Poseidon, Lightnings and Apaches Too?

An F-35A Joint Strike Fighter flies over RAAF Base Richmond during circuit and instrument landing approach training. *** Local Caption *** Two F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft from No. 3 Squadron conducted daylight flying training at RAAF Base Richmond. The training included circuit training and instrument landing approaches as part of pilot familiarisation.

SHAH A:Poseidon, Lightnings and Apaches too. A Defence Ministry official has called on Malaysia to buy similar platforms as operated by the other members of the Five Power Defence Agreement (FPDA) which include the UK, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Though the official – Ahmad Syah Ejaz Ismail – a special officer with the Deputy Defence Minister – writing in the New Straits Times did not name the platforms operated by the other FPDA members.

These countries, among others, however do operate or going to operate the Boeing P-8A Poseidon MPA, Lockheed Martin F-35s Lightning II stealth fighter and Boeing Apache attack helicopters, so it is fair to say these are the platforms, Ahmad Syah was referring to.

RAAF P-8A flying over RMAF Butterworth. Australian Defense Department

Although there were glaring mistakes in the column – he stating that Malaysia being an archipelagic nation and FPDA to be involved in UN peacekeeping operations – the others things he wrote is quite revealing coming from a defence ministry official.

For example, he wrote:

As such, our combat readiness has deteriorated and is low compared with other FPDA members. This posed cooperation challenges when it comes to planning and carrying out military manoeuvres and exercises, and has resulted in Malaysia just becoming a mere observer in FPDA air and sea manoeuvres, even in our own territory.

Typhoon Aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland are taking part in Exercise Bersama Lima 16 and with be based out of RMAF Butterworth in Malaysia during their stay.

He further states:

Having a different platform for our strategic assets puts the armed forces at a disadvantage in interoperability and commonality of operations, with our defence partners that further impacted the long-term strategic plan of capacity building for our armed forces. We have fallen so much behind in having the right air defence assets when we start buying the eastern-built aircraft in the 1990s.

Fortunately, with Australia heading the Headquarters Integrated Area Defence System in Butterworth, the Malaysian poor aerial defence is plugged by an additional squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)-F/A-18F and PC3 Orion that were stationed in Butterworth through Op Gateway.

RSAF F-16D+ fighter at Kuantan airbase as part of the exchanges during Bersama Lima 16. RSAF photo.

Even though the FPDA could not and should not dictate how we decide our defence procurement programme, by being active in the FPDA’s related exercises, Malaysian armed forces and the Defence Ministry will always be guided by the true north of proven military needs and stop procuring different type of assets outside the FPDA ambit.

A Royal Australian Air Force 77 Squadron F/A-18A Hornet has landing gear down and is ready to land at Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth during Exercise Bersama Lima 16. CA

I don’t think serving and retired military officers will take kindly to the notion that the Malaysian Armed Forces had been relegated to observer status on many Bersama Lima exercises within the last decade or so despite the challenges they faced with the equipment.

A formation containing a Malaysian F/A-18D Hornet, a MIG 29 and an Australian F/A 18 Hornet fly over the Penang region of Malaysia, the flight was organized as a prelude flight to Bersama Lima 2011.

We will have to see whether MAF will respond to the allegations highlighted by the column. For further details of the column please go here.

— Malaysian Defence

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26 Comments

  1. “As such, our combat readiness has deteriorated and is low compared with other FPDA members”

    Hardly a revelation …

    “Other” FPDA members devote far greater resources towards defence than we do and comprise governments which take defence far more seriously.

    “and has resulted in Malaysia just becoming a mere observer in FPDA air and sea manoeuvres, even in our own territory”

    He is a MINDEF official and should know better. We obviously can’t bring the same level of capabilities to an exercise as others but our limitations in no way reduces us to the level of “observer” as he would claim …
    We take FPDA exercises seriously and participate as a full
    participation with the assets we are able to bring.

  2. He also left out the part that to operate similar things as FPDA partners; the government has to significantly increase the procurement and operational budget; as well as committing to a sustained level of funding in the long term.

    Another issue is that our FPDA partners that defence seriously and have a sound long term policy. We in the other hand have long had a highly flawed and self defeating policy; various national
    interests (including the local industry) taking precedence over the MAF and the tax payer.

  3. “Another issue is that our FPDA partners that defence seriously and have a sound long term policy. We in the other hand have long had a highly flawed and self defeating policy; various national
    interests (including the local industry) taking precedence over the MAF and the tax payer”.

    The above observation by Sdr Azlan says it all. Am being the naysayer here but the politicians, and past till present their “buddy-buddy” connections with greedy corporate types intend on milking the millions in defence contracts is a well established sore-point. As long as this state of affairs is still present, let’s just say our armed forces will soldier on with decrepit equipment for years to come.

  4. Good if they have realised our weakness and bad defence policy that had caused so much backwardness and obsolecence compared to other armed forces regionally or among our FPDA counterparts, either in form of quality or quantity. If change we must be, then change we ought to be. No matter what the price is, for the nation defence and sovereignty, please, get the Armed Forces the neccessary numbers and qualities.

  5. Taib – “let’s just say our armed forces will soldier on with decrepit equipment for years to come”

    Sorry Taib but to me; the fact that some of our gear is aged is secondary. The MAF is being expected to do too much with too little. It hardly has enough of anything and quite a bit of what it has may not be up to spec or suitable for current threats and future ones likely to be encountered.

    – We freely acknowledge that the main threats are along our maritime domain but have approved allocation for a measly 2 MPAs and 3 MALE UASs.

    – We are aware there airpower determines everything but have only approved 18 LCAs; some of which will be configured as LIFTs.

    – At one point the RMN has 16 ships armed with ASMs; now it has 4.

    – If it wasn’t for U.S. funded ScanEagles; non state actors would have a better UAS capability than the MAF.

    This is how serious we view defence.

  6. lalok – “Good if they have realised our weakness and bad defence policy”

    The politicians/bureaucrats have long “realised” the overall state of the MAF. It’s simply not a priority.

    lalok – “. If change we must be, then change we ought to be”

    Easier said than done. There is no political will or urgency to change anything. True fundamental change which results in long term tangible benefits (the MAF getting the needed capability and the taxpayers their cash’s worth) will require us admitting we’ve screwed up badly and have been doing so for a long time.

    It will require a lot of change which will be hard to do from a political perspective. The state of the MAF is a reflection of the country as a whole. Let’s see how the LCA, MPA and UAS programmes are carried out – this will indicate if we are doing things differently. Will the services get something which actually meets their operational requirements or will national interests hold sway?

  7. While some mistakes and assumptions were made, it is commendable that MINDEF is at last taking cognizant on the regression of our defence capabilities, and they realise the reason was caused by Mahathir’s reprioritisation of our defence policy that time. Eastern was the flavour then but they did tried to mitigate by filling it in with as much Western systems possible (PT-91, MKM). Not ideal for sure, but it is, imho, still making the best case out of a worse scenario.

    Of course getting all Western stuff will ensure the best capabilities, highest reliability, most compatibility with other FDPAs, and other such all very nice to haves but that official left out the most important part; Where’s the money?

    And talking about Western stuff, why no mention on the status of our Western designed LCS? Easy to talk, we also had a deputy Menhan that knows how to talk but kerja kosong.

  8. Except for Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and UK funded their budget through high tax rate of average above 25% not including VAT.To achieve what these partners in FPDA doing with their defence, apart from more efficient and transparent procurement policy, we must change our tax system or at least in the case of singapore, diversify revenue base. Are we Malaysian ready for higher tax?

  9. The guy from Mindef surely knows that we dont have the financial and political will to buy, let alone to operate F35, Apache and P8. As long as ATM cannot get substantial amount of sustained financial boost (and i mean by A LOT), we will not ever gonna buy those fancy machines.

    What RMAF is doing now is prioritizing what it really needs and realistically could afford. Buying F-35 meant that we would have less LCA/LIFT and thus less airframe overall or we cannot replace our 8 Hornets with 18 new MRCA. Buying Apache meant that we wont be able to replace our retired Nuris for a long time. Buying P8 would meant that we would have less MPA than what we could have. Plus the F35 and P8 costs a lot more to operate.

    RMAF will be getting new LCA/LIFT, MPAs, MALE UAS and radars. What need to be done is complete all the LCA/LIFT airframe requirement, ensure RMAF has enough MPA and probably ordering another batch of the same MALE UAS (if current batch of airframes is still not enough) at the same time gaining experience in operating such assets with other services. only then we could start tender requirements for MRCA. What more does that Mindef guy wants? His ministry didnt even have enough budget to buy those fancy machines operated by FDPAs by a considerable amount.

  10. @Kamal
    Well the previous BN Government asked that same question back in May 2018. Guess what was the answer?

  11. I personally think balance is better. Getting Eastern toy make us behind the West? Then why SG get Igla while Stinger more deadly. Logistics support might be the main issue. For a company if everything from a same supplier look fine but when come to country safety, it might be different story. It did create logistics headace so n so but we will not cut down suddenly if something not right with the Western guy. FPDA is a long term relationship, so it should not create problem to us? Who can guarantee? Any way, the major n key problem we need solve… more $ $ $

  12. To the MINDEF official, now walk the talk, please.

    I think for commonality and inter-operatibility in term of FPDA,the least we can do with our small resources is using NATO standards.

  13. Michael Gan – “Then why SG get Igla while Stinger more deadly”

    First of all how did you get the impression that Stinger is “more deadly”? Maybe it is but in what way? Secondly have you noticed that Stinger is mainly in use by NATO countries and non NATO countries which are linked to the U.S. by a binding treaty?

    Michael Gan – “Logistics support might be the main issue.”

    No it wasn’t …. MANPADs need very little logistics support. Singapore gets the needed logistics support for its fighters, radars, helicopters and other things; yet you’d seriously suggest it got Igla due to logistical issues?

    Michael Gan – “might be different story. It did create logistics headace so n so but we will not cut down suddenly if something not right with the Western guy”

    One of the big issues we’ve long faced is our huge support/logistics footprint; it’s not cost effective, consumes resources and leads to operational issues; yet you are suggesting it’s fine …..

    If we ever found ourselves under a Western arms embargo: it would mean we’d done something very drastic and our main concern would be the economy ….

    Michael Gan – “Any way, the major n key problem we need solve”

    Incorrect. Having more cash doesn’t mean we’ll actually put it to good use. The thing we need to “solve” is our outlook on defence; how we handle/implement things …

  14. Oh well… now we have a very very good reason not to go Eastern and just buy Western stuff we cannot afford: CAATSA.

  15. We need to increase our defence spending to at least 5% of our GDP to afford these platform from the current 1%

  16. @Azlan

    ” The thing we need to “solve” is our outlook on defence; how we handle/implement things …”

    I agree. More money but keep repeating the same mistakes will not give the the optimum outcome hence less number of assets per similar price. For example our LCS.

  17. Syarif – “We need to increase our defence spending to at least 5% of our GDP”

    In line with a budget increase we need to ensure that what we spend is put to good use. No point having more cash if were just going to fritter it away on stuff driven by political factors and by paying local middle man companies for services the armed services could have performed (like with the Little Birds and other things).

    Not only that but if we increase the budget it has to been on a sustained basis over a set period. No point having an increase for a short period; only to have it decreased again – a situation we normally face which leaves the armed services in a tough position.

  18. A lot of option MAF can go for NATO standard equipment doesn’t mean MAF follow to get similar things…

  19. Azlan, I believe what you are trying to say is not ‘This is how serious we view defence’ but rather ‘This is how lackadaisical we view defence’. 😏 It’s all ‘Qué sera sera’ for far, far too long.

  20. @Syarif
    Good idea and no doubts everyone here thinks the same but… where to get that extra 4%?

    If I say lets take it out from social welfare programs for the poor, the elderly, the sick, and those in need, or lets say take that from the bantuan given to the B40s, or lets say cut from BR1M, or lets say we reduce building of schools, govt clinics & hospitals, or lets say cut from civil servants pencen, would you still agree to it? Would the Majority still agree to it?

    Or perhaps as some said, raise consumption taxes and just maybe… risk being voted out like before. Can our rakyat see past that? Can our politicians see past that, for the good of the country?

  21. Luqman – “What RMAF is doing now is prioritizing what it really needs and realistically could afford”

    It has long been doing that but has been unable to do it. It has long has a plan to progressively induct what it needs operationally and whet it can sustain based on its resources.

    Under the original plan; MPAs would havre been bought about 10 years ago: same goes with the Nuri upgrade. The government not being to afford things if bad enough; not being able to provide a rough time frame exacerbates things as it make it hard for the services to plan accordingly.

  22. @joe @Azlan
    The government ministers and MPs must be thoroughly briefed annually on the issues and controversies surrounding our defence and armed forces. Their apathy or ‘tidak apa’ attitude is partly due to their lack of understanding of what causes the Armed Forces to perennially demand ever increasing spending. At the same time, the Armed Forces must muster more effort to educate Joe Public on what the Armed Forces is going through and periodically send Information Teams to schools and communities at large. Perhaps this will help end public resistance (somewhat) to increased defence spendings.

  23. Using a one establish platform will bring alot more benefits rather than several platform.
    Heck, even with countries having their respective plugs/outlets and voltages/frequencies used
    for domestic appliances have cause us much in trouble. (unless u can get reliable and guaranteed universal socket of course). 😀

  24. Taib – ”The government ministers and MPs must be thoroughly briefed annually on the issues and controversies surrounding our defence and armed forces.”

    The issue is much more deep rooted than that. The politicians do get briefed and are aware of the state of the MAF and what it’s capable and incapable of. The state of the MAF is due to various reasons but it’s not due to polticians being unaware.

    Taib – ”Their apathy or ‘tidak apa’ attitude is partly due”

    It’s actually due to the fact that as in independent nation we have never been faced with a serious external threat. The one time we faced an external threat we had the backing of the Commonwealth.

    Taib – ”Perhaps this will help end public resistance (somewhat) to increased defence spendings.”

    Apart from the political angle; a reason is social/historical.

    The TNI and Thai Armed Forces are more public institutions which people can resonate/identify with – both hold wide influence and both at varying times have occupied power. In both countries politicians are also former generals or senior officers.

    The AFP and SAF as institution are also more deeply ingrained in the public/national pysche that the MAF is. In Singapore everyone has the shared experience of national service and for decades the PAP has constantly played a single defence related tune : a strong SAF is needed to keep Singapore’s neighbours away and that Singapore is a small island surrounded by much larger neighbours.

  25. Think of budget like a pie or cake. Cutting a bigger slice for ATM meant less to be shared among the rakyat esp the B40s. Even a cut of Rm50 /mth will be felt since its 2 rokok packs less. Politicians rides on these to town, see GE14.

    It is the safe route to maintain bare minimum therefore don’t expect anyone to rock the budgetary boat on this. Ever.

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