed forces also meant less capabilities in the long term. Planning therefore becomes an almost impossible task for anyone let alone our military planners.
Anyways with the economic uncertainties, politically it will be difficult to spent money for defence especially when the needs of the rakyat had always trumped our national security. This is especially true as past procurement policies turned out to be nothing more but political handouts to the select few rather capability making.
Malaysian Defence budget for the Tenth Malaysian Plan reflected the conundrum. It certainly wont influenced the government’s decision. Malaysian Defence is not in sphere of power and will probably never will but its not for the lack of trying!
First foremost, it must be noted that any money reserved for defence must be used for that purpose and plans and funds that have been approved should be used immediately lest they felt prey wavering minds.
For the next five years, Malaysian Defence proposed that the Government allocated RM13 billion for defence and security sector for procurement and development purposes. The annual operational allocation should reflect the needs of maintaining future and legacy equipment at the most optimum level so as to reduce waste.
For defence, the allocation is RM10 billion, to be divided equally among the three services with the last billion allocated for the Joint Force headquarters to ensure that operations and training could be conducted jointly as smoothly and efficient possible. Any leftovers should be used to purchase war stocks.
The security sector should make do with RM3 billion for the time being. Further allocations can be made should the economy improved for the better but any extra procurement should emulate and expand the original plan , instead of impulse purchases like those in the past.
Procurement plans for the army is difficult as Malaysian Defence do not agree with the current army set-up. We would like to propose a US Marine style Air-Ground Task Force to replace the current infantry and mechanised brigade set-up.
With limited funding it is difficult to replace the current brigade into a AGTF on one-to-one basis but with selective procurement and smart allocation of current assets, at least three new task force.
The AGTF will comprised of two infantry battalion, two company of engineers, one company each of light tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and a headquarters company. An aviation company with six light attack helicopters will be the aviation segment of task force together with a small UAV detachment, both at the battalion and brigade level, for reconnaissance and artillery spotting duties. Armed drones should also be procured if they are available for procurement.
The AGTF is basically the same set-up as the Rapid Deployment Brigade (PAC) operating out of the Sg Udang camp so Malaysian Defence do not believe it will not be very difficult for the Army to morph into this new organisation. The current configuration, to Malaysian Defence opinion, is too disjointed for real world conflicts and at the same time, too expensive to procure and maintain.
The army only need to procure about 30 each of light tanks, MRAP vehicles, self propelled artillery and cargo trucks for the new task force. As for utility vehicles, the army could still use its beloved Land Rovers for the task.
And as for the armoured personnel carrier, Malaysian Defence proposed 6×6 MRAP vehicles instead wheeled armoured vehicles. MRAP vehicles are generally cheaper by almost 40 per cent compared to wheeled armoured vehicles and they could carry more soldiers.
As for light tanks, we may opt for wheeled armoured vehicles equipped with a gun turret, preferably one with at least a 105mm cannon like the Stryker MGS (picture below). The MGS is probably the most expensive ground equipment for the AGTF, costing about RM14 million per copy.
For sell-propelled tube artillery, Bofors Archer (picture below) is a good candidate to fill the requirement although it remained under development with Nexter’s Caesar as the second choice. Tracked SPH are too expensive to operate and maintain.
The rest of the allocation should be used to procure small arms (like the AI .338 calibre sniper rifle, picture below), mortars and anti-tank weapons, soldier protective gear; optics and night vision devices.
The government should start negotiations with the Brunei government for the purchase of the three Nakhoda Ragam (picture below) corvettes furloughed in the UK after their completion. It will be a bargain if we can purchase all three of them for RM1 billion, which should include the cost of putting the vessels into active service.
Should the Brunei government refused to sell us these ships or put up a higher price (more than RM1 billion) the allocation should instead be use to procure the Absalon class combat support ship from Denmark. These multi-role vessel would be the alternative answer to RMN’s long cherish dream operating an LHD-type vessel like the USS Wasp. LHDs are too expensive to procure and maintain for a navy which fleet’s average age is 30 years….
We should spent another RM500 million to procure the weapons for these ships and those of Kedah class ships (first batch). The rest of the allocation should be used to procure at least 10 FACs like those of Denmark’s Flyfisken class. These multi-role FAC are heavily armed with SAM, SSMs and a 76mm gun. Some of these FACs could be configured for anti-submarine and anti-mine duties without losing their anti-air warfare capabilities. The Coast Guard should procure the same FAC, built locally after the first two are built and certified combat ready at the original yard, to reduce the cost.
Any leftover allocation should be used to procure war stocks of missiles and ammunition.
The Air Force
We should opt for the purchase for two regiments of S300PMU2/S400 SAM system. A typical S300/S400 regiment consists a command post and engagement control center, a 3D continuous wave pulse Doppler target acquisition radar, the I-band multi-function phased-array trailer-mounted engagement radar and up to 12 semi-trailer erector-launchers which mount four tubular missile container-launchers.
The Russian system is highly regarded and the cost of procurement should be around RM1.5 billion. The SAM system while not compatible with the current Malaysian air defence system, will certainly boost our air defence capabilities ten-fold. If more money is available we should opt for at least four more brigades, a much cheaper alternative to boosting our fighter fleet to 100 fourth generation fighters.
The rest of the allocation should be used to procure additional Flankers and war stocks.