New Radars for ESSCOM

Pengkalan Laut Tun Sharifah Rodziah. Joint Force picture.

SHAH ALAM: AIRBUS Defence and Space Spexer 2000 Coastal AESA radar has been selected as part of a new Coastal Surveillance System (CSS) in the AOR of ESSCOM in eastern Sabah. The new radar will complement the current CSS 1206 radars, according to Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein today.

The CSS 1206 is of course the radar system which was given as a grant by the United States in 2006. Hence it is designated the 1206. For more on the CSS 1206 go here.

The CSS 1206 radars have a range of 20km while the new Spexer radar range is up to 40km. However, Hishammuddin who released the details of the new radar in a press release, did not revealed when the new system will become operational.

A Spexer 2000 radar used for coastal surveillance. Airbus D&S
A Spexer 2000 radar used for coastal surveillance. Airbus D&S

The new Spexer radars which will be funded by Petronas, according to Hishammuddin are part of the on-going programme to enhance the security of eastern Sabah following the 2013 Lahad Datu incursion.

According to Airbus, the SPEXER radars are the first operational land-based surveillance radars worldwide using Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology as well as innovative Digital Beam Forming (DBF) technology benefiting from our experience gained in the military sector.

A Spexer 2000 radar keeping watch over a coastal area. Airbus
A Spexer 2000 radar keeping watch over a coastal area. Airbus

As for the Spexer 2000 Coastal, the company stated that the high-performance coastal surveillance radar for the automatic detection, classification and tracking of sea, ground and low-flying air targets up to 40 km (24.9 mi; 21.6 NM) – even under extreme climatic conditions. Developed for the specific requirements of security scenarios with asymmetric threats.

Detection Ranges:

Swimmer (0.1 m² RCS): 1 km (0.5 NM)
Small boat, rubber dinghy, jet ski (1.5 m² RCS): 20 km (10.8 NM)
Pedestrian (0.5 m² RCS): 18 km (11.2 mi)
Light vehicle (2.0 m² RCS): 22 km (13.7 mi)
Truck (10.0 m² RCS): 36 km (22.4 mi)
Vessel, large boat (100 m² RCS): 40 km (21.6 NM)
Light aircraft (3.0 m² RCS): 27 km (16.8 mi)
Low-level helicopter (5.0 m² RCS): 36 km (22.4 mi)
UAV (0.2 m² RCS): 9 km (5.6 mi)

Among the others items being funded by Petronas for the ESSCOm – which was created following the incursion – are two sea bases. One of the sea bases is a decommissioned oil rig designated as Pengkalan Laut Tun Sharifah Rodziah and Pengkalan Laut Tun Azizan, a converted former cargo ship. Hishammuddin visited the Tun Sharifah Rodziah today.

Pengkalan Laut Tun Sharifah Rodziah. Joint Force picture.
Pengkalan Laut Tun Sharifah Rodziah. Joint Force picture.

Both sea bases have been operational since May. They served as the forward operational bases for units involved in operations to prevent incursions from southern Philippines, from smugglers to terrorists.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2201 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. The converted oil platforms. What is it equiped with?. Any radars , self defence weapons n how many personnels woyld be quartered there?. How about patrol boats. How many would be allotted to the base?

  2. I don’t understand why is those 2 sea bases are called “pengkalan laut”? Our leaders forgot that we have a monarchy or what? Ships and naval bases are always prefixed with KD, kapal diraja. Why isn’t those two sea bases a KD too?

    Simply because both sea bases belongs to Markas Angkatan Bersama or Joint Force Headquarters. MAB has no naming convention AFAIK. Probably if the power that be decides in the future that it will become RMN asset the KD prefix may be bestowed.

  3. Can anyone please tell me what the two bases are really for?1.A forward base for patrol boats to operate from or 2. An early warning anti-pirate platforms or 3.A combination of both? From what I can see there’s no berth for any boats except if they are thinking of using the winch to bring the boats onto the deck!By right they should have design something similar to those mechanical slides that the British’s Lifeboat Service (RNLI) are using along their coast.

    They are supposed to be the forward base for all the above you mentioned. Yes it does look awkward to use as a forward operational base as the working area is much too high from the sea surface. It was not an idea from the RMN, which wanted the use of converted cargo ships.

  4. From the look of it, I guess the height of the platform is adjustable depending on the sea level, and maybe for security reason the platform is elevated to a certain height thus making it difficult for enemies to infiltrate. And as a military installation, it should be heavily fortified 360 degree. It would be very interesting if we could have some info on their armament.

  5. Fird,

    There will be no need for the oil rigs to be armed with anything heavy. Probably the only arms on board will be small arms. It’s not as if the kidnappers/bandits/militants are going to attack them. Their aim is to get in our waters, grab a hostage and get out as soon as they can (for monetary gain (including to support syabu addiction); to avoid trouble, not to seek it (like the LTTE’s Sea Tigers).

    The sea base are fitted with pintle mounts for HMG and GPMG

  6. Is this base cater for ELINT/SIGINT installation?

    Most likely, it’s one of the things not talked about in an open forum.

  7. Need more pictures in the post marhalim, cuz people dont seem to know the facility had a floating dock, weapons mount and radar (based on the comments)

    Though the pics can be easily viewed on those local defence fb pages posted yesterday..

  8. If you blow up (no pun intended) the picture, you’ll see a sort of floating dock with figures on it. The helipad can take a 10-tonne heli, I think, seeing it’s ex-Petronas. Makes sense to station a naval heli there too.

    This base needs to be defended, that’s a basic requirement for all MAF bases/camps, more so for one in an ops area. hence GPMG/HMG, minimum. Small arms won’t do. They’ll probably need to watch the water near the legs for swimmers.

    Hope the food’s good like on Petronas rigs.

  9. One more thing,the Ministry people doesn’t need to named these structures after some people’s name. I wouldn’t like to see this caption ‘Pirates attack Tuan Sharifah Rodziah’ on the front page of any newspapers in the future. Just call it Foward Tactical Base ‘Gempur’ or something like that!Just my opinion! I would like to keep it simple.

  10. Needless to say the bandits/kidnappers/militants will give give the rig and ship a wide berth. It is hoped that aggressive patrolling and good intel; together with the rig and ship will, discourage intruders.

    Aquino has so far failed to get the BBL passed by Congress; thanks to the Manasapano cock up which also led to many question on our role as facilitator. There are now attempts to get the MILF to accept an amended BBL. If conflict erupts again, we’ll see more people headed to Sabah. Nur Misuari and his MNLF are also against the BBL as they know the non- Tausug MILF has no interest in Sabah.

  11. “Needless to say the bandits/kidnappers/militants will give give the rig and ship a wide berth.”

    Well that could well be and one can hope it will be, but it’s that sort of muddled thinking that will give them an advantage. Can’t lessons be drawn from Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan/Nigeria/Somalia/our own Emergency?

    If I’m not mistaken we’re involved in what’s called ‘asymmetric war’ (I’m not sure of the exact meaning of this label — I prefer ‘irregular’) with the Kirams. In this kind of conflict — which can last a long time without either side firing a shot — the lesser side doesn’t have to capture or destroy the base to claim a victory. All they have to do is to mount an attack on the structure — say with grenade, IED or just ramming it — and we’ll end up looking stupid or, worse, incompetent. Propaganda-wise, it’ll be a disaster, especially when they have support and access to internet and sympathetic talking-head ‘analysts’ back home in RP. Public morale, especially in the affected area, dips out of proprtion to the physical damage because of the perceived invincibility of the defence. This tactic’s been employed countless times in the countries mentioned.

    In the bad old days, the CT, when they built a camp, would mount a mock attack on it to see if it’s well defended. I don’t think this basic lesson has been lost on MAF regarding the bases.

  12. The danger is real. Rowing up to the rig silently in a wooden canoe, at night, one is virtually undetectable even with radar and searchlights, and the sensors fit has yet to be determined. The rig is safe in no small part for the lack of motive on the part of the intruders.

    I am sure the bases will have a minor impact considering the size of the AO and ability of the intruders to skirt them.

    What I am less sure of is the purpose of the bases. Are they supply points, sensor platforms or a host for quicker reaction by mobile forces?

    All three actually..

  13. Ferret,

    I was referring to individuals who cross over on kidnaps raids. They do it for financial gain, not for “jihad” or to make it on Al Jazeera but for financial gain. They have nothing to gain by looking for trouble; all the kidnap raids follow the same modus operandi : get in, grab hostages and get out fast. A couple of years ago, whilst in the area I met a guy whose cousin has participated in an aborted raid. The cousin did it to buy kerbau to to finance his syabu addiction.

    Yes there is always a possibility that the ‘Royal Sulu Army” or other groups might attack a FOB. It is for this reason that the FOBs will be armed and will be on the lookout. Logically If any group was out to harm us or to score political points; there are other targets which pose less risk than an oil rig or a ship manned by PASKAL. Also, an easier way to cause us harm would be to kidnap IMT members or target a Malaysian business in Mindanao. No doubt there is always the possibility of the unexpected happening but some are less likelier than others.

  14. “All three actually”

    Then I am most interested in what kind of quick reaction forces and assets we will deploy to the base on a temporary or permanent basis.

    I’ve always maintained that in a theater as vast as Sabah, we have to accept that prevention is not 100% possible and we have to invest in the cure in the form of quick reaction forces. There is no better example of “the bomber will always get through.”

    And these forces are only quick enough if deployed by air, given Sabah’s size and terrain and the limited number of men available.

    For this reason I’m a little doubtful of the purpose of hosting waterborne QRF on the base. Certainly useful, but certainly not able to influence a wide enough area.

    It will be RHIBs and Combat Boats. The surplus Mark V SOC boats from the US are also expected to be based at both sea bases, once we got them of course. The Tun Azizan has a hangar so it can carry a helicopter or two, most likely the RMN’s Fennec, which is cheaper to run than the Super Lynx

  15. Azlan,

    “They do it for financial gain, not for “jihad” or to make it on Al Jazeera but for financial gain”

    Sure, and look at the fallout of those incidents — Esscom chief replaced in the first instance, CPO transferred, govt in full damage control mode.

    In any deployment, they’ll need to defend the base first and foremost. It’s basic. If you’ve watched demos with a knowing eye, you’d see them forming defensive formations first whether being inserted by fast roping, stopping on patrol, or disembarking from assault boats.

    Paskal or no, they’ll want to be able to defend the base, first and foremost — before mounting ‘aggressive patrols’ as you say. In a static base, that means support weapons and more instead of just the usual 9/5.56 weapons as you assert.

  16. Any info update regarding TCOM aerostats and possibly acquiring a number of surplus Mark V SOC from US via a transfer program? Both of it was suppose to be use for ESSCOM, if I’m not mistaken.

    Nothing on the TCOM aerostats so far. It is an MKN project, any update will be painfully slow. As the for Mark V SOC expect an update soon.

  17. Sea basing is a lesson learnt from the Sri Lankans. To fight marauding sea tigers they have mother ships sherparding a flotilla of small boats . When those not on ops can get proper rest from the motger boat those on ops can get logistic support from tge mother boat. Having a base out in the open sea makes sense. If any incident happens, an intercepting force can now be deployed at sea n ready to intercept instead of having to launch from shore bases. If the sea base is located tactically n strategically correct, it will cause the marauders a lot of head ache

  18. Marhalim, Lee Yoke Meng,

    “If the sea base is located tactically n strategically correct, it will cause the marauders a lot of head ache.”

    No, they could just go around it and it will hardly be a “headache” to them. Even sneaking past at night, in a small wooden boat with practically no height or radar cross section stands a very good chance of success.

    I’m sure the rig will rule wherever it is located and bring a measure of safety to its area of influence. The problem is this area is a drop in the ocean. To institute this kind of solution theater wide is way beyond our means in money and men. Few countries can afford such a capital and manpower intensive solution, let alone Malaysia. I was just as disappointed when someone pointed out a few months ago to use Adnans to patrol the beach. Sigh.

    With heliborne reaction forces we could rule a much larger area of influence with much less men and capital. And get there within a shorter reaction time, whether the intruders are still at sea or already landed.

    Yes the sea bases are just a drop in an ocean. But its kinda visible and its more likely chosen as the most affordable means to show presence. To me the solution lies in southern Philippines, perhaps an eye for eye response probably the best way to stop this kind of nonsense..

  19. Ferret,

    Sorry my mistake.

    Should have been more specific to avoid any misinterpretation in what I originally meant to “assert”.

    Let’s try again –

    “The rig and the ship will be manned by people armed with small arms, as well as heavier stuff like GPMGs and HMGs, to ensure the security of the rig in the off hand chance that someone – for whatever reason – decides to have a go at either of them”

  20. Marhalim,

    You’re absolutely right, the solution lies over there. We are often told that the BBL, once implemented, will in the long run create more stability and lead to people having less reasons to cross into Sabah. Which is why we’re the third party facilitator and have been hosting peace talks between the Philippines government and the MILF for almost 20 years.

    The problem is not only has the BBL been delayed and there are calls to amend it but the MILF’s (with whom we have a close relationship) main territory is in Mindanao. The area where the people who launch raids into Sabah operate from are places like Basilan, Jolo (the kidnap capital) and Tawi-Tawi; strongholds of the MNLF, whom we don’t have a cosy relationship with (after we deported Nur Misuari and started a relationship with his rival the MILF).

    Yes the BBL, if implemented, will help to some extent, but it won’t completely solve things for us. The new President, whoever he or she is, might not be in a hurry to implement it as he/she knows that a large part of population has reservations over it, after the Mamasapano cock up.

    The ideal situation would be for the BBL to proceed (assuming the MILF agrees to certain amendments) and for us to also reach some kind of understanding with the MNLF. Hard to do as the MNLF (being Tausugs) support the Kirams and have a claim on Sabah.

  21. Funny when the main article listed the capability of the new aesa spexer radar, there are still comments about undetectable wooden boats.

  22. Azlan,

    Thank you. I presume you didn’t have to salute the quarterdeck when you visited all those RMN ships?


    Interesting. I’ve read about the SL Navy’s battles against the Sea Tigers and their use of Israeli-made FAC (forget the class) as well as the indigenous ‘Arrow’ speedboats. I’d always thought they were shore-based and not sea-based. We can certainly learn something from SLN re Esscom.


    Eye for eye? Now that is something. If only we could…

    There is a historical precedence, something we should not be shy off.

  23. Well not only MNLF have a claim on Sabah, Manila have put its claim on Sabah as “KIV” all these while.

    Good to know the militarised oil rig and cargo vsl is now deployed.

    On the other front, another Program Jiwa Murni Tentera Darat – Road Construction will kick off in Kapit Division, a “jalan askar” from Belaga Bazaar downstream of Batang Rejang to Nanga Merit which will provide land connection to almost 50 longhouses. DPM will execute”pecah tanah” Oct 14 or Oct 15.

    I dubbed it “jalan askar” due to the fact that the Mejawah-Belaga road condition is a terrain-following mode, minimal road levelling, very sharp bends, very steep road gradient and not much tar-sealed (nothing more than fine stones held by soil-stabilizer compound and bitumen sprayed to the soil). It is a far cry compared to “jalan JKR gred R3” but the bamboo telegraph indicates that if the road have been handed over to JKR, they will make the road better.

  24. According to what I’ve been told, the U.S. radars have excellent resolution (if that’s the right word) and we are very happy with them. Being a newer radar with AESA and DBF (whatever that means) we can assume that the Spexa will have better resolution, including the jeans to pick up small objects even when sea conditions are tough. Then again, when sea conditions are rough, kumpits won’t put to sea.

    At the end of the day, anything is possible but an attack on the rig is slim and there are many other targets; ones that are less risky but still have propaganda value, for any would be attackers.

  25. Ferret,

    No but the person I was with was saluted when we went aboard.


    Most Filipinos couldn’t care less about the claim. The problem is, following Lahad Datu more people now know about it and certain politicians use it for political mileage. No President can drop the claim as it would be political suicide. A it is Aquino has been accused, by the media and political opponents, of selling out to Malaysia and of putting Malaysian interests first before Filipino interests. Unless you’re a Tausug, the issue of Sabah has no significance to you – people in Luzon, the Visayas and other parts of the archipelago couldn’t give a damn. It’s not like the Falklands/Malvinas issue which which is in the psyche of every Argentine. Official Philippines maps don’t even show Sabah as part of the Philippines and ahead of the ASEAN summit Corazon Aquino even tried to drop the claim. The Kirams off course will never admit to this but many Tausugs and not just the ones in Sabah, do not want Sabah to be part of the Republic of Philippines.

    Our past policy of supporting the MNLF as a means of distracting Marcos from pursuing the Sabah claim paid off – from our perspective but from a Filipino perspective we helped fuel the civil war. Things however are different now and we can’t interfere in Philippines domestic issues as it will backfire.

  26. These revelations in MD regarding KL active acts of supporting factions in neighbors insurgency/civil wars (Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand) is eye opening as I never came across any thing like this in open sources. “KL reap what KL sow”

  27. Together with Singapore and Indonesia, we provided training and other forms of assistance to the Khmer resistance. Ken Conboy’s book about Cambodia has mention of this. I was in contact with him sometime back. As part of his research he interviewed a Cambodian who received training here, in Pahang.

    Together with Singapore we also looked at creating an ammo reserve in Thailand; to be used in case the Vietnamese crossed the border from Cambodia. Apparently there was a Bosnian connection behind us buying Anza, Bakhtar Shikan and RPG-7s from Pakistan; not because Pakistan owed us for palm oil as is commonly believed. Lots of other stuff I’d rather not mention in an open forum but info is out there if you know where to look.

  28. P.S. News about the training camp for Khmers first appeared in Asiaweek (now defunct) in 1986. Since then, a number of Cambodian officials have revealed that they received training here. It was part of a plan by various countries, with U.S. support, to ensure the Vietnamese were kept busy in Cambodia.

  29. ‘Most Filipinos couldn’t care less about the claim. The problem is, following Lahad Datu more people now know about it and certain politicians use it for political mileage’

    I disagree to a certain extent with the above statement. I spent some time in Manila between 2002 and 2005. I found out most people in the place that i was working (non military/non government job) are well aware of the Sabah claim and feel very strongly about it. I think the matter was KIVed since they have no means to pursue. Otherwise, it would have been different.

  30. Azlan,

    Ah, OK, thanks. Did they pipe the side? Never mind, that explains a few things.

    I’m not in the habit of dropping names –simply because they don’t strengthen my arguments or impress anybody — but just for interest’s sake, next time you have a cup of coffee with your schoolmate who’s CO of a Kedah in the wardroom (when invited by XO, of course) or in his cabin served by his steward, ask him about how he’ll defend his ship against swimmers when it’s lying still in the water at night off a hostile coast (please don’t argue about the word ‘hostile’ here; it’s a doctrinal issue). Would he like to break out the GPMG? Just to be sure, when I say ‘swimmer’, I don’t mean Kirams doing breast-stroke — ‘scuba divers/frogmen’ are called ‘assault swimmers’ in military parlance.

    There’a reason why MG pintles are fixed on the rig. It’s part of a practice called force protection and derived from a principle of War called ‘Security’; it’s done everywhere, every time, even if the odds of an attack are one in a million, and especially in an ops area.

  31. “Eye for eye? Now that is something. If only we could…

    There is a historical precedence, something we should not be shy off.”

    This ignites my curiousity immensely. I believe I’ve heard about this somewhere and it’s almost like a myth, but if it is true, is there anywhere I could seek more detail about it?

  32. We are not able to launch retaliatory raids on Philippine territory. But if we identify and neutralise each intrusion quickly and in spectacular fashion with the heaviest weapons permitted by the circumstances, it will be deterrent enough to further intrusions.

    If their comrades succeed in getting through but meet their deaths soon after, there is little incentive for further intrusion.

    We achieve less deterrent effect if we wait 3 weeks or take heed of protests on the streets of Manila.

  33. Chin – ”I disagree to a certain extent with the above statement. I spent some time in Manila between 2002 and 2005. I found out most people in the place that i was working (non military/non government job) are well aware of the Sabah claim and feel very strongly about it.”

    They are aware off it and Lahad Dato and Mamasapano reminded them of the claim but by large most don’t care about it as they have far more pressing issues to worry about. Sure, many feel that Sabah belongs to the Philippines and Malaysia ”stole” it or ”illegally occupies” it but they realise nothing can be done about it – the people making the most noise about it are certain politicians, academics and the Kirams. If anything, the Sabah issue has become a political tool and has seen various politicians budding up with the Kirams. In 2013 Aquino said the claim was ”dormant” and came under a lot of flak.

    Ferret – ”I’m not in the habit of dropping names –simply because they don’t strengthen my arguments or impress anybody ”

    That’s good to hear and I’m sure most of us will be in agreement; nobody here, as far as I can tell, has name dropped.

    Ferret – ”there’a reason why MG pintles are fixed on the rig. It’s part of a practice called force protection and derived from a principle of War called ‘Security’; ”

    I fully agree; never said otherwise.

    AM – ”We are not able to launch retaliatory raids on Philippine territory”

    We have been publicly accused of doing this : the ”Maranas” Incident” which Filipino sources claimed was in revenge for an attack on Lahad Dato in 1985. We were also accused of annexing the Turtle Islands but the Filipinos later admitted that we never did.

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