General Datuk Raja Mohamed Affandi Bin Raja Mohamed Noor, Chief of the Malaysian Army, spoke to Shephard about how the service is overcoming the difficulties of the current fiscal environment and is planning for the future.
‘The army is looking into all aspects when it comes to capability development. But we are trying to be practical by prioritising the capability to be developed and what needs to be done. It is the question of availability of funds against the needs.’
Some mobility procurement programmes are progressing, such as the development of the DefTech AV-8 8x8 AFVs.
‘Currently, the AV-8 programme is progressing as per the project implementation schedule, and the Army Project Team is following closely to ensure that the two sealed patterns, namely the IFV 25mm and AFV 30mm are completed by this year,’ he continued. ‘The operational mechanised battalions using the Radpanzer Condor [4x4 APCs] will have them replaced by AV-8 platforms in the future.’
According to Affandi, there is also the possibility of medium-lift and attack helicopters for the army. ‘The development plans for Malaysian Army Aviation are part of the Army Strategic Development Plan – Army 2 10 Plus 10, which includes a plan to procure both types of helicopters into the service. These platforms are force multipliers that would enhance the army deployments for operations. Currently, project teams have been established to study the appropriate and suitable platform.’
Although he did not state any specific timeframe for these programmes, the development plan covers the period 2010-2020.
Another ongoing modernisation programme is the Army’s Future Soldier System – known as Soldier Advanced Kombat Technology Integrated. It is being jointly developed by the army, Malaysia’s Sapura Group and the MoD’s Science Technology Research Institute for Defence research arm.
Affandi said the programme is in the development stage, which will be completed by the end of 2014. ‘Once this is finalised, the expansion of this system will be extended to the infantry arms in stages,’ he said.
Other programmes being looked at aim at enhancing the army’s fire power and target acquisition capabilities, but these depend on the availability of funds. Affandi said that the service has listed some self-propelled artillery available in the market as possible acquisition candidates, and is also investigating long-range enemy detection and counter-strike capabilities as part of the new target acquisition system, but the 105mm Pack Howitzer is being retained as the army’s main close support system.
There is also the possibility for the purchase of additional 120mm mortars to improve fire power. The Malaysian Army currently has eight TDA 2R2M 120mm mortars mounted on an equal number of ACV-S Mortar carriers.
Following the incursion by Sulu militants into the East Malaysian state of Sabah last year, the army is looking to beef up its presence in both Sabah and Sarawak. This includes the establishment of an additional division of troops and a regional command to add to the 1st Infantry Division already in Borneo.
Affandi said this deployment was always part of the Army 2 10 Plus 10 plan, which was formulated before the Sulu incident. ‘In line with [the plan], we have established a task force as a nucleus of the new division in Kota Kinabalu. Subsequently, we have also established the Eastern Command HQ in Kuching, Sarawak. With these establishments, we are confident that the defence and security of Sabah and Sarawak can be assured.
‘The security of Sabah has also been enhanced by the formation of ESSCOM [Eastern Sabah Security Command – a joint civilian/ military security command], which was established after the incursion. The army has conducted a study on how we can further enhance the spectrum or border of security coverage, be it land or coast.’
However, the army’s role in East Malaysia remains unchanged – defensive in posture to protect the region.
Affandi also confirmed the service’s plan to transform 1st Brigade stationed in Peninsular Malaysia into an armoured brigade. ‘It may take some time, as the army is looking into reprioritisation of our capability development,’ he acknowledged.
Sources have confirmed the army’s planning is centred on incorporating the service’s sole tank regiment of 48 PT-91M MBTs along with a cavalry regiment equipped with AV-8s and a mechanised battalion equipped with either the tracked ACV- 300 APCs or the AV-8 IFVs to become the main components of the armoured brigade.
‘My vision is to transform the Malaysian Army to become a force to be reckoned with, to be a credible, versatile, sustainable and deployable force to meet the present and future challenges. At the same time we will be pursuing to improve quality of life for soldiers and their families.’ (Shepard Media)