PETALING JAYA:The story below is self-explainatory. It revealed how others are looking for new means of getting information to soldiers and not tied down to a single concept. Yes, its easy to do that when one is awash with money even if there are many obstacles along the way. I realise that the US Army is not the best example for us to emulate but it is the most documented, so at least we can learn some things from them.
In our case however lack of funds usually means that by the time a capability is fielded, it is already or close to obsolescence. Or in some cases the maintenance issues are so prohibitive or not factored in at the point of procurement, most systems never reached its full capability.
Take for example, the 8X8 project. The Army had identified the need for new vehicles specifically wheeled 8X8 Armoured Fighting Vehicle to replace the Condors back in 1993 when troops were deployed to Bosnia and Somalia. Due to terrain, the Condors were prone to tipping over and roll-overs and as a stop-gap measure, we bought some 100 KIFVs for the Bosnian mission although none were ever sent to Somalia.
However as the Condor was relatively new piece of kit, it was bought (some 457 units) with the Belgian-designed Sibmas 6X6 in the 80s, it was obvious that no new replacement was envisaged at that point. The Condors and Sibmas were procured by the Army as it embarked on a modernisation cum conventionalisation drive following the winding down of operations against the Communist Party of Malaya.
The move for wheeled AFV at that time, was in the opposite thinking of other conventional armies as most of them were still enamoured with a blitzkrieg type operations with armoured hordes (MBTs and tracked AFVs) engaging in fast moving battles ala Kursk and Northern Africa in WWII. It was probably for these reason that the Army ended up with the Condors and Sibmas in the first place as there were not too many choices for wheeled AFVs back then.
In between the First Gulf War and experiences in Bosnia and Somalia, the Army probably had a change of heart. It had by then reverted to the more conventional “blitzkrieg” style of doctrine with MBTs and tracked AFVs as the battle winners. Hence when funds were available, circa around 2000, the Adnans (the procurement was delayed mostly due to 1997 economic crisis) were bought to be followed by subsequent procurements of the PT91Ms and the MLRS regiment (also delayed by the 97 crisis).
The sudden change in the Army’s doctrine was an anomaly of course, as the Gulf War had an opposite effect on other armies with even the US pursuing the wheeled AFVs as they look for “lighter” options for future wars. The MBT is dead some people like to say during this period. By early 2000 (at the time we bought the Adnans) many armies started to procure or at least looking for 8X8 with the Swiss Piranha or its American version LAV which morphed into the Stryker, being sold in large numbers.
In the meantime, the Army continue to operate the Condors and the Sibmas while at the same time the General Staff Requirement had in-turn call for these vehicles to be replace with 8X8 AFVs. Subsequently, as part of the GSR, local trials were conducted in 2004 and 2006 period with the Pars/AV8 chosen to be the National 8X8 AFV. But when the time to fund the project during RMK9 (2006-2010), the project came undone due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008/2009 forcing the government to defer the 8X8 project.
Fast forward to 2011, and the AV8 project is finally off the drawing boards with the first vehicle expected to be delivered next year. As it is the first 8X8s will not be battle ready by 2015 at a time when others are already calling wheeled AFVs as obsolete based on experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the Western armies, those who are re-capitalising, are re-enlisting tracked AFVs to replace their worn-out 8X8s. Even the French and Germany which chose to develop their own 8X8s are also in a quandary but the fate of these vehicles are more tied to funding issues instead of doctrine.
Other countries which also pursued the 8X8 option with us like Turkey (which came out with two versions; one which morphed into the AV8) and South Korea (with three) have yet to make a decision on whether or not they will buy any of the prototypes. Turkey ha decided to procure the Pars but the South Koreans remained uncommitted over its 8X8 plans.
How this got to do with smart phones you may asked? Well, the Army is putting in plans for the Malaysian Future Soldier System (MFSS). Not much is known about the project apart from well-informed sources that it has the backing from top leadership of Kementah. Whether or not it will get the funding during RMK10 or how it will turned out remained unknown. But everyone is saying that its going to happen and it will most probably the “traditional” future soldier system ensemble be procured instead of newer technologies like the smart phones experiment by the US Army.
Looking back at our past experience I am not too sure that the MFSS will be fielded anytime soon. Yes, I know past history is not the best indicator of the future but on defence issues in Malaysia, I beg to differ. The MFSS may be field tested soon but field operations will probably take another decade or so, if we are lucky. By that time, the fad will move on…
From Defence News
In late 2009, U.S. Army leaders set out an ambitious goal: to put a commercially manufactured smart phone in the hands of every soldier in four months, whether the soldier was deployed to Afghanistan or training at a base in the U.S.
Then reality bit.
Finding the phones was not the problem.
“If you’ve got enough money, you can buy a million cell phones,” said Mike McCarthy, director of the mission command complex at the Army’s Future Force Integration Directorate in Fort Bliss, Texas.
More challenging was proving the phones were rugged enough, that operational secrecy and classified information could be protected, that operating a GPS-equipped smart phone would not give away a soldier’s position, and that airships, planes or ground hubs could fill in for commercial cell towers.
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