SHAH ALAM: ITS now confirmed, the Armed Forces are getting the Deftech AV4 and the Blackhawks for use by units operating in ESSCOM AOR. Unfortunately, the procurement of the ex-US Navy Mark V Special Operations Craft (SOC) also for ESSCOM has been shelved.
Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifeli Zin today confirmed reports that the Deftech Av4 was being procured for units operating in ESSCOM. He did not specify numbers but it was reported recently that Deftech will be supplying the 20 of the MRAP-like 4X4 vehicle to the Army.
Five will be completed by its Thai partner, Chaiseri Metal and Rubber Co. Ltd while the rest will be assembled at the Deftech plant in Pekan, Pahang. The Thai-built vehicles will be delivered to the Army in the first quarter of 2016.
It is likely that the AV4 will replaced the 18 KIFVs for patrol duties.
In my original report, I called the vehicle as the Deftech MRAP (the name which was used during the visit to the Gempita unveiling ceremony) but checks at the company’s website showed that it had been renamed the AV4 (like the old vehicle of the same name)
Meanwhile, Zulkifeli said the first S-70A Blackhawk gifted by Brunei was expected to be handed-over to Malaysia by year end. It was expected the transfer will be completed by April, with one Blackhawk to be transferred every month.
Asked whether the United States had given permission for the transfer, Zulkifeli said there was no difficulty in getting the approval as the helicopters will be used “to hunt terrorists”. He said the Blackhawks will also be made available to Brunei in emergencies.
Asked who will be operating the Blackhawks, Zulkifeli said it will be operated jointly by the RMAF and the Army. Asked on talks that the VIP Blackhawks will also be converted for non-VIP use, Zulkifeli replied in the negative.
Meanwhile, Joint Force Commander Lt Jen Datuk Baharum Hamzah said the planned procurement of the Mark V Special Operation Craft (SOC) had been shelved. In fact, the offer from the US under its Excess Defence Articles (EDA) programme had lapsed in September. The offer from the US was made on Jan 12, 2014, according to the EDA database accessed yesterday by Malaysian Defence.
Asked about the Mark V SOC, RMN chief Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar said that the project had been shelved. He, however, declined to say why the offer was declined.
It must be noted that since the offer was made, RMN’s Paskal had been re-equipped with the P-38 and Silver Breeze interceptor boats. The P-38 was procured from an Oman based shipyard while I am not sure where the silver Breeze boats were manufactured.
If procured the Mark V SOC would have been operated by PASKAL units as these boats were operated by US Navy SEALs while in service. Industry sources told Malaysian Defence that the navy was initially supportive of the planned procurement but later had serious misgivings about it as the cost of the In-Service Support (ISS) was deemed to be excessive. These boats are equipped with two MTU diesel engines and water jets.
The procurement of the Mark V SOC was highlighted by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein earlier in his RMk11 winding up speech at Parliament. It was also among the items highlighted in the info-graphics of defence equipment for Sabah during his recent visit to Tawau.
Malaysia was supposed to get 14 of the Mark V SOC and support equipment for around US$9 million (RM37 million), according to the EDA database. The 14 boats originally cost more than US$74.6 million (RM305 million) while the support equipment cost more than US$13 million (RM53 million).
The majority of the Mark V SOC fleet (20 built) has been retired as experience had shown that personnel on board could suffer serious injuries as the boats are capable of generating up to 20 Gs of force while slamming across waves. These boats are now being replaced by the Combat Craft Medium (CCM) Mark I.
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