KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — Procurement of several new assets by the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) need to be expedited through Budget 2023, to be tabled this Oct 7,  to safeguard the country’s economic security and sovereignty.

International defence and security expert Prof Dr Adam Leong Kok Wey said although the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) was having issues over the delay in its littoral combat ship (LCS) project, the procurement of new smaller littoral mission ships (LMS) would be critical to enable the RMN to patrol the country’s maritime economic security effectively, such as in the South China Sea.

“Maritime security issues are very critical for the country today, especially in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea. Our EEZ area is large… to patrol all areas especially when there are overlapping claims, including by China…we need additional assets.

“The EEZ gives a country the right to explore and use its marine resources. Unfortunately, many fishermen from foreign countries have encroached into our EEZ. Foreign coastal patrol boats and naval ships are also reported to often enter the area,” he told Bernama recently.

The RMN was currently operating with four LMS, he said, but added that he was made to understand that ATM Commander Gen Tan Sri Affendi Buang had registered the project on the acquisition of the LMS, which is capable of carrying out various missions, such patrolling, surveying and surveillance of maritime areas, in the Third Rolling Plan of the 12th Malaysia Plan.

On the procurement of 18 light combat aircraft (LCA) for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), Leong said he hoped that there would not be any delay in the purchase by the Defence Ministry.

 “The RMAF needs the LCA to train fighter jet pilots in supersonic flight and air warfare tactics compared to the multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA), such as the F/A-18D Hornet and Sukhoi Su-30MKM. The operating cost of LCA is also much cheaper.

“It is also an early step to prepare pilots with sufficient skills and experience before handling the MRCA assets in the future which will be empowered through the RMAF Capability Development 2055 or CAP55,” he said.

He referred to the capability of the LCA Hawk 208 subsonic aircraft in intercepting 16 Chinese military transport IL-76 and Xian Y-20 aircraft that entered the Malaysian Maritime Zone airspace and approached the country’s airspace last May 31.

This proves the procurement of the LCA is necessary, he said.

“The LCA aircraft is dual-functional as it can be used for training purposes and at the same time for patrol and to intercept any threat of foreign air force invasion.

“Thus, in order to support the national defence policy that is based on concentric deterrence strategy, it is appropriate that ATM be equipped with sophisticated assets. It will also ensure the country’s sovereignty and interests are safeguarded,” said Leong, who is also the director of the Centre for Defence Studies and International Security, Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia.

He also expressed the need for a large percentage of the 2023 Budget for defence be allocated on maintaining the optimal level of operation of existing assets through allocations for maintenance and repair work.

This was agreed to by defence and geostrategic analyst Muhammad Fuad Mat Noor who opined that the Malaysian Army’s (TDM) action plan through three principles and 5 pillars (3P+5T) was the best example.

“The emphasis on the first pillar of TDM which is to increase firepower, mobility, communication, cyber and logistics capabilities based on the alignment of existing assets clearly shows the importance of maintaining the level of usability of current assets at an optimal level.

“There is no denying the need for ATM to acquire new assets, but with the delay in the LCS project it proves that focus must also be given to overhauling and maintaining the current assets so that they remain functioning well until the new assets arrive,” he added.

According to him, existing assets need to be able to function well until the realignment of CAP55 and the 15 To 5 (15-5) RMN Transformation Programme, one of which involves the LCS, can be done.

“Maintain existing assets and even though 61 per cent of the RMN’s assets have reached their age limit, the KD Lekir’s ability to launch an EXOCET MM40 missile right at the target in the waters of Hawaii, United States of America, on July 12 is proof that an old asset can still function effectively. if well-maintained.

“The Malaysian Army’s 105mm LG1 MK III cannon also still has good tactical capabilities even though it is obsolete. So, it doesn’t matter if it is an asset for land, sea or air, if it continues to be well maintained, it will continue to function,” he added.


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