The recent Lahad Datu Incident is an eye opener for majority of Malaysians. The national and internal security capabilities, apparatus and processes needed a beef up, very urgently. After Ops Sulu and Ops Daulat commenced for the Police and Armed Forces to retaliate and crush the Sulu armed intruders, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak announced the ESSCOM on 7 March as a measure to address the long term solution for East Sabah security issues.
The nation rallied behind the Federal and Sabah Government’s effort to mitigate all the issues, despite the Opposition trying to score by politicising the matter. Worse still, in a sinister tone for an agenda to perpetuate the ‘Politics of Hatred’ strategy. A continuous effort for their ‘Big Picture’, to demean the defense of the realm.
LIMA ’13 this week is an opportunity for the Minister of Defense Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to announce the spending of RM 200 million to resolve the immediate needs of the defense, particularly to address the most pressing tactical issues and implementation of military-backed strategy for ESSCOM. This include the acquisition of fast patrol boats and craft, as part of the program to enhance Ops Pasir and address the ‘porous’ waterway border between Sabah and Southern Phillipines.
In the same week, a powerful Chinese Navy flotilla showed up at our doorsteps, in the disputed islands where Malaysia and Brunei laid claims.
The story in the South China Morning Post:
PLA Navy amphibious task force reaches Malaysia ‘to defend South China sea’
A Chinese amphibious task force sparks jitters around the region by reaching the southernmost waters of its claimed domain
Greg Torode Chief Asia Correspondent
A fully equipped PLA amphibious task force has reached China’s southernmost claimed possession in the South China Sea in an unprecedented show of force that is raising eyebrows across the region.
The four-ship flotilla headed by the landing ship Jinggangshan visited James Shoal – some 80 kilometres from Malaysia, less than 200 kilometres from Brunei and 1,800 kilometres from the mainland coast – close to the outer limits of China’s “nine-dash line”, by which it lays claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.
A Xinhua report yesterday described marines and crew gathering on the deck of the Jinggangshan – one of the PLA Navy’s three 200-metre landing ships – to pledge to “defend the South China Sea, maintain national sovereignty and strive towards the dream of a strong China”.
“It was a surprisingly strong message in sending out this task force, on such a new operational role from previous PLAN [PLA Navy] patrols in the region,” said Gary Li, a senior analyst with IHS Fairplay in London.
“It is not just a few ships here and there, but a crack amphibious landing ship carrying marines and hovercraft and backed by some of the best escort ships in the PLAN fleet,” he said, adding that jet fighters had also been used to cover the task force.
“We’ve never seen anything like this that far south in terms of quantity or quality … it is hard to know whether it is just coincidence, but it does seem to reflect [President] Xi Jinping’s desire for more practical operationally based exercises.”
Youtube video: CCTV footage of Kunlunshan, a PLA Navy amphibious landing ship similar in model to Jinggangshan.
The landing ships are considered some of the most sophisticated vessels in the PLA and are thought to be key to any strategy to invade Taiwan. Their deployments are closely watched by regional rivals. The first of the landing ships, Kunlunshan, has been used in anti-piracy work off the Horn of Africa.
Photos circulating on mainland websites show marines storming beaches, backed by hovercrafts and helicopters dispatched from the Jinggangshan during several days of exercises that saw them visit all of China’s holdings in the Spratly Islands.
The PLA took six Spratlys reefs and shoals from Vietnam in a sea battle 25 years ago this month.
The ships are due to head back north, crossing into the western Pacific for further drills via the Bashi channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, Xinhua said.
News of the Jinggangshan’s appearance off James Shoal last night sparked chatter among military officials in the region.
“That is quite a show of sovereignty – an amphibious task force,” said one military attaché monitoring developments. “It has got everyone talking.The Spratlys is one thing, but turning up at James Shoal is quite another. Once again, China is showing it is quite unafraid to send a message to the region
“The Spratlys is one thing, but turning up at James Shoal is quite another. Once again, China is showing it is quite unafraid to send a message to the region – and in a year when Asean is chaired by Brunei, turning up down there in such a fashion is pretty strong symbolism.”
PLA deployments into the South China Sea in 2009 and 2010 sparked fears across the region of a new assertiveness by Beijing. Those concerns in turn prompted fresh moves by several Southeast Asian nations to force the long-simmering South China Sea dispute back on to the regional agenda – and forge closer ties with the US.
This is without doubt is China’s effort of ‘Projection of Power’. It is part of ‘flexing their muscle’ as China Communist Party endorsed the recent appointment of President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping. Xi also assumed the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and the ultra powerful Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
China is also displaying their military might ahead of the ASEAN Defense Minister Meeting for 2013 where Brunei would be Chair.
These constant ‘Projection of Power’ by China and the history of occupation of disputed islands in the South China Sea brought upon a lot edgy feelings amongst ASEAN nations. Especially after Paracelles (closer to Vietnam) and the more recent Scarborough Shoals (closer to thr Phillipines):
Southeast Asian countries stock up on arms as they face off with China
Southeast Asian countries are stocking up on the latest military gadgets, expanding an international arms web as they seek to counter China’s riseSaturday, 09 February, 2013, 5:24am
Two Russian-built Kilo submarines cruise the dark, frigid waters of the North Sea out of Kaliningrad, being readied for delivery later this year to Vietnam, where Indian technicians are already helping to train Vietnamese crews.
Down in the Philippines, meanwhile, final preparations are under way to seal a deal to buy a squadron of jet fighters from South Korea and receive three naval helicopters from Italy.
As Southeast Asia’s military build-up intensifies to counter China’s military rise, it is increasingly clear that it has an international dimension, tying China’s neighbours to a widening range of relationships that could complicate Beijing’s strategic environment.
“There is certainly a strong international component to these developments in Southeast Asia,” said Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, who is tracking a growing list of acquisitions across the region. “Southeast Asia is a very open arms market compared to other parts of the world like the Middle East … there is no shortage of potential sellers, and plenty of interested buyers.
“And in this business, you don’t want to be dependent on any one supplier, so that explains all the shopping around. Price is, of course, another factor.”
Vietnam has long attempted to diversify its sources as it rebuilds its once-formidable military, reflecting a marked internationalist cast to its foreign policy, avoiding alliances and over- reliance on any one major actor.
Hanoi has looked to Moscow – its cold war-era patron – for key elements of its state-of-the-art kit, including frigates and Sukhoi jet fighters, as well as the Kilos. But it is also tapping India for anti-ship cruise missiles and talking to various European nations, including France, for ships and radars and has lobbied Washington hard about lifting restrictions on weapons sales – a legacy of the Vietnam war.
One representative of a major US weapons manufacturer said there was considerable US interest in potential business from Vietnam, but State Department officials have told them they must wait for improvements in the Communist Party-ruled nation’s human rights situation.
For the Philippines, however, its move into the international arms market is something new – and a factor that is surprising analysts. A US ally tied to Washington by a decades-old security treaty, Philippines’ leaders have long ignored calls to update its tiny and creaking armed forces, relying on the occasional infusion of surplus US materiel.
President Benigno Aquino is determined to challenge that perception, pushing ahead with bold plans to gradually increase defence spending after years of atrophy. The US$443 million deal to buy the South Korean FA-50 light fighter jets will give the Philippines its first meaningful air attack capability in the best part of two decades. The planes are also a perfect training platform for more advanced F-16s from the US – another deal in the frame.
The jet purchase is being matched by other moves, including buying 10 coastguard ships from Japan under an aid deal, and talks with a host of other nations about possible purchases. The significance of a Russian naval task force visit to Manila Bay a year ago – the first such mission in 96 years – was not lost on military analysts.
“The amazing thing is not just that they are buying from a range of countries, but it is amazing that they are buying at all,” Bitzinger said.
And then there is Indonesia. Southeast Asia’s largest nation has been active as well, purchasing submarines from South Korea, anti-ship missiles from China, Sukhoi jets from Russia and F-16s from the US.
Bitzinger noted that Indonesian defence spending rose 200 per cent in the decade to 2010, reaching US$6 billion and boosting regional figures that saw spending across Southeast Asia rise more than 50 per cent during the same period.
The trend looks set to expand. Bitzinger said he expected Indonesia, Vietnam and possibly oil-rich Brunei to significantly increase defence spending, with Indonesia overtaking traditional military heavyweight Singapore as the biggest player.
Officially, of course, it is not targeted at China. As Aquino spokesman Edwin Lacierda said last week: “The military upgrade was already a priority before our incident with China … It is not aimed at any particular country. It is our obligation to modernise our military hardware.”
But speak privately with military brass and strategists across the region and the spectre of China’s vaunted military ambitions – fuelled by two decades of double-digit spending rises – looms large. Vietnam and the Philippines, of course, are locked in increasingly tense territorial disputes over the South China Sea, along with fellow claimants Malaysia and Brunei. Philippine officials have described their sovereignty as being under direct threat as Chinese ships maintain a permanent presence in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, within the Philippines’ claimed exclusive economic zone.
Given the reach of China’s controversial “nine-dash line” claim deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, countries such as Singapore and Indonesia look on nervously.
“No one of us is ever going to be in a position to challenge China militarily,” one Vietnamese strategist said. “What we can do is create a strategic deterrent that would make them think very long and hard before contemplating even a limited conflict to enforce their claims. That’s what we are doing … as well as reminding China now and then that we would be prepared to fight to defend our sovereignty.”
Vietnam’s dynamic deputy defence minister, Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, has already stated, in a clear nod to China, that if any party escalated the dispute, “we would not stand by and watch”.
While Vietnam is well on the way to such a position, the Philippines still has a long way to go, as the Scarborough Shoal situation suggests. In creating that deterrent, countries are effectively trying to do to China what China is trying to do to the US, whose military remains the most powerful in the wider Asian region.
Through the use of so-called asymmetric weapons such as a submarines and anti-ship missiles, a larger foe can be deterred – as China hopes the US would be in case of a conflict over Taiwan
Professor Carl Thayer, who has been monitoring the build-up at the Australian Defence Force Academy, recently described it as a “cycle of action-reaction”, driven in large part by China’s military rise and assertiveness. It is not about ultimate supremacy, so it can not be seen as a classic arms race.
“But neither Vietnam nor Indonesia are straining their economic resources to develop their armed forces,” he said. “And to both Vietnam and Indonesia, China creates a security dilemma but it is not an adversary.”
Major international weapons manufacturers and exporters have been increasingly active across the region, appearing behind the scenes at high-profile gatherings such as the informal Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an annual gathering of defence ministers, top military brass and scholars.
“In the last year or so, I’ve noticed the smiles on the faces of my peers working the region are getting broader, and their cigars bigger,” said one regional representative of a large US weapons and systems manufacturer.
“It’s nice to be in a growth industry.”
A formidable military capability doesn’t mean that any nation is interested to go into armed conflict against a Super Power like China. However, it is necessary for a nation not only to uphold its sovereignty but to give the perception that it is able and willing to if the need arise.
The fact is that, the Malaysian Armed Forces needed a lot improved, upgraded and new assets to ensure that the defense of the realm is intact.
The list is rather long. It is good that the consideration for the multirole combat aircrafts (MRCA) to replace the aging squadrons of Mig29Ns and shortly, the F18Ds. So was the consideration for proven multiple requirements for the multirole ships and the littoral combat ships.
That is not withstanding the fact that the necessity to have the airborne early warning (AEW) and anti submarine warfare/maritime surveillance patrol (ASW/MP aircrafts, which went on the ‘need list’ quite sometime back.
Of course, the avionics upgrade of the C130H Hercules transporters and acquisition of four A400M transporters and a dozen of EC 725 Cougars is far from adequate to meet the mission and application requirements of the ATM.
The six A100 Meko Class New Generation Patrol vessel program undertaken by Boustead Naval Services stopped when the initial requirement was stipulated at 27 fifteen years ago. These Kedah Class NGPVs ‘provided for but not with’ armed with 76mm and 30mm rapid fire guns could be added with a respectable anti shipping and anti aircraft missile systems and making them immediate capable corvettes or light frigates.
Coupled with the six LCS (At this time, it is believed that the DCNS Gowind Class corvettes are the forerunner for the RMN LCS program), Royal Malaysian Navy would have two Perdana Class submarines and twenty high powered surface fighting ships (two Lekiu Class frigates, two Kasturi Class corvettes, four Laksmana Class corvettes). It could be supported with two squadrons of AEW/ASW-MP aircrafts and additional two squadrons of Super Lynx squadrons for the Fleet Air Arm capability.
It is necessary for Malaysian Armed Forces to have all these capabilities. It is to for the mission requirements and military applications to ensure security of the massive body of water and two land masses (Semenanjung Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak) is intact and upheld. This is further burdened with Malaysia’s position as a maritime nation, a major international waterway, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and 17th world largest trading nation.
The shopping list is a necessary strategic investment, to propel the nation forward and realise its full potential as laid down by policies such as ‘Vision 2020’ and all PM Najib’s economic, social and political transformation programs. The confidence for security and protection of public and private assets and investments is as important for the citizens to believe and feel that they are safe and sovereignty and defense of the realm is intact and upheld, dulu, kini dan selamanya.
Malaysians should throw in support and give faith to the people undertook the responsibility to implement Strategic shopping for military and defense applications
Strategic shopping should be done timely. Malaysia should not get ‘wiser after the event’.