Upgrades at Pulau Layang-Layang

A RMN AW139 MOH approaching Pulau Layang-Layang in September 2022. The helikopter visited the five RMN stations in the Spratlys as part of its operational duties. RMN.

SHAH ALAM: The National Security Council or Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN) is upgrading the infrastructure and the aerodrome facilities at Pulau Layang-Layang or Stesen LIMA, Malaysia’s biggest facility on the Spratlys Island in the South China Sea.

The upgrading work was made public by the Defence Engineering Division of the Malaysian Armed Forces. It is likely similar work is being done on the other four stations in the chain though it was not mentioned in the division release (see below).

MKN and Defence Engineering Division personnel checking the runway at Pulau Layang-Layang.

It must be noted that MKN was allocated RM246 million in the 2024 Budget, compared to RM22 million in 2023 and RM23 million in 2022. I have no idea whether the extra budget is meant for the Stesen LIMA upgrade work as it must be noted that MKN has other priorities which it has not made public.
Pulau Layang-Layang as seen from a Special Forces operator conducting an exercise in early 2019. BTDM

The release published by BTDM:

LAWATAN KERJA KETUA PENGARAH BAHAGIAN PERKHIDMATAN KEJURUTERAAN PERTAHANAN (BPKP) KE PROJEK MENAIKTARAF DAN PENAMBAHBAIKAN AERODROME SERTA INFRASTRUKTUR DI PULAU LAYANG-LAYANG
PULAU LAYANG-LAYANG: Ketua Pengarah Bahagian Perkhidmatan Kejuruteraan Pertahanan (BPKP) Brig Jen Ir Thevendran CS Maniam dan Puan Hanifah Abdullah, Pengarah Bahagian Pembangunan Keselamatan (BPK) Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN) telah mengadakan lawatan kerja ke Pulau Layang-layang bagi meninjau Projek Menaiktaraf dan Penambahbaikan Aerodrome serta Infrastruktur di Pulau Layang-Layang pada 7 Nov 2023.
Terdahulu, ketibaan Ketua Pengarah BPKP disambut oleh Lt Kdr Mohd Shafiq Razian, Pegawai Memerintah Stesen Lima TLDM Pulau Layang-Layang. Lawatan ini yang turut dihadiri oleh wakil daripada TUDM bertujuan bagi meninjau baki kerja untuk menyiapkan landasan terbang, terminal penerbangan dan bilik mesyuarat yang sebelum ini telah dilaksanakan oleh pihak MKN. Selain itu, Ketua Pengarah BPKP bersama Pengarah BPK juga telah dibawa melihat Bangunan Menara Kawalan bagi meninjau kerosakan yang terdapat pada bangunan tersebut.
BPKP diberi kepercayaan untuk menyiapkan baki kerja pembinaan bangunan dan infrastruktur di pulau tersebut agar dapat membantu pasukan yang beroperasi melaksanakan tugas dengan efisyen bagi mengekalkan keselamatan dan kedaulatan sempadan Maritim negara.
– BAHAGIAN PERKHIDMATAN KEJURUTERAAN PERTAHANAN

Pulau Layang-Layang at the start of the reclamation work in 80s. One of the soldiers involved in the operation was former CDF TS Zulkifeli Zin. He was a major or captain during the operation. RMN

As the Defence Minister had told Dewan Rakyat recently that the ministry had proposed to station a long air surveillance radar on Stesen LIMA, one wonder whether this will be done so during the upgrading work.
A scale model of Mitsubishi TPS-80 air and surface surveillance radar. It is built on a 20-foot container for easier transportation and suitable for forward location. The 80E is the export version of the same radar used by the Japanese military. Used for illustration only. ATLA

— Malaysian Defence

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39 Comments

  1. Showing off the Mitsubishi TPS-80E hints at something. Perhaps we are expecting some donation from Japan again?

  2. Nope, as I mentioned as it used for illustration only due to its mobile nature which is suitable for installation on Pulau Layang-Layang as it could be operational within days of delivery. Furthermore, there is no need to build other infrastructure to support it. There are other similar radars which are also available for our needs.

  3. How about enlarging and extending the airstrip, include bombproof hangar and install skyguard/skyshield and Starstreak detachment on the outpost

  4. Marhalim – ”There are other similar radars which are also available for our needs.”

    To be a devil’s advocate; if indeed the radar is bought will it be operated standalone or integrated to the present setup; Labuan’s SOC? I would think a major problem would be the availability of sufficient power supply but then of course it won’t be running 24/7.

  5. They could install solar panels and extra wind turbines to generate electricity together with long lasting batteries to ensure 24 hour electricity.

  6. “There are other similar radars which are also available for our needs.”
    There was budgeted for a radar buy plus the US donated radar, was these part of the MKN proposal or is it something additional that wasnt brought up earlier?

    “They could install solar panels and extra wind turbines”
    For such a flat landmass with little protection from extreme weather (typhoons & squalls) its better to use underwater wave turbines generators as these are better protected.

  7. The recent PLA intrusion shows that by capturing Layang² it can divide the country into two sections. Which is why them gov is upgrading them. Idk if there will be an Iwo Jima style pillboxes or tunnels but we certainly need to beef it up & keep it secure.

  8. Qamarul – “The recent PLA intrusion shows that by capturing Layang² it can divide the country into two sections”

    No it doesn’t show that.

    BTW the PLA doesn’t have to “divide the country into two sections” as you put it but merely to deny us access to the reefs.

    Qamarul- “Which is why them gov is upgrading them”

    The upgrades are being done to improve conditions there and for other things. Not for the reason you mentioned.

    Qamarul – “& keep it secure”

    Not by any actual physical works on the reef but improving our ability to deploy sea and air power as best we can in line with our resources.

  9. Alex – “How about enlarging and extending the airstrip, include bombproof hangar and install skyguard/skyshield”

    – We can deploy a whole battery of S-400s and a para brigade there but won’t make a difference against a determined assault by a country which has sea and air power.
    – The RMN has divested itself of the surface to air role.

  10. Azlan- We can deploy a whole battery of S-400s and a para brigade there but won’t make a difference against a determined assault by a country which has sea and air power.

    By your thinking, we should give Layang-Layang to the Chinese.

  11. Akmal – ”By your thinking, we should give Layang-Layang to the Chinese.”

    Silly. Take some time to understand what context it was mentioned in before coming up with neither here nor there statements. Yes, unless you believe in miracles and the tooth fairy and Cinderella; against a determined enemy who has a quantitative and numerical superiority; as well as control of the air and sea domains; there is little we can actually do to prevent him from seizing our reefs if he’s determined to. That’s the reality; as opposed to fantasy …

    As for ”thinking”; have you actually displayed any?

  12. @Qamarul
    Its such a small strip of land, anything the size of a Chinese amphib invasion cannot be preventable. They have the might to even capture a few adjoining islets & reefs simultaneously. Layang2 is a FOB at best, not something a focal point for defence measures.

  13. Azlan- There is little we can actually do to prevent him from seizing our reefs if he’s determined to.

    Yes we can. Stop being a defeatist. By installing weapons on the reef, you can make the enemy think twice no matter how determined they are. If they are determined, the asshole CCP could have taken Taiwan now. But they didn’t because Taiwan are readying themselves like a porcupine. As for what you said about fantasy, they are derived from reality.

  14. Akmal – “can. Stop being a defeatist”

    Stop being a delusional fanboy.

    Sticking to the realms reality does not make one a “defeatist”.
    While your at it why not suggest playing patriotic songs all day long; laying minefields; going on a war footing and deploying a Para brigade to the area.

    Yes, unless you believe in miracles and the tooth fairy and Cinderella; against a determined enemy who has a quantitative and numerical superiority; as well as control of the air and sea domains; there is little we can actually do to prevent him from seizing our reefs if he’s determined to. That’s the reality; as opposed to fantasy .

    Akmal – “. But they didn’t because Taiwan are readying themselves like a porcupine”

    The situation Taiwan faces is very different from what we face ..
    Very different; if you want to make a direct comparison must well compare polar bears to badgers or a drag queen to a opera singer.

  15. Its 2023. No one does amphibious landing like WW2 anymore. If you see defensive positions, just blow them with naval guns. If not call in an air strike. If its China launch a few cruise missiles. But more importantly, how big do people think Layang-Layang is, and where do people think Layang-Layang is located? Its a small man made island created so Malaysia can have a permanenet presence to stake its EEZ claims, not because it is a chokepoint or island fortress. Its 300km of water from Kota Kinabalu – no ship no supplies. Layang-layang by itself is not defensible. You’re better of relying on ships to provide offensive or defensive capabilities.

  16. Kel,

    – With the exception of Layang Layang the rest are the size of a a few basketball courts.
    – One does not have to perform amphib assaults; no more Tarawas or Makins. One merely has to control the seas to deny access – our main worry.
    – You have a penchant for referring to “people”. Are you included? That’s the question.
    – We “are better off” focusing on our and sea capabilities; the best we can with the resources we have.
    – Most of the points raised have been covered before here.
    – Paragraphs make it easier for others to digest; rather than s large turd like blob.

  17. @Akmal
    “the asshole CCP could have taken Taiwan now”
    Might I remind you Taiwan has a legally binding alliance with USA and that Uncle Sam is obligated to come and rescue them if China invades? Plus USA has a lot of strategic & economic/technological dependency on that island? You’d think the reason was solely due to Taiwanese defence capabilities?

  18. There isnt a mutual defense agreement between US and Taiwan since US shifted recognition of China to Beijing. The current treaty only requires US government to provide Taiwan with access to military equipment. If China wanted to capture Taiwan it actually can do it today. But it will require use of weapons that would cause a lot of damage and deaths, and it will not look nice on the mainland no matter the spinning being done because they will be attacking and killing Chinese people.

  19. kel – ”There isnt a mutual defense agreement between US and Taiwan since US shifted recognition of China to Beijing. ”

    The U.S. has on multiple occasions made clear it will defend Taiwan. It can’t afford not to.

    kel – ” If China wanted to capture Taiwan it actually can do it today.”

    Save the rhetoric and assumptions Nostradamus. Crossing the Taiwan Straits and securing sea and air domain superiority is not easy and China also has to worry about economic affects.

  20. Building underground structures a problem on a reclaimed island. So the 8nfra must be well thought out, be of quality n maintained .
    Just having an island thats not well defended is not of much use.
    Stationing surface to surface / anti ship missiles is an option. So is stationing a battery of canons there. Defensive positions thats solid should be built.

  21. plenty of other ways to defend the island

    – having a dedicated Gowind Frigate as a guardship defending the area at all times
    – submarine patrols of the area
    – having a dedicated MALE UAV orbit in the area
    – permanent flight detachment of SU-30MKM in Labuan for QRA of the islands

  22. We should be focused on our ability to operate in the sea and air domain as best we can in line with our resources. We can deploy a whole brigade of paras there or a squadron of MBTs but it will come to nothing if we can’t control the surrounding seas and airspace. What do we do if we are are unable to supply our garrisons there; either by sea or air? That’s our biggest worry; not the possibility of a direct assault.

  23. No, US has not ever committed to defending Taiwan. It has only ever committed to supporting Taiwan’s ability to defend itself since shifting recognition to Beijing. That’s factual not emotional or rhetoric. It’s not rhetoric because people are not seeing the big picture. If you use the logic that US will defend Taiwan no matter the cost, it means 2 nuclear powers will be fighting. The same why US insists there will never be boots on the ground inside Ukraine because it will mean 2 nuclear powers fighting. The situation is different in Syria because neither the US nor Russia are engaged in a formal war – they are there to fight a third party (the US) and peacekeeping (the Russians). US knows it is unable to defend Taiwan today as demonstrated by its inability to deploy any CVBG to the area when China started its drills – unlike 2 CVBG in 1996 including one that sailed through the Taiwan Strait. I’m not sure where anyone got the idea that US policy is dictated by feelings and emotions. Rhetoric only if you constrain one’s thinking to narrow assumptions on how the war would be fought and misunderstanding of China’s objectives for Taiwan – China ranks reunification above economic interests. But whatever interest will still be subservient to the idea that China will end up killing Chinese people. Its ok, just as with many topics, sometimes it takes longer to process ideas, but it usually appens – such as sustainment, industrial base, the system, defining the mission and intent, concept of national power, etc.

  24. @kel
    Actually they had one before
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-American_Mutual_Defense_Treaty

    And while the current agreement no longer compels them legally, its largely understandable that Uncle Sam will come to their aid, perhaps short of actual direct engagement with PLA.

    This cannot be compared with Ukraine situation as USA does not have the same agreements with them. Nor the same in Syria where USA has no direct boots on ground, at least officially.

  25. Kel,

    Are you one of those “people”? If anything you should start looking at the “big picture”.
    Ta as usual for your Clausewitz/Moltke like analysis but paragraphs instead of turd like blobs make it easier.

    The U.S. has no choice but to defend Taiwan; its interest and credibility is in the line; its allies/partners are watching. You also assume that it’s given is that China will succeed; unaware that crossing a water obstacle is not easy; especially when one also has to control a the air and sea domain. The Taiwanese are weak in comparison to the PLA but they aren’t exactly toothless. What happens if the the PLA achieve beachheads but can’t resupply or not expand them? The enemy too has a vote and the Chinese can’t afford to fail; the very existence of the party would be at risk in the event of Chinese failure.

    The situation in Taiwan is wholly different compared to Syria and the Ukraine. For the U.S. the Pacific region is of far more importance compared to Europe and the Middle East and unless you have an oracle don’t assume the U.S. won’t fight over Taiwan. Sobered and objective research would show this.

    On your “I’m not sure where anyone got the idea that US policy is dictated by feelings and emotions” – who said or implied that and where? You aware of what you say are you not?

    Also, China may “ranks reunification above economic interests” but the PLA doesn’t run on fresh air/rhetoric and China is concerned; having seen what’s happened to Russia; with regards to the sanctions and external support.

  26. Hi, abang2 semua. Just want to chip in regarding US’ defense of Taiwan.

    I don’t think we can equate Taiwan’s situation with Ukraine, as far as the US is concerned. Doesn’t matter if Taiwan has any formal treaties with the US or not. America’s very own hegemony is at stake, when it comes to China.

    There is no incentive for US to intervene directly in Ukraine, because the US does not see Russia as posing any existential threat to itself. The US real focus is on China. China is the only entity that has the potential to end American global hegemony.

    I think China also realizes this. In their leaders’ minds, the day that they make a move for Taiwan, would be the day that could trigger WW3 with the US. It is not an action to be taken lightly. Coupled with the believe that China could out-develop the US, it is in China’s interest to delay any Taiwan move as far into the future as possible.

  27. Shonen – “I don’t think we can equate Taiwan’s situation with Ukraine, as far as the US is concerned”

    Indeed we can’t but some have when they shouldn’t.

    Shonen – “It is not an action to be taken lightly”

    No it isn’t. Failure could lead to the very end of the Chinese Communist Party. Externally China’s prestige would get a huge dent.

    Shonen – “China is the only entity that has the potential to end American global hegemony”

    And the Indo Pacific is in the U.S’s backyard. Not only that but not acting over Taiwan will have affects globally – the strategic calculus as has existed since 1945 when the U.S. became the dominant global power will change. In the region South Korea; Japan and others will question American resolve. They might also start getting getting nukes.

  28. P.S.

    Decades ago the U.S. risked nuclear war with the Soviets over Cuba. There’s nothing to say it won’t risk war with China over Taiwan; especially given that maintaining the status quo is crucial to American interests.

  29. Wargames has been done for a long time. Each iteration or evolution, it becomes increasingly difficult for the US to win conventionally in Taiwan. Not just militarily but other domains as well. Example of a recent one:

    https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2023/01/csis-wargame-chinas-invasion-of-taiwan-in-2026/

    Also I understand people still look at deterrence from the lens of winning in a slugfest. As mentioned before, and articulated in the wargame, deterrence is not about winning in a slugfest. Its making it too costly to take action. The wargame explained deterrence from the perspective of military. Deterrence is also achieved economically, diplomatically, and through the control of information flow – i.e., it doesn’t look good when hundred and thousands of fellow Chinese died in Taiwan from China weapons.

    By the way, there are two things that the world found out from the Russia invasion of Ukraine. One, China basically called US’s bluff about defending Taiwan. Until the Ukraine invasion, it was never tested how committed the US is with defending a country it has no legal obligation to defend. The US made it very clear in the early days they will not be drawn into a military conflict with a nuclear power – meaning the US will not be drawn into a conventional war with a nuclear power unless legally obligated to do so. Ever wonder why China is more assertive with its military drills around Taiwan, and in SCS? Two, sanctions don’t work unless one is willing to go all out. But one cannot go all out because there is too much interdependence – too damaging to both sides. People might not realise it, but the US and the West still do a lot of business with Russia. The West place no restriction on Russian rare earths and uranium for example. The west also continues to buy Russian oil and gas directly or indirectly. The US also did not sanction China and India for buying Russia oil and gas, nor did it sanction India for continuing to buy Russian military equipment.

    Perhaps people read the US sanctions and restrictions on China’s technology sector and read news of China technology sector struggles as signs of effectiveness. Guess what, Boeing still sells commercial jets to China. Raytheon still sells commercial jet engines to China. Tesla has a Gigafactory in China. China is Apple’s second most important market. McDonald’s, Starbucks and Nike are big in China. Intel and AMD continue to sell processors to China. US still buys a lot of rare earth from China.

  30. Yes, it is by no means a certainty for the US to win a conventional war over the Pacific against China. In fact, at this moment, the US has the highest chances of winning such a war if it’s prepared to have it go all the way to nuclear. Because of the superiority of America’s nuclear stockpile number and it’s delivery systems.

    Also, China didn’t “call the US’s bluff” over Ukraine. If anything, it reinforces the idea that US’ true focus is China. The US is unwilling to be dragged too deep into the Ukraine conflict precisely because it needs to reserve its best assets in a future conflict with China.

    In fact, the US is so laser focused, that it’s willing to cannibalise its European allies just so that it remains relatively unscathed over the Ukraine debacle.

    Also, we can already see that the US is willing to sacrifice over 1 million of its citizens to COVID, once again so that it can prop up its stock markets and finances.

    One shudders to think what America is willing to resort to if it’s over a conflict that could result in the dismantling of US hegemony. What it’s capable of resorting if the conflict could mean the end of the dollar as a reserve currency.

  31. Kel – “Wargames has been done for a long time”

    Not only wargames but deep analytical studies. Some say the PLA can do it; some say they can’t. All however agree nothing is written in stone and both sides will not have it easy.

    The PLA has made massive improvements over the years but the last time it saw combat was in 1979 and it has no experience of waging joint multi domain ops. That is not too say however that the PLA will fail if an invasion is launched. There is also nothing to say that despite still enjoying a qualitative edge in various areas; that the U.S. will prevail.

    Kel – “Also I understand people still look at deterrence from the lens of winning in a slugfest”

    The question is are you of the “people” you perpetually refer to and how are you looking at things? Yes things have to be looked at it totality but everyone has their biases.

    Kel – “Guess what, Boeing still sells commercial jets to China.”

    What’s surprising? There isn’t a state of war between both countries and despite some restrictions; trade still exists. If the U.S. ceases all exports of everything and anything that has a dual use; the economy would be affected.

    To put things short: both countries can’t back down; too much at stake. It’s also silly to suggest that just because China is a nuke power that the Americans will back back down or that just because the Americans didn’t put the proverbial “boots on the ground” in the Ukraine that the same applies to Taiwan. If China takes Taiwan and gets away with it; the world will never be the same. The strategic calculus which has existed since 1945 will no longer be there.

  32. I don’t think there’s a need for runway extension but with the installation of long range radar, we should uparm the defensive capacity of the island. I guess there’s manpads stored somewhere on the island but how if we put Jernas on the island when the new MR-SAM is bought.

    Also we should look into deploying UAVs on pulau Layang2. Something along the line of TB-2 or at least something larger than Fulmar or CW-25 that the army is getting.

  33. I know. Like I said something bigger along the line of TB-2 or Hermes 450(which is nigh unobtainium but you know what I mean)

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