M109s and Other Stuff

Taiwan Army M109A5 SPH. Wikipedia.

KUALA LUMPUR: Defence journalist, Dzirhan Mahadzir has written a long thread on the 2019 cancellation of the M109SPH on his Twitter account. Posted here are the thread with kind permission of course.

Alright, as I promised, a thread on the Excess Defense Articles M109 and the story on it following.. /1

First off, the SPH requirement for the Army really had been going around even back as far as 1991 but pretty much bounced around on issues of funding and whether Malaysia could support maintain such /2

Following the acquisition of the PT-91M tanks in 2007 and operationalisation in 2010, the Army again went pushing for the capability as obviously the tanks needed artillery support that could keep up and have the same mobility as them and the mechanized elements /3

This also tied in with the Army’s plans to convert 1 Inf Bde into an armoured bde though the army wasn’t sure it would get a second regt of tanks so the composition would be an armor regt, a cavalry regt with AV-8s AFVs and a mech bn plus support /4

Anyhow the usual budget limitations put everything in limbo until 2013 when post Lahad Datu incursion, plans were to beef up capabilities in E.Msia which included mobile artillery, of course truck mounted artillery were also coming into emergence then so../5

The debate was on whether it should be tracked which cost more to maintain or truck which less but mobility not same as tracked and same time Army not sure how long the requirement in E.Msia will be so if get truck SPH, might be all it get and not able to keep up with Tk regt /6

The issue for Malaysian armed forces is always to the government, treasury, politicians etc, any piece of equipment type the same e.g Fighter = LCA=Hawk = Hornet = Su-30MKM so if you bought a wheeled SPH, they say why you need tracked as same thing.. /7

So obviously the Army had to really make a call what they want to push for as you likely only get one type and not the other (even though their plans incorporate both types).. /8

By and large it seem tracked won out but again issue was money, and this is where the U.S military office at embassy comes in, particularly Office of Defense Cooperation, one thing people don’t realise it sometimes how hard a number Embassy people work to help country they in../9

Though sometimes these efforts backfire as embassy try to do good stuff, but locals try to milk them or use for own ends, I could name names but legalities so back to the topic.. /10

So by late 2014 or early 2015 (am a little fuzzy as working from memory), the U.S offered Malaysia EDA M109s, which even though you had to refurbish them, would be cheaper than anything on the market though there was an effort promoting PZH-2000s from Germany.. /11

The U.S mil office here pretty much put a lot of work with it and this included arranging visits for an Army team to see the M109s and examine the ones Malaysia is getting etc, so this crystalized into a Letter of Intent at DSA 2016 and a firm agreement at DSA 2018 /12

The story I wrote back in 2018 on what the arrangement was still here online so you can read it /13 https://monch.com/loring-industries-detailloring-industries-details-m109a5-refurbishments-m109a5-refurbishment/

So all well and good, Deftech was selected by Mindef to be the local MRO given they really the only ones with the capabilities and facilities to do tracked MRO though of course some not like that since Deftech plant is in Pekan where you know who is/was MP for that area /14

Of course the problem was that this was done under the BN government which then lost the election a few months later and the new PH government came in and started scrutinizing things but it was really expected M109 deal would just carry on as ../15

The thing with the US government EDA deal is that nobody makes that much money out of it given the U.S controls the things and you pay U.S government at a very low rate, a bargain in fact…./16

But by mid-2019, there were rumors floating about it would be cancelled along with some people saying it a BN crony deal (err US govt BN crony?), Army never wanted it (Err Army signed off, approved and recommend to govt then and went to see guns some more)…/17

And in event Mat Sabu was rubbish at Shangri-La dialogue 2019 when I put questions to him at delegate’s Q and A session and Deputy Defmin as @marhalimabas pointed out, ducked the questions during LCS keel laying ceremony so just as useless really to ask him../19

But the two of us figured that one person would talk and tell us if we ask him and that was then CDF Gen Zulkifli Zainal Abidin who been exiled in 2013 to National Defence University and bought in by Pakatan to be CDF as he only person in military they could trust /20

Given he exiled by previous government and he pretty much know @marhalimabas and me and he cuts me a lot of slack since I openly told him at DSA after he gave me a long spiel on his plans to help MAF with UPMN doing research on defence equipment and I just said to him… /21

” the problem is do you think anyone in Malaysian Armed Forces going to listen to your plans since you’ve been banished” Gen. Zul looks at me for a moment then smiles and says ” you are right but hopefully they see it benefit armed forces” so../22

So I figure given all that I could trade on him giving me an answer on M109 so as luck would have it, there was a general media invite for an event with CDF and @marhalimabas and I of course showed up with intent to get an answer on him on M109s and also MD530Gs…/23

The only difficulty we had really was making sure that none of the other media reporters were around when we asking questions on it, because usually we do the legwork and then the MSM local media just listen/copy and claim credit for doing so 😛 ../24

But that not too difficult as Gen Zul also happy to see us, and say he not seen much of us at events, and I told we mostly not invited, I could have said banished like him at UPMN really but I figure you can only pull that so often 😆 but anyhow he confirmed to us…/25

That been decided at government to cancel both but that not made official yet (this was Sept 2019) and we can write on it but not say who confirmed to us, which kinda SOP for us anyhow so we both wrote up our stories, mine in Shephard here at /26

And @marhalimabas on his blog at https://malaysiandefence.com/going-going-gone/ , we thought local media would follow up but they too busy sucking up PH then like they suck up to BN before elections so no follow up there /27

Of course the PH people putting out they save money but conveniently forget we still got to pay storage fees for the guns as we now own them though US people not happy with me when I say PH government could always sell guns to Iran given… (see pic) 🤣 /28

But in the end the U.S release Malaysia from obligations (guns could be in Ukraine now for all I know) but we still lose money out of it but the weird thing is that the defence white paper issued in 2019 said Army needed SPH…. /29

Which a contradiction really since we cancel the most cost-effective and cheapest solution and now say we need to buy SPH which of course not going to be as cheap as the EDA M109s and somemore government lose money cancelling it on top of that../30

Also for all their talk of transparency, the PH people never come clean or spoke on why M109 was cancelled and who made the call, is there something to hide there on it or just plain stupidity (always hard to tell really) and../32

Today people are making noise about the letter awarding the wheeled SPH contract, well, for those from the PH side, if your side not cancel M109, this probably wouldn’t have happen as M109s would be being delivered now and no one can asked for wheeled SPH as already got SPH ./33

So there you go, pretty much a fiasco created by PH really, we had the guns, things good to go and it not going to fail as U.S government and embassy directly overseeing it so do engage brains, BN has a lot of issues but so has PH as well…ends /34

— Malaysian Defence

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56 Comments

  1. Thanks for the info @marhalimabas. Now we know who is the real troublemaker and it’s just like “baling batu sembunyi tangan.”

  2. Pokok pangkalnya, buruk2 kerajaan BN time tu, dah boleh dapat dah M109A5 time tu untuk tentera darat… kena pulak kerajaan PH, melingkup terus… pandai2 cancel tapi takde solution.. kerja nak blame sana sini, bila mintak solution, menganga je masing2

  3. If anyone is curious why the Kasturis were at one time called “light frigates” the answer is in the post.

    None of this is really surprising to those who have been in the know; all another reminder of how gagaland our approach is towards defence.

    On the M-109s years ago I met an ex U.S. army guy who was working in the Defence Attache’s office. It was him coordinating the deal. From start to finish; from selection to cancellation it was political on our part; as Marhalim also pointed out.

  4. I have said all I want to say about this and sometimes not appearing but here I just to say I agree with Dzirhan’s POV.

  5. If I recall, some readers argued against or tried to justify why the the M109 deal was dropped. The belief being the Army didn’t want to be saddled with old equipment. Apparently, that’s not the case.

  6. There are good politics and bad politics. As I understand from Dzirhan’s comment, it was good politics we made the deal as TDM would get the SPH, and at prices we could afford and it was cheap since its via EDA. Plus it bypass the middlemen so it was one of those rare buys that was untainted by their influence. Plus it was a good boost to US-MY relationship considering we haven’t bought anything much from USA (other than MDs).

    Conversely it was bad politics that had cancelled them and we had to pay a penalty for it plus now we’ll have to fork out even more for brand new SPH which in current financial situation is gonna be another waiting game while we could have had the M109s for some time by now.

  7. Getting procurement and the needed funding approved by the MOF is a long tedious cumbersome bureaucratic process. The first step however is getting approved at MINDEF; people have told me how frustrating it can be; questions like “you already have IFVs so why do you need more”; you have gone without a AEW for do long why the urgency now”, etc. It all goes back to the longstanding indifferent attitude we have towards defence on the part of the politicians [irrespective of party] and average citizen and this is due to history; our geo strategic environment which for long wasn’t a concern; etc.

    Someone in another post made a comparison with South Korea and Taiwan. Unlike is they have an existential Taiwanese threat they can focus on and they’ve had a far more different history.

  8. “If I recall, some readers argued against or tried to justify why the the M109 deal was dropped.”

    Checks your facts chum instead of being hasty in jumping to conclusions. -Who headed the Artillery Directorate when the deal was announced and who headed it when PH decided to cancel it?
    -The army had always preferred a wheeled platform because it was cheaper to sustain and because of the lower footprint [you do realise that the ability to air lift things has long been a prime consideration for us].
    -When a political decision was made to get M-109s you seriously expect the army to have made an outright refusal? When a new government decided to cancel the deal and the army was told it would eventually get wheeled platform which it preferred; what do you think the reaction was? The army FYI plans ahead, not just short term.
    -As I also pointed pointed out it wasn’t the first time surplus M-109s were offered.
    – Operating costs was/is a major concern – you do realise that operating costs of a tracked platform is much higher compared to a wheeled one and that the army is resource stretched.

    What I know is straight from someone who was involved in the evaluation process and what I gathered from the circuit. Wasn’t something I conjured up.

  9. Doctrine should supersede maintenance cost. If the tracked SPHs were required to complete the formation of an armored brigade, to keep up with the Pendekars, then there should not be a requirement for them to be airlifted.

    Wheeled SPHs come under a different requirement then…fire support fot the standard infantry battalions.

    Anyway, if cost was the issue then the whole defence community should stop marking up 100-200% ….oxymoronic when we have a small budget and the cycle for the next purchase is like 20 years.

  10. An interesting take that’s unrelated to the SPH, it appears that up til late 2019 the PH Government had continued with LCS project (see the keel laying comment) and now they turn around to lambast it. Ini jenis politik pun boleh kah?
    It saddens me that Ubah and Change did not move us to a positive direction but rather we’re regressing politically and that’s causing the nation to regress.

  11. An interesting take, this time related to the SPH, it appears that TDM has requirements for BOTH kinds of SPH, wheeled & tracked (see: ..even though their plans incorporate both types..). The tracked ones are for supporting the mechanised & armoured units keeping up with tanks & AFVs, while the wheeled SPH is for supporting the infantry. So really the huuhaa about which is better suited than the other, as some said, is a nonissue as TDM wants BOTH for different roles. That we will eventually have to buy pricey tracked ones anyways in the future, when we nearly got these on the cheaps before cancelling them, is sheer utter stupidity and it really is an example of politics overruling logic thinking and common sense.

    @Hasnan
    Some would say TDM is concerned on the maint cost of tracked SPH but in reality OPEX budget is far bigger (and easier to spend) than CAPEX. That is why TLDM could easier to use OPEX to rehull ships rather than use CAPEX and buy new vessels.

  12. Hasnan – “Doctrine should supersede maintenance cost”

    On paper but in reality there’s no point having something if sustaining costs are prohibitive from the users perspective. The army is resource constrained; what’s cheap for other armies might not be be so for it.

    Hasnan – “to keep up with the Pendekars”

    We hear a lot about the need for tracked arty to keep pace with tracked maneuver elements in order to be able to provide indirect support. First however we have to look at the nuances; what is the terrain like; what is the ops tempo and is the user on the offensive or defensive? If one is on flat open terrain and moving at fast speed then yes but if maneuver units are not covering great distances daily because of operational circumstances; it’s not inconceivable that a wheeled platform with less mobility than a tracked one would still be able to be in position to provide the support needed.

    Hasnan -“then there should not be a requirement for them to be airlifted”

    Another question then comes to mind then: will we have the needed air lift to lift the guns, ammo, crew and other gear when required? Merely to lift a single battery, plus crews, ammo and other things will need a few sorties.

    Ultimately we have long had a requirement for things to be airlifted for the operational flexibility it enables.

    Hasnan – “Anyway, if cost was the issue then the whole defence community should stop marking up 100-200”

    It’s the system in place which enables them to do what they do – the system. Defence is part of the system of patronage and our policy is intended to benefit the local industry at the expense of the end user and taxpayer as I never tire of pointing out.

  13. There was a certain period when as far as possible we wanted as many things as possible to be able to be air lifted in case of trouble in Sabah. This is one reason Caesar gained a lot of traction. As Dzirhan makes clear in his post; within the Artillery Directorate there was a lot of debate on whether to go for a tracked or wheeled option; both having pros and cons. On a personal basis; given our operational conditions; I’d prefer a wheeled platform but with a fully automated turret which we’re not looking at.

  14. IINM the need for airlifting doctrine was superseded by TDM’s desire to setup an Eastern Command which will mirror the Western (Peninsula) Command’s structure and equipment resources. Whether this latest doctrine is still applicable and if it will be sufficiently funded, I am unsure.

  15. My view is that the ability to airlift something should be secondary. Things have changed; we have been upgrading our presence in Sabah. There’s also nothing to say that the needed transports will be available when we need them.

  16. The military realised that they cannot afford nor have the means to airlift things on a regular basis to East Malaysia. If they need to have armoured vehicles or even SPH there they will be shipped there. This is even during an emergency, the only things we can airlift are basically the paratroopers

  17. IINM the need for airlifting doctrine was superseded by TDM’s desire to setup an Eastern Command”

    Maybe but I do know that the much increased troop presence in Sabah has mitigated the need -to some extent – for things to be rapidly airlifted to Sabah. In the 1980’s and 1990’s however the ability to air lift things was an important consideration and the ability to airlift various things was a major part of the sales pitch of various things. Under PERISTA the only reason Sibmas approved was because it was pointed out that it could fit inside a Charlie its tyres were deflated.

    The whole idea back then was to airlift critical things to establish a forward presence; heavier stuff to be sent by sea. Of course when it comes to moving things from Port A to Port B; as opposed to moving things from Port A to a beachhead; commercial shipping can do the job; i.e. in late 2013, AV-8s were deck lifted to Sabah on a chartered commercial ship.

    “Whether this latest doctrine”

    Not a “doctrine” per see but a “requirement”. At one time there was a very minimal troop presence in Sabah; thus the need and the planning in place to be able to rapidly move by air and sea stuff there [this is the reason we had ex USN LSTs [before that an ex RN one]; the Saktis and had a large [in our context] fleet of 14/15
    C-130s in addition to CN-235s.

  18. Other than ESSCOM, building more bases and sending infantry there, plus boosting Rejimen Sempadan, I doubt the Eastern Command idea had much traction with the Government simply because of the cost it will require.

    Having a 2nd tank regiment, an SPH battalion, and sufficient IFVs permanently based there is a costly demand which I doubt the Government could/want to afford at the moment or even in the foreseeable future.

  19. No lah they will increase the personnel by a few hundreds and call it work done. It is too much to have the same level of troops and equipment in Borneo as with the peninsula. Note they already increasing the number of troops in Sabah and Sarawak by raising 2 or 3 RS battalions. By using RS as the way they can also hire locals there who might not qualified to join the Army via the normal recruitment

  20. Which is why I doubt the TDM’s(then?) Chief bold idea of setting up an Eastern Command which will mirror the Western one. Even with the attention of ESSCOM and Lahad Datu, there just isn’t enough of a threat at the East to need such resources.

  21. It’s not on the land really, but as the Armed Forces is land centric due to the out size influence of the army even the DWP 19 called for such beefing up.

  22. We must not forget about our Kalimantan neighbour and if they really go ahead with the capital shift to that land mass, surely they will reorganise their armed forces basing as well. Mind you they have dozens of cheap, used, M109s SPH while we have… nothing equivalent.

    As for DWP19, from the onset it was joke not worth the paper it is written on. Other than each service focusing on their respective long term plans, I doubt any put much attention to the DWP unless its legally necessary. I mean, when was the last time it actually crop up in the MSM?

  23. “As for DWP19, from the onset it was joke not worth the paper it is written on”

    Sounds familiar that. Like I’ve heard it before.

    Anyway, it was politically expedient but from the onset [some S
    did get all excited about it] was not expected to tell us kanything we already did by know; was going to be vague in some areas and would leave questions answered. It was a good strangest and hopefully future ones will have more substance.

  24. As nice as it is to get both tracked and wheel SPH. Most military only operate either one or the other. Thus the likelihood of MOF approving both purchases is IMHO next to zero.

    Setting up an Eastern command that mirrors western one is nice and all but its entails extremely high personnel cost. Its pretty much scream territorial defences which is OK if we choose to do it but the higher cost would come from somewhere and most likely by sacrificing expeditionary capabilities like airlift & sealift platform. Such posture is inherently inflexible and thus non cost effective compared to gaining and maintaining expeditionary capabilities which is why most military is not doing territorial defence anymore.

    When a country is less developed thanks to the value of their currency they would have to relied on army to secure them as salaries are cheap but modern equipment are not. But as they got richer the labor cost would increase while equipment is more affordable then before. thus they would start modernisation efforts by de emphasizing the army and invest more on the navy & AF as stopping the enemies on their track is a whole lot more cost effective than to stop them when they landed. Something reflective on MAF recent budget as TDM goes from getting the lion share of funding to equal amounts of funding with it sisters services.

    DWP is nothing revolutionary, it a road many countries had taken before. PLA themselves are in the mids of doing so. They modernise by moving away from territorial defence posture by getting rid of excess manpower to afford more modern equipment due to shortage and thus increase in labor cost and the desire to use manufacturing & R&D of military hardware as economic growth engine.

  25. @Azlan
    Not that I haven’t raised the red flag on the issuance of a DWP, I’m sure you remember. I did say it would either be comprehensive and useful not only to us but to any potential adversary, or it would be so vague with many details hidden behind OSA that its practically a joke, and that’s what our pioneer DWP became. I doubt there is a need for more future ones or would be anything more informative as compared to this first one. An RCI or PAC is more useful than this.

    @Zaft
    Indeed getting both is much more of a wishlist but in reality, the tracked M109s had the highest chance of us getting with the order committed. If we had not cancelled them, we’d have them 3-4 years ago instead of still playing the waiting game for brand new wheeled SPH. Again I’d remind that our neighbour who bought around the same time has them in service today.

    As for Eastern Command, personnel is the least problematic as we have plenty of this resource and if insufficient we could always hire more. Having massive job intakes also good publicity for the Government and TDM so it works to their favour. What they could not do is spend more on equipment to truly mirror Western one. Which is why I doubt it’ll be anything more than a manpower & basing addition. You might be right on the budget cake reallocation more equally shared between them but remember that it is easier for TDM to spend as compared to the other services (more bases, less costly equipment & comms, prime movers, light trucks & FFRs, buses even). TLDM still has to grapple with LCS issue, while TUDM had their LCA delayed further, so neither could spend what they were given anyhow.

    Perhaps some ‘smart’ politician/MP/backbencher could call for PAC or RCI on the readiness state of our armed forces against peer adversaries. That would be far more useful than a joke DWP.

  26. ”Again I’d remind that our neighbour who bought around the same time has them in service today.”

    A reminder for what exactly? The TNI-AD went into the tracked SPH business willingly. The Malaysian army was undecided and when a political decision was made it went along with it but from the onset it was undecided at it preferred cheaper to acquire and sustain wheeled SPHs which also have a much lower/lighter footprint. As I was told; the army didn’t want to be placed in a situation where it got something to solve a short term requirement; only to face issues in the long term; as such no comparisons should be made between the Malaysian army and the TNI-AD; different armies; different priorities and preferences and both having different level of resources.

    ”What they could not do is spend more on equipment to truly mirror Western one.”

    It was never the intention to ”mirror Western one” or any other.. It was the intention to acquire the force structure to deal with the types of threats we think we’ll face but alas the politicians couldn’t care less.

    ”Which is why I doubt it’ll be anything more than a manpower & basing addition.”

    Yes but having the manpower and infrastructure enables us to expand things when there is a need or when we are able to.

    ”Perhaps some ‘smart’ politician/MP/backbencher could call for PAC or RCI on the readiness state of our armed forces against peer adversaries.”

    Two things; the first; unless there is a political uptake no politician is bothered to call for a ”PAC or RCI”. Secondly; we have no ”peer” adversaries because with the exception of the Philippines all our immediate neighbours have overtaken us in various areas. China is a major concern but as you realise we can increase the budget by tenfold ; introduce conscription and slash the medical and education budget; as well as adopting all the asymmetric tactics we want [some fever minded individuals think we can actually deter the PLA] but it won’t make a difference. As I pointed out to Kel; who made a simplistic comparison; we are no Taiwan or South Korea who have a more turbulent history and an existential threat.

  27. @joe

    If not mistaken NATO do wrote a best practice guidelines like 2% of GDP for defense spending,40% of spending is for personal,20% is for acquisitions,20% for upkeep , 50% of personel to the army,25% each to AF & navy, and equal split of budget among the 3 services etc etc. and civil servants on the most part do love to stick to whatever guidelines they could get their hands on. Pat themselves at the back once they achieve it and called it a job well done.

    thus even if There’s a lot of personel we could hire but the problem is likely we can’t afford to pays them the needed salary + pencen not without bursting the budget to follow stated guidelines. While making hundred or thousand of secure gov job available is politically popular today, it would be an economic & political disaster decades down the roads.

    We could go back to the era of TDM getting the lion share of the budget to get more equipment but it’s not cost effective nor within the scope of the best practice guidelines.

    Personally it’s not that TDM equipment is cheap or TDM is so much more important and thus it usually get their purchased through. But more because it’s really painful for any politicians to cancelled or delay TDM acquisitions due to high level of localizations. They Can’t really go around making local jobs redundant or make a GLC bleed money. Could they?

    But on the other hand it is extremely easy to delayed or just outright cancelled foreign direct purchased like the previous gov axeing paladin & MRCA to redirected those funds to a more politically beneficial spending. But at the same time they don’t dare to cancelled the gempita & LCS.

  28. Zaft – “If not mistaken NATO do wrote a best practice guidelines”

    To be a NATO member there are various criteria to be met including allocating “x” amount for defence.

    Zaft – “We could go back to the era of TDM getting the lion share of the budget”

    I’m extremely interested to know when that era was.

    Zaft – “thus even if There’s a lot of personel we could hire but the problem”

    We can’t afford to equip them they way they need to equipped.

  29. Army is an easier sell because people understand boots on the ground and its far easier for the Army to generate the ground pounding effect – people understand the Army. Contrast to the Airforce and Navy, who operate offshore. They are rarely seen or experienced. Other than the National Day parade, the Navy has no opportunity to tell Malaysians they are truly the first line of defence – the only branch that can maintain sustained presence at the edge of our national borders. The Army’s tanks can’t swim nor move from West to East Malaysia on their own, and the AirForce jets don’t have the endurance to stay offshore as long as the Navy. This arise becasue people don’t understand national defence and so the default position is to support what they know – the Army – and pay less attention to what they don’t know – the Air Force and Navy. Complex the topic maybe, the premise of a strong military has always been simple. Strong military = strong borders = strong security = improve confidence = enhance National Power – history would show a strong military is essential for building long-term national power. If people can’t buy-in to the idea that spending on Military aids the development of National Power because its too complex, shouldn’t the pitch be simplified? Also threats are not always existential. The inability of Malaysia to harvest natural resources within its borders (and EEZ) is a threat to long-term socio-economic well being. Blocked sea air airways is a threat for an export-oriented economy like Malaysia. Threat doesn’t have to be immediate or sudden. China’s threat to Taiwan, Japan, United States is more than just military. There is a substantial economic, information, diplomatic threat to those countries in the long-term. Just like National Power has many instruments (e.g. Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economy). Yes, we can complicate the discussion if so needed, but the majority of people wouldn’t care or understand if its complicated. All Malaysians need to understand is, the simple premise that a strong military is essential to preserving their way of life. Malaysians don’t need to know the details and complexity of running an armed force. They leave that part to the professionals – the enlisted, officers, generals. They only need to support spending for a strong military – the simple premise that strong military equals strong country. To complicate or add complexity doesn’t make it an easier sell.

  30. The army is the service with the most clout because it’s the most senior and largest; plus it’s more in the collective consciousness of the ordinary Malaysian; thanks to the Emergency.

    As it stands; threats and challenges we face are from the maritime domain and it’s absolutely vital for the RMN and RMAF to get priority. The army naturally will complain but it’s the job of the politicians to be firm and to also push for more jointness to overcome inter service rivalry and parochialism – has to be a political push because the services by themselves won’t do it. Even if the MAF was well funded and was equipped with all it needs; only jointness will ensure it can achieve its objectives.

    Malaysians are indifferent towards defence because of history; we are a young nation that apart from the Confrontation never faced any serious threats and have long lived in a benign environment. We are not Vietnam which has centuries of strife with China and who fought a border war and has clashes at sea. Nor are we Taiwan or South Korea who face an existential threat. We are also not Indonesia where the TNI has long played a dominant role and is a national institution in a way the MAF isn’t.

    Writing long posts in paragraphs makes it much easier for others to read.

  31. There’s no such thing as the average Malaysian. We are not a nation just yet. As HM Sultan of johore once stated there is no 1 Malaysia but there’s at least 5 Malaysia. Malaysia are after all divided into groups who goes to different schools, live in different neighbourhood, work in different places and consumers different media and thus have different morality standards and forms different opinions in relative to one another. Theres no single ideology that unite us. The only thing we have in common is a blue ic and that’s about it.

    Big ticket military purchase may be popular with the nationalist and Liberal. These people would wet their pants off when you say f35b for AF & LHD for the navy and they going to sail together to extend our security envelop further. but not so much among the islamist & wumao Who would at the very least only agree to invest in the army for self defence of the mainland only. Thus why rather than buying big tickets items before an elections to get votes like most countries do we often buy it after an election.

    I guess most Malaysian relegated due to historical facts we are just incapable of defending ourself by ourself, we need partners, but who the preferred partners is, the price they ask, the price we willing to pay, how much we could spend or what platform we should be buying differ from one individual to the next.

    I won’t say that TDM is less important in current situation. But they do need to evolved with times, thus a bit of mental adjustment is needed. I also won’t say the whole of TDM is resisting change, but some quarters in TDM does.

    There’s after all plenty of things TDM could do. be it cyber warfare, managing land base missiles, rather than doing a permanent defensive posture assume a more flexible approach where they can be airlifted and sealifted when needed.

    There’s also some recent innovation for the army which allows dual use for both maritime and land defence. Things like himar & truck mounted Mark 41 vls that can be place on civilians & CG ship. Swimable IFV, Sph that can be configured as coastal batteries, NLOS on a JLTV. Land base attack helo like Apache & vipers now have maritime strike capabilities.

    Off course there’s are tradeoff, Swimable and airlifted IFV are not going to be very heavy on the armour, airliftable SPH are not going to be tracked nor have auto loader. wildcat that can do maritime strike, troops transport, subhunting and land recon aren’t going to have endurance.

  32. “but from the onset it was undecided at it”
    From above, it appears TDM had wanted BOTH? See: “even though their plans incorporate both types”.
    But as it was a matter of only getting either one, it was a toss up which will come firstly and that was the tracked M109s.

    “intention to ”mirror Western one” or any other”
    I think I read in a article here, the TDM general mentioned about mirroring the capabilities of Western Command to Eastern. I take that meant equipment-wise(hard part) as well as manpower(easy part).

    “we have no ”peer” adversaries”
    Perhaps my usage of adversaries is a bit too strong, but our defence policy is to keep in pace with our neighbours hence our “peers”. However in order to give directions to where our defence is heading in context of DWP, we must define what it should defend against: a nonstate actor, a peer adversary, or a superpower. This would drive what is required. Directly stating which country we are expecting to defend against would raise a lot of diplomatic stink, so keeping the term ambiguous would give an idea without the repercussions.

  33. @Zaft
    “NATO do wrote a best practice guidelines like 2% of GDP”
    NATO is primarily a land based focused force with a clear adversary to counter whereas we are more maritime with focus towards defending against peer adversaries. Our civil servants do not really follow standards set by others but rather what has came precedent; the past 55% debt ceiling was self imposed and not follow any criteria until PH broke that ceiling, the 1% GDP limit for defence budget is also self imposed but probably in line with others. I doubt they are so proactively follow international standards or creatively create their own.

  34. Zaft – “Land base attack helo like Apache & vipers now have maritime strike capabilities”

    Land and sea based assets have had a maritime tasking for decades. Not just “now””

    “From above, it appears TDM had wanted BOTH?”

    Maybe but from my discussions with those in the know; including those who did the paper evaluation of the M-109; the intention was to have a single type.

    “NATO is primarily a land based focused force”

    No it clearly isn’t. Various members have coastlines and places such as the Atlantic, Baltic, Adriatic and Med are vital. NATO puts significant resources in sea power as should do because no land campaign can succeed without control of the seas and a traditional concern [as you’re aware] has always been to keep the Atlantic sea lanes open to enable the uninterrupted flow of material and men from the U.S. to Europe.

    “but our defence policy is to keep in pace with our neighbours hence our “peers”

    To keep pace with our neighbours and to ensure we don’t lag too far behind. We did that quite well until the late 2000’s and when we have clearly defined objectives with political backing; such as PERISTA; the MAF got the capability we needed. It was also our policy to have a certain level of deterrence to deal with the threats we expected to face and those we saw ourselves capable of dealing with.

    “but our defence policy is to keep in pace with our neighbours hence our “peers;

    Before the rise of China if you asked any senior official; in private they would have told you that a long standing source of concern for us [for Singapore as well] is Indonesia.

  35. Joe – ” Directly stating which country we are expecting to defend against would raise a lot of diplomatic stink”

    We don’t have to “directly” do it. The SAF doesn’t state that it focuses largely on the MAF and TNI but it’s common knowledge. Thailand doesn’t state it’s main concern is Myanmar. We don’t have to “directly” state anything; merely focus attention and resources on a specific threat; if we have one.

    At the moment we focusing on various things but are unable to prioritise or to gain certain capabilities,in specific areas because we lack an existential threat and because we have an extremely flawed defence policy; plus an indifferent altitude timecards defence. We buy “a bit but hardly enough of anything” [a phrase I conjured up years ago] and we don’t get the best value for what we spend.

    Zaft – “The only thing we have in common is a blue ic and that’s about it”

    Going by that simplistic logic; there is no ordinary Brit, American, Indonesian, Belgian, etc. Malaysians may be divided on various issues and may lack social, cultural and other forms of uniformity but they still have lots in common; including identity.

    Zaft – “I also won’t say the whole of TDM is resisting change, but some quarters in TDM does”

    Understand that the main problem in the early 1990’s when the shift to external security was made; the army’s senior leadership still mainly saw things – as expected – through a counter insurgency lens. This is apparent when talking to senior officers; they couldn’t grasp that MBTs could be effectively operated in our terrain; still thought mainly along the lines of small unit ops and still saw the jungle as the main operating environment. Yes we shifted focus to conventional warfare but the overall mindset was still very counter insurgency.

    Gradually as time passed and a new generation of officers came in; things changed. As it stands however the army is generally still conservative in outlook; look at its unit organisation; hardly changed much in decades. Compare this to other armies which experimented in organisation and other things to find the mostly ideal arrangement. It’s also questionable if the army is a “learning organisation”[read “Learning How To Eat Soup With A Knife”]

    Zaft – “There’s also some recent innovation for the army which allows dual use for both maritime and land defence.”

    Where and how do you come up with such statements? It’s not “recent”; innovation in military affairs has been there since antiquity. In more recent times we saw 88 Flak guns used for the anti tank role; we saw RPGs employed for the anti air role; etc. I could give many more examples. BTW rotary attack platforms have been utilised for the maritime role for decades.

  36. “a specific threat; if we have one.”
    How much more specific we need to be than ‘equal peer capable adversaries’? A ‘regional superpower’ would be very specific but also unachievable while ‘non-state actors’ or ‘small external based irregular organisations of ill-intent purpose’ would also be specific enough but then what we have is already overkill. So how should we describe it as to arm ourselves sufficiently without raising diplomatic issues?

    “including identity.”
    Sorry mate but we identify more with race(for and against) than anything else. The Brits/Americans I know would still defend their country and govt even if they voted the other side.

    “No it clearly isn’t.”
    NATO’s primary sea focus is at Mediterranean and Baltics. Choke off those points and Russian Black Sea & Baltic fleets are strangled for much any duration. The only other option is to muster their Pacific fleet which has to travel halfway around the world. Which they had to do with their transporters to support the Ukraine War.

  37. ” So how should we describe it as to arm ourselves sufficiently without raising diplomatic issues”

    We don’t have to “describe” it. Our policy makers merely have to identify a threat we can focus on. As it stands we don’t have a threat we can focus on [unlike other countries] and much of what we buy will be capability not threat driven.

    “NATO’s primary sea focus is at Mediterranean and Baltics.”

    Irrespective. You mentioned that NATO was focused on land threats. I merely poinTed out that this wasn’t the case.

  38. “As it stands we don’t have a threat we can focus on [unlike other countries] and much of what we buy will be capability not threat driven.”

    If that’s is true that MAF need to rethink their self absorbed mentality. No one going to spend money and buy some toys which has no use case scenarios.

    Personally I believe that MAF had identified a threats, (its pretty much there regardless if we admit it or stick our head in the sands pretending to see nothing) its not something they can hope to counter on their own, so they had identified a preferred partners and building up capacity needed to works with them which will even if we like it or not going to raise diplomatic issues.

  39. Zaft – “If that’s is true that MAF need to rethink their self absorbed mentality”

    It’s not about the MAF’s ” self absorbed mentality” as you put it [people like to jump to conclusions] but how we view the threat calculus and political guidance. For decades our focus was internal security then in 1979 driven by the declaration of the EEZ and the fall of South Vietnam four years earlier; we embarked on PERISTA which was capability based against external threats.

    Following the end of the 2nd Emergency we shifted external security which was still largely capability rather than threat driven. Focus was on acquiring a level of deterrence based on our threat perceptions and resources. Rather than an all out war we foresaw the possibility of limited troubles with certain neighbours over confidence unresolved longstanding overlapping claims. Today when everyone is so fevered about China; it’s often not realised that on various occasions things nearly went hot with certain neighbours; this is a fact; not us seeing them as the enemy per see but actual reality. Our planners realise very well the types of threats we might face and the types we can and can’t realistically handle given our resources.

    Zaft – “No one going to spend money and buy some toys which has no use case scenarios”

    If you can understand how we view our threat calculus and how it’s shifted; you’ll realise why we bought what we have. Very rarely do militaries have the luxury of being able to focus on specific threats even when able there Will be distractions.

    Zaft – ” its not something they can hope to counter on their own”

    Indeed. That however has not stopped fevered minded individuals gaining the impression we can deter China or make it think twice by adopting asymmetric tactics or by acquiring certain kit. Similar to the notion we can perform deep strike and complex multi domain ops.

    Zaft -“Personally I believe that MAF had identified a threats”

    Put aside what you believe and ask the right sources if able; yes we have long identified specific threats and some acquisitions have been threat driven. BTW our longstanding security concern with regards to regional countries is not Singapore as often assumed [hint it’s the first country a new PM often visits].

    Zaft – “had identified a preferred partners and building up capacity needed to works with them”.

    The relationship with the U.S. was started in 1984 and the FPDA was raised in 1971 [prior to that there was ANZUK].

  40. Zaft – ” (its pretty much there regardless if we admit it or stick our head in the sands pretending to see nothing) ”

    Understand that although you and others might be fixated on China; it’s not the only threat we face [there ate others] and is one we have no hope of countering; why we have extensive ties with certain countries. The MAF is not ” pretending to see nothing” as you suggest; it’s acutely aware but it’s ability to do even the bare minimum is constrained. I have personal friends who have served in the Spratlys; I’m very aware of the challenges/difficulties we face; much of which I won’t mention here.
    The MAF and the politicians are well aware of what’s happening.

    Also note that while it’s all fine to talk about the security threat posed by China; take note that we are China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN and China is the largest [or 2nd largest FDAI here]. We are a small economy heavily dependent on trade and we don’t have the institutionalised security/economic provided by a EU or a NATO.

  41. “Our policy makers merely have to identify a threat we can focus on.”
    If we cannot describe what level that our armed forces supposed to counter, how can we identify it? As I said, ‘non-state actors’ level would have been overkill, ‘peer’ level would be where we ought to stay, and ‘superpower’ level is where many dream could take on but realistically we cannot. If our policy makers continue to be nebulous about what level our armed forces should achieve so then the procurement will be directionless.

    And why talk about NATO when it has no relevance. That’s the point I want to make to Zaft.

  42. I believed they do so in their classified briefings and documents. That’s why they have a dedicated DWP ie classified for them and a public version.

  43. “If we cannot describe what level that our armed forces supposed to counter, how can we identify it”

    Again, we don’t have openly “describe” it and as pointed out also, it doesn’t have to ruffle diplomatic feathers [you said something along those lines]. Thailand doesn’t openly say Myanmar is a major concern and Singapore doesn’t say the SAF focuses on the MAF and TNI. We don’t openly say that Indonesia has long been and continues to be seen a major security challenge and that we welcome a strong SAF as a hedge.

    ” If our policy makers continue to be nebulous about what level our armed forces should achieve so then the procurement will be directionless”

    It’s a top to bottom approach. The politicians set policy direction as presented to them and planners act accordingly. The problem is we lack a holistic apolitical approach needed to ensure a clear assessment on our long term challenges; not a question of being “nebulous” but lacking the political will and urgency; made worse by our highly flawed defence policy.
    Again, a lot of what we buy is capability driven but some is threat driven.

    “And why talk about NATO when it has no relevance”

    My mention of NATO [and the EU] was to point out that we do not have the institutionalised security afford by blocs like those. That’s why NATO was mentioned and the context was obvious…..

  44. As it stands we acknowledge that the threats and challenges we face are in our maritime domain; yet low intensity threats in ESSCOM consume a lot of attention and resources and we still have the need to maintain a level of deterrence against the types of external threats we perceive facing; yet the resources aren’t there to better focus on anyone of those three areas.

    We focus on a bit of everything and buy a bit of everything but lack of resources means we can’t prioritise and the MAF is long overdue when it comes to gaining some of the tertiary capabilities so essential in this day and age; not to mention being severely overstretched and under resourced.

  45. “China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN”
    Are we now? Much of the global shipments thru ASEAN flows thru Singapore and not us. And most of these comes from China. I don’t think we are there compared to our southern neighbour.

    “Again, we don’t have openly “describe” it”
    No we don’t as I mentioned, since it would ruffle diplomatic feathers. We just have to specify what threat level our armed forces are supposed to fend off. Different levels will have different direction, different responses, and different resources needed. So if our policy makers are clueless to which direction we should be heading so then will the armed forces structure, equipment needed, and level of readiness.

    If our policy makers are not aware then they are nebulous. And so as their decisions.

  46. “Much of the global shipments thru ASEAN flows thru Singapore and not us”

    In terms of dollar value in bilateral trade we are China’s largest trading partner of all the ASEAN countries; irrespective of whether some of the exports are routed via Singapore. Singapore is our largest trading partner within ASEAN.

    Irrespective of the nuances; the point I’m driving at is in the event of troubles with China; our first worry would be the economy; thus planners have to walk a thin line between security and economics. We don’t have an EU equivalent which can help shore up our economy which is small to begin with and heavily dependent on exports and on China.

    “We just have to specify what threat level our armed forces are supposed to fend off”

    Which we have categorically : maritime threats and challenges along the maritime domain and the periphery. The problem is we are doing too many things with limited resources and attention.

    “So if our policy makers are clueless to which direction”

    “If our policy makers are not aware then they are nebulous”

    They are not “clueless” or “nebulous” as you suggest but lack a clear strategic assessment. For the past few years we’ve been focused on internal issues and making things by worst; defence has never been a priority. Just like how our defence policy needs a fundamental revamp; so does our strategic outlook – like I never tire of mentioning: everything from our strategic calculus to how we allocate funding to the role of the local industry plays is in need of a revamp. Contrary to popular layman view; our policy makers actually know pretty well what’s happening; whether there is the political will or urgency is a different matter.

  47. Joe “And why talk about NATO when it has no relevance. That’s the point I want to make to Zaft.”

    The time is quite ripe and the condition are conducive as us and our immediate neighbors interest are aligned to form an ASEAN/asian version of NATO, EU, EEC etc etc.

    Increasing inter ASEAN trade from 30% right now to EU block intra block trade at 70% will help weather global economic shock, reducing friction with one another.

    Thus while we could in theory have the resources to configure the MAF to fight our immediate neighbors, we won’t do so as its not In our best interest to do so and so does them. What we and them are seeking is more military inter operational capabilities among the neighbors.

  48. @Zaft
    Our various nations are far from aligned for a “SEATO” to be conducive or viable. Each has their interest with China, some trade, some economic lifeline, others as competition.

    Easy to say reduce reliance on trade with China by increasing trade with others, ie EU. The thing is, what do we have which they want. They have less need for cheaper machinery as they need to prop industrial nations, they spurned palm oil and prefer their land eating rapeseed/ sunflower/ soybean oils, much of what we produce cannot be exported to EU as we cannot meet their high standards of human rights which they will interfere with, or else run our country in the ways they deemed fit. In other words, neocolonialism. Is that better than dealing with China? I can’t be certain.

    We certainly ought to attain & maintain capabilities parity with our peer neighbours as a minimum. But to gang up when everyone has their own self interests, whatmore in hopes we can even then take on China together, err nope. Pigs will fly before we’d do that.

  49. 5zaft – ”The time is quite ripe and the condition are conducive as us and our immediate neighbors interest are aligned to form an ASEAN/asian version of NATO, EU, EEC etc etc.”

    The time is ”not ripe”. There is no desire for any binding defence pact and how could there when unlike the case in Europe where all the NATO members have interests and policies which are aligned; this is not the case here – ASEAN comprises countries which have different forms of governance and foreign policies. You will also note that all NATO members have much longer histories of being sovereign states; have the shared experience of WW2; have a existential threat and there is a dominant player in the form of the U.S. to keep things together – do you see those elements at play here?

    5zaft – ‘have the resources to configure the MAF to fight our immediate neighbors, we won’t do so as its not In our best interest to do so and so does them.”

    In theory we have the resources to raise a combined arms corps or a fighter wing but in reality we can even meet our basic operational needs. With the exception of Brunei, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar the rest have overtaken us. The RTAF for example has already made the transition from a platform to a network centric air arm. As has been explained before, most of our procurement is capability driven and we are extremely resource stretched.

    At the same time; there is still a lot of lingering mutual distrust amongst various neighbouring countries due to longstanding unresolved overlapping claims and there is a limit to what various countries want to expand military cooperation.

    5zAFT – ‘What we and them are seeking is more military inter operational capabilities among the neighbors.”

    Understand that the interoperability we have with various neighbouring countries is pretty basic and routine; as are the bilateral exercises we conduct with them. The real serious or more intensive stuff is conducted under the FPDA or with the U.S.

  50. “In other words, neocolonialism. Is that better than dealing with China? I can’t be certain”

    None is better than the other; we need both. We still live in a Western dominated world; trade is in USD and Euro; they still dominate many high tech sectors and in addition to European FDI we do a lot of trade with them. On the other hand our economy is hugely tied to China’s.

    “We certainly ought to attain & maintain capabilities parity with our peer neighbours as a minimum.”

    Something we long did but in recent years have been unable to thanks to our politicians.

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