Saying Nothing At All

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) conducts routine operations near drillship West Capella, May 12. (U.S. Navy/FCC Shaun Tucker)

SHAH ALAM: Saying nothing at all. Even as the Malaysian government continue its silence over China’s show of muscles in the South China Sea, the US continued with its Freedom of Navigation and overflights by its forces. Although RMN and APMM ships are patrolling the areas in SCS our determination not to say anything about it, clearly indicate our preference not to ruffle any feathers to both side of the fence.

The latest US Navy FONOP in SCS was on May 12 barely a week after the previous one. And there was this one too. And the ship, Panamian drillship, West Cappela.thats the main reason for the current conundrum is clearly the focal point of the latest FONOP as shown by the pictures below.

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) conducts routine operations near the Panamanian flagged drillship, West Capella, May 12. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Brenton Poyser)

US Navy release.

SOUTH CHINA SEA – A U.S. Navy ship conducted presence operations near Panamanian flagged drillship, West Capella, May 12.

The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) operated in the southern South China Sea marking the second time that an LCS patrolled there since USS Montgomery (LCS 8) sailed with USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14), May 7, supporting freedom of navigation and overflight.

“The versatility and flexibility of Independence-variant littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Southeast Asia is a game changer,” said Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “Like Montgomery’s previous operations, Gabrielle Giffords’ operations near West Capella demonstrate the depth of capability the U.S. Navy has available in the region.”

“There is no better signal of our support for a free and open Indo-Pacific than positive and persistent U.S. naval engagement in this region,” Kacher added.

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Bill Merz reaffirmed that the U.S. Navy will fly, sail and operate in the South China Sea wherever international law permits at any time.

“Routine presence operations, like Gabrielle Giffords’, reaffirms the U.S. will continue to fly and sail freely, in accordance with international law and maritime norms, regardless of excessive claims or current events,” said Merz. “The U.S. supports the efforts of our allies and partners in the lawful pursuit of their economic interests.”

The U.S. Navy remains vigilant, is committed to a rules-based order in the South China Sea, and will continue to champion freedom of the seas and rule of law while opposing the Chinese Communist Party’s coercive and unlawful actions.

In late-April, USS America (LHA 6), USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and USS Barry (DDG 52) sailed together with the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), signaling U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific to allies and partners in the region.

Attached to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, Gabrielle Giffords is on a rotational deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability, and prevent conflict.

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) operates near West Capella, May 12. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Brenton Poyser)

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) conducts routine operations near drillship West Capella, May 12. (U.S. Navy/FCC Shaun Tucker)

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2185 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. As a note, the USS Gabrielle Giffords is one of the first warships to be armed with the NSM missile.

    I must say that the continued presence of US navy is one of the reasons why the west capella is still there at the location drilling for oil for Petronas.

  2. So like, should we be okay with USA intruding into SCS but not okay when China does the same?

  3. We may not have said anything publicly but like in the past; we may have issued protests via silent back door channels. At times dealing with bilateral issues silently may be result in the status quo being maintained rather than things escalating.

    On USN FONOPS; they are intended mainly at China to show that the U.S. does not recognise its claims but in reality they are also intended to show that any claims but any claimant which restricts access to international waters; will not be tolerated.

  4. @ joe

    You have to really understand what UNCLOS law is, and what EEZ is.


    – EEZ is a space where the coastal country have exclusive economic rights to that area. Economic activity includes petroleum extraction, minerals extraction, fishing rights, etc.
    – EEZ usually extends 200NM from our coast.
    – Other countries cannot do economic activities in our EEZ, that includes fishing (which vietnam and china are rampantly doing in our EEZ), oil exploration like sesimic studies the Chinese ship is doing around west capella
    – What they could do is a free innocent passage of ships in the EEZ, as the EEZ is considered high seas and not a part of a nations territory. Why USA is doing FONOPS, is to reinforce this fact. Passing through is allowed, but loitering for long periods and harassing economic activities like what Chinese coast guard is doing is IMO against the spirit of UNCLOS. Why you see US Navy ships never stops or loiter at any area.
    – China 9 dash line says that the south china sea is china’s territory. Why I think we should describe the chinese action as colonizing our seas. I would also suggest KDN to monitor and destroy all atlas and globes made in china that is sold in malaysia, as most show the 9-dash line on it.

  5. joe “So like, should we be okay with USA intruding into SCS but not okay when China does the same?”

    There is a lot of difference in what the two countries are doing.

    China claims that it possesses the features within the nine dash line on the claimed basis of historical discovery, and that those features it deems to be islands generate territorial waters (12nm surrounding which are considered sovereign territory) and EEZs (200nm surrounding within which countries have exclusive economic rights). In addition, it seeks to redefine the concept of innocent passage as defined by UNCLOS, under which foreign ships and aircraft may transit. This means it seeks to block and interfere with our economic activity and potentially right to transit, within what we claim as our territorial waters and EEZ.

    The US does not claim to possess features in the South China Sea and does not recognise China’s claims nor its right to redefine the concept of innocent passage. As such, it performs transits within 12nm of China’s claims and in doing so, does not seek to interfere with our economic activity and right to transit.

  6. @joe

    If you were in charge of RMN and to procure ships for modernisation of RMN and MMEA, what is your opinion that we do? What’s your wish list?

  7. That lie the problem with the chinese..They blatantly disregard the unclos and once said that unclos ruling is non binding like when unclos ruled that china got no right to claim the scs from the philiphines back then..Like it or not we must take measure to ensure this will not happen again..whatever it is..station bm5 permenantly there for example at the edge of our eez waters..sure bm5 alone cant stop plan n ccg to invade our waters but at least we got to maintain our presence there..If not then maybe the chinese think that we will bow down to them and if that happen, im afraid we will lose as much as 3/5 of our eez waters..

  8. I think Malaysia welcomes US presence there, and historically Malaysia is closer to the US than China, save for some hiccups courtesy of the previous PM.

    I really hope this is a wake up call to modernise our forces.

  9. ASM – “historically Malaysia is closer to the US than China””

    Indeed. Unlike other countries we don’t go out of our way to ingratiate ourselves with Uncle Sam and we don’t widely publicise the defence relationship. Ironically it was Mahathir who brought the bilateral defence relationship to a new level during a visit to the Pentagon in 1984.

    Contrary to some misconceptions some have; exercises like Cope Taufan, Keris Strike, CARAT, SEACAT and others are of great benefit to us. Not too mention the other forms of engagements we have with the U.S. military.

  10. @Daniel
    The question would start from what are the roles and responsibilities of TLDM & MMEA (and Marine Police to that effect). IMHO both TLDM & MMEA should have peace time responsibilities to perform safeguarding & constabulary duties but with clearly defined area of jurisdiction. For MMEA, they have the role to perform patrols, interdiction, boarding & seizing, arrests, & other law enforcement duties from say 10miles inwards from shore & up til 200miles towards the seas and includes riverine patrols.

    This is where I would have absorbed Marine Police into MMEA and give them equal jurisdiction powers par with PDRM. For that purpose, I would greatly increase MMEA presence on the shoreline from bases at seaside kampungs or towns or strategic islands, conducting patrols & interdiction with fast boats. Further out to sea would be handled by MMEA NGPC & Damen OPVs, they are suitably configured but we need more of them.

    Do MMEA need large OPVs? Sure, if their intention is to intimidate and strike fear, much like US SWAT moves into theater via APCs and MRAPs. Otherwise a couple based toward open seas like SCS would be useful for patrols during monsoon seasons & storms, thereby ensuring we have constant watch.

    My goal for MMEA is law enforcement role, constant presence, fast reaction to situations which will involve them.

    For TLDM, their peacetime responsibilities is pretty much the same constabulary role but from 200miles and out towards open seas. I would stick to the 15-to-5 plan with fleet made of Maharajalelas, LMS, MRSS, Scorpene. I am not too keen on continuing the NGPV if they are priced as the last built. This should be reduced down by 30-40% or else replaced with more modern & price competitive ships. The Maharajalelas would perform multiple duties as GP frigate, AD frigate, ASub frigate, based on different equipment & weapons they are fitted out for. If I could and money not an objective, I would trade 1 for 1 the Maharajalelas for Formidables.

    The LMS to me, should form the bulk of the TLDM replacing the FACs, corvettes, minesweeper & even NGPV roles. This can be done by leveraging their sheer numbers & flexibility of the various mission modules which we should develop to fulfill these roles. Another role I could envision is PASKAL ELINT & insertion force on surface targets.

    I also envision 3 MRSS, each based at East Coast, West Coast, & Sabah/Sarawak for the purpose of rapid response to military deployments or humanitarian and disaster relief operations at each side of the coast.

    Another bugbear is MPA operations. My take is for this job to be run solely by TLDM, with pilots trained from their rotary airwing. These could be either based at TUDM airbases but managed by TLDM personnel or at TLDM onshore bases enhanced with runways. I have no preference on the plane type, either ATR72 or CN-235/295 or Hercs would do fine as we are familiar with them one way or another.

    My vision for TLDM is peacetime constabulary role non-overlap with MMEA, but a highly flexible force with maximising punch for a smallish. It won’t defeat a larger and better equipped adversary but it should give it a heck of a bloody nose.

  11. ” I would also suggest KDN to monitor and destroy all atlas and globes made in china that is sold in malaysia, as most show the 9-dash line on it.”

    Whenever the issue comes up, there is no shortage of our own people attacking our claim. We should send some of them to jail.

  12. Funny isn’t it Malaysia is a maritime nation surrounded by the sea but we don’t have Marines.

    There was never a need for them

  13. Melayu Ketinggalan,

    Threat perceptions and operational requirements.

    One also doesn’t necessarily need marine units just because operating areas are near the sea.

  14. @Azlan

    “Ironically it was Mahathir who brought the bilateral defence relationship to a new level during a visit to the Pentagon in 1984.”

    True..also I wished he had reconsider getting more Hornets during his tenure, considering how good the ROI all these years. Although his spat with the US later on during the Clinton years was due to Anwar getting sacked. I also don’t blame him for being wary of the US when they openly supported Anwar as well against him; also during that period US imposed sanctions on Indonesia as well ( Timor Leste case, probably) that caused Indonesian F-16s to be grounded.

    ” Contrary to some misconceptions some have; exercises like Cope Taufan, Keris Strike, CARAT, SEACAT and others are of great benefit to us. Not too mention the other forms of engagements we have with the U.S. military.”

    Indeed. Some of the operations done by the US were literally learnt in blood as they were not conducted in the same scale previously (like Normandy landings, Okinawa ,Midway etc). The fact that we are able to learn how to perform these operations without losing men and equipment is really a great plus.

    Judging from overall sentiment these past years, I think Malaysians themselves prefer US over China. We can see the difference to the attention given during Obama’s and Xi Jinping’s visits here

  15. I’d like the RMN to be equipped with many 2500 tonnes, 110m class ships, armed with ESSM, MM-40, RAM and black shark. How much would that costs?

    Many? How many?

  16. @Melayu Ketinggalan
    Look at the traditional context of Marines operation elsewhere, its mostly for offensive roles; storming beachheads, lightning invasions, land offensive operations, etc. Malaysia being neutral and non-aligned, has no need for Marines in that context.

    @Hornet Lover
    What you want is not too dissimilar with Maharajalela which can easily be fitted for these weapons (except Blackshark). So why do we need another new ship class to perform similarly?

  17. i second hornet’s idea..the platform is there in kedah class nearing 2000 tonnes..Just arm them accordingly like as asw corvette and or asuw corvette with rolling airframe missile, exocet block 3, torp tube, ciws/rws and possibly small asw rocketlauncher..i like rmn to get 8 or at least 6 of this small corvette..They are also included in RMN’s 15 to 5 transformation plan, the more reason we should add them in our inventory..A well/adequately armed corvettes is much more logical/intimidating than a big gun opv..

  18. @ firdaus

    Kedah class

    As it is right now – usd300 million
    Add rolling airframe missile, exocet block 3, torp tube, ciws/rws and possibly small asw rocket launcher – usd100 million
    Towed variable depth sonar?

    So you need to spend at least usd400 million there. And will still be a slow 24 knot, 2000 tonne ship, not a frigate.

    So to buy 6 of those will cost usd2.4 billion!!! You can get for that money
    – 3x Gowinds usd1.4 billion and
    – 18x Damen 1800 OPV usd1 billion or 32x L&T 2000 tonne OPV or 26x 4000 tonne Korean OPV×682.jpg

    So do you still think it is a good idea for more kedah class ship?

    ” A well/adequately armed corvettes is much more logical/intimidating than a big gun opv ”
    I hope you are not in charge of anything to do with our diplomatic relations. Do you see any big guns on the large Chinese Coast Guard OPVs? No. What can you do if you are fully armed but just a tiny corvette? Shoot a missile and sink the OPV? Do you want to start a war? That big OPV can ram you and sink you and say that you started the harassment, without having to shot any bullets or missiles. You need to hold your turf, not to shoot anyone.

  19. “Many? How many?”

    If possible, I want 18, 6 for each wilayah laut. I also want 24 saar 5 corvettes! How nice it is to be able to dream, lol….

    Btw, I read from wikipedia that the SGPV has a ceiling price of USD 466M each. Does that include all the electronics and weapon systems? The reason I ask is because the Iver-Huitfeldt costs USD 325M only. Assuming it’s a kosong ship (hull+engines+comms maybe), there’s still USD 141 M left for the electronics and weapon systems. Indonesia is offered 2 at a price of USD 720M only, so I guess the USD 325M price is not so ‘kosong’. Sigh…

  20. So we pay for meko 100 blueprint just for 6 ships? Critical thinking there..But still they still included in RMN’s 15 to 5 transformation plan..So theres that.

  21. @ hornet lover

    Why do we need 18 Kedah class? Why not 18 Damen 1800 OPV for MMEA instead?

    On the question of additional OPVs for MMEA and if we can afford it?

    IMO we can afford additional OPVs for MMEA. Yes even if the annual development expenditure (DE) is maintained at around RM410-460 million per year throughout the RMK12 and RMK13. For 2019 the MMEA DE was RM469 milion, while for 2020 the DE is RM414 million. Say its RM440 million, that is already RM4.4 billion for 10 years, around USD1 billion.

    Pure OPVs does not cost much. The current MMEA Damen OPV1800 costs USD56 milion each.×465.jpg

    The Larsen and Toubro Vikram class OPV just cost USD32 million each (IMO one of a few good things we can get from India). The vessels are approximately 97 meters long, displace 2,140 tons and have a range of 5,000 nautical miles. They can attain a sustained speed of up to 26 knots. It is equipped with a helicopter hangar and sailed with a crew of 102 persons.

    Our neighbours indonesian coast guard BAKAMLA 80m OPVs made in Batam costs just USD16 million each!

    Or we could order some of these Tae Pyung Yang-class OPVs from South Korea. It has a length of 140m with a full displacement of about 4,000 tonnes. Each cost about usd37 million

    To take that into perspective, the smaller TLDM LMS68 costs USD60 million each. Kedah Class costs USD300 million each. Those OPVs are of the same size of the Kedah Class OPVs of TLDM. So let MMEA buy those OPVs, clearing TLDM budget to be able to rearrange the additional gowind and submarine build schedules forward (to RMK 13 2026-2030)

    Back to MMEA. We have paid for 3 DAMEN OPVs in RMK11. Up to 2030 IMO we should get a batch 2 of the damen OPV, then 6 of the Larsen and Toubro Vikram class OPV. That would be additional 9 OPVs into the MMEA fleet. The total cost of these ships would come to USD304 million. So we can actually get 9 OPVs for around the cost of 1 NGPV. So that answers the question if MMEA can afford additional OPVs.

    So by 2030 Malaysia could have
    6 Larsen and Toubro OPV
    6 NGPV
    6-9 Gowind
    2 Lekiu F2000
    2 Kasturi FFG

    Why i prefer all OPVs to MMEA? In serious conflict situations, an OPV, even armed with SAM and ASM has very small chance of surviving. OPVs will sit out of a serious conflict to save them from being destroyed. Want well armed ships? Get proper frigates like gowinds instead.

    There will be a need for both OPVs and Frigates. But there should be a clear difference in capabilities and use of both, and we need to make sure not to over spec the OPV to do something it cannot.

    In malaysia’s situation, a fleet of around 20 OPVs (with MMEA) and 12 Frigates (with TLDM) will give our seas and EEZ at sea deployment of around 10 OPVs and Frigates at all times. This of course will be supported by smaller ships like the NGPC, LMS and FICs. We need to consolidate both MMEA Pelan Perancangan Strategik Maritim Malaysia 2040 (PPSMM 2040) and TLDM 15 to 5 plan as a comprehensive malaysian maritime defence strategy.

    Iver Huitfeldt price is basically all complete except for most of the weapons, as it is cannibalized from previous ships. See my previous post on this

    What I think TLDM should be in the future

    IMO in all we should have 9 Gowinds, then 4 Type 31 as a replacement of Lekiu and Kasturi class frigates.

    KD Maharaja Lela 2501
    KD Sharif Mashor 2502
    KD Raja Mahadi 2503
    KD Mat Salleh 2504
    KD Tok Janggut 2505
    KD Mat Kilau 2506
    KD Laksamana Tun Abdul Jamil 2507
    KD Laksamana Muhammed Amin 2508
    KD Laksamana Tan Pusmah 2509

    Type 31
    KD Lekir
    KD Kasturi
    KD Lekiu
    KD Jebat

    @ firdaus

    We last build the meko 100 more than 10 years ago. Should we stop building gowinds and build meko 100? Or should we use the same budget of one meko 100 to buy 6-12 same sized coast guard OPV instead? Or do you like to volunteer to pay more taxes like i have suggested to you before?

  22. @…

    I think you’ve mistakenly took my reply as someone else’. I never said we need 18 Meko 100, I was replying to Marhalim’s question of how many hypothetical fully armed 2500 tonnes frigates.

    As for the overpriced objects that we’re getting, I’m the one always objecting RMN getting the LMS 68 for its’ extravaganza price! But we all know why and where the extra money was needed and will need to make one round to fill some holes.

    Back to the SGPV, is the 466M ceiling price all inclusive? If not there’s more reason we should get the Iver Huifeldt.

  23. So any thought on why we pay for meko100 blueprint in the first place? And why they are still included in 15 to 5 plan cuz im pretty sure the guys at RMN knew what they doing? Or maybe they not?

  24. @ hornet lover

    The usd466 million should be the all inclusive price. I see a need for the iver huitfeldt, but not for the majority of our frigates. I still believe that we need at least 9 gowinds for its size for littoral missions and its ASW capability.

    @ firdaus
    We bought the blueprints for many things. Md3-180 aerotiga, meko 100, gowind 3100, av8 gempita to name a few. A fully armed meko 100 will cost nearly as much as a gowind. A kosong meko 100 can buy 6-12 Coast guard spec OPV of the same size. So why we still need to build the meko 100? Because we wasted money in the past, we should continue wasting money in the future?

    The original want was a replacement 1 to 1 of all vospers with meko 100, 27 ships in all which actually not based on capability studies or even budgetary availability. We would have not been able to buy any submarines and gowinds and tldm would be just a glorified coast guard force if we really go down the path of 27 meko 100.

    RMN wanted 27 NGPV to replace all of its patrol forces. It was the government which decided to buy the Meko A100 for the project knowingly full well that the ship was the most expensive option for the project. Hence culling the project goal as the start. Some 30 years later we still have not replaced the patrol boats.
    When the NGPV was envisaged there was no MMEA and Marine police role was very limited

  25. @ marhalim

    Correct there was no MMEA then. It exists now, so tldm should not plan its future without taking the MMEA into account. Some 30 years later yes we still haven’t got the opv numbers, but with proper planning (ie buying damen 1800 opv and such) we can get it done in the next 5-10 years.

    Unless the government says it can leave the patrol duties to MMEA, RMN has to shoulder the burden of doing so. As it is the fact that they want to spend money to upgrade 40 50 year old patrol boats meant that for at least for another 15 years RMN will still continue have to do so

  26. Im not saying that we should add more kedahs per se, just armed the 6 that already in service cuz our main surface combatant was already not enough from the start..Lekius with outdated seawolf,exo block 2, kasturi with only exo block 2,laksamana just a gun boat nowadays..If its really cost that much to fully armed them pership then just put rim on 3 ship n exo block 3 on another 3 ship..not rim and exo pership..The indonesian already mocked us saying their ex-nakhoda ragam corvettes are better armed than our main frigates as of now, the lekius.

  27. @ marhalim

    The tldm plans should be a stopgap to support a proper patrol ship fleet under the MMEA. Those stopgap plans should not meant that building more brand new coast guard ships is not needed. With the current levels of development expenditure spending, we should afford to have brand new replacements of those FACs under MMEA in the shape of further NGPC or ships of similar size like the Korean patrol ship picture below. We have the money to do this, it can be done if you enable the proper force to buy equipments that would do constabulary duties as its main task. Yes extending the lives of the FACs is needed in the current circumstances, but future tldm plans should move towards becoming a lean fighting force that could give a fight to bigger navies in the region. We cannot afford to have tldm wasting precious budget getting usd60 million patrol ship or usd300 million OPV, money that could instead be spent on more frigates and submarines.

    @ firdaus

    What we need to stem the tide of Chinese Coast Guard Ships is not by heavily arming our ships but to have more ships on the water. Spending money to arm the kedahs won’t deter the Chinese coast guard as they know we would be the aggressor and they can act as a victim if we use our navy ships to shoot at their coast guard ships.

  28. @…
    Aggressive manoeuvres with intention to ram another ship can be perceived to be an act of aggression in the same way as firing off the bow at a another ship, and if you ram and sink it…. oh boy.

  29. Another thing need to consider that CCG’s ships is not like other country’s CG ships in term of sheer size and quantity..They even armed their biggest CG ship 3901 (the biggest CG ship to date) with a proper 75mm naval gun and even ship in some missile or countermeasure on it.Im not suggesting that we,under no circumstances to shoot them down, ofcos not but they are clearly way into our waters.We need to act accordingly and convey our warning and some kind of resolution to them.So they will not invade our waters as they like in the future.How come they claim waters that way off their coastline just because that imaginary dash line.

  30. a nice point of view

    We have the option to control and affect 2 major chokepoints in international sea lines of communication (SLOC). Anti Access/Area Denial (AA/AD) operations can hugely affect the world’s economy. Thinking like a pirate is basically an asymmetric option to influence the outcome of a conflict. For example hit and run tactics by minisubs, land based highy mobile antiship missiles, long range maritime strike fighters, laying intelligent mines, can take the fight to a bigger adversary.

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