Forces: April 17, 2005


  The Malaysian military is a force that is rapidly gaining combat capability. This country, while smaller than Indonesia, spends $1.69 billion a year on a military that is very high quality compared to its larger neighbor. This spending is roughly twice the spending as a portion of GDP when compared to Indonesias $1 billion budget. What has it bought? The answer is that Malaysia has a pretty capable force.

The Royal Malaysian Army has 80,000 personnel, organized into four combat divisions. Equipment includes 48 PT-91 tanks, a Polish variant of the T-72, with smoke grenades and a laser-warning system, plus 14 support versions (recovery vehicles and vehicle-launched bridges). Malaysia also has about 180 SIMBA vehicles with 90mm guns, 25 Scorpion light tanks, 400 German Condor APCs, 100 Korean Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and about 200 Adnan IFVs (a version of the Turkish Infantry Fighting Vehicle). Malaysias artillery includes a number of modern systems (18 ASTROS rocket launchers, 28 G5 howitzers from South Africa, and 15 FH 70 howitzers) and over 200 105mm lightweight howitzers. This force has often taken part in UN peacekeeping missions, and also took part in the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu (one Malaysian soldier was killed). The Malaysian military has also conducted exercises with the U.S. Army. This is a reasonably well-trained force, capable of holding its own in a fight. It is particularly effective in jungle warfare.

The Royal Malaysian Navy is small, but very modern. The backbone of this force are five frigates, two Lekiu-class frigates (with Seawolf surface-to-air missiles and Exocet anti-ship missiles), two Kasturi-class frigates (with Exocet anti-ship missiles), and the old frigate Rahmat. Malaysia is adding a number of more modern vessels. It acquired four missile boats from Italy (originally built for Iraq) equipped with Otomat anti-ship missiles and Aspide surface-to-air missiles to go with eight smaller missile boats equipped with Exocet. It also is assembling two MEKO A-100 patrol ships and building at least four more (some reports indicate the class could be as large as 27 ships total) to go with the two Musytari-class patrol ships. Malaysia is also in the process of acquiring two French Scorpene-class submarines. Malaysia is also looking into the purchase of additional frigates. This is a very potent force, one that outclasses Indonesias, and is getting better.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force is rapidly modernizing. Malaysia has purchased 18 Su-30MK fighters, 14 MiG-29Ns, 8 F/A-18D Hornets, and 18 Hawk 208s. These modern aircraft far outclass Indonesias, and have relegated Malaysias 13 F-5E/F Tigers and 30 A-4PTM Skyhawks to reserve. Malaysias force is about the same size as Indonesias, but it is much more modern. This gives Malaysia an edge over its larger neighbor, and places it on par with Singapores Air Force (which has a large number of F-16C/D Falcons).

Malaysias military is turning into one of the more technologically advanced forces in Southeast Asia. This force is also very professional, and while it has turned to conscription, it is one of the better forces in Southeast Asia. It has often carried out peacekeeping missions, including East Timor and Kosovo. This force is trending upwards and will be a tough one to defeat in battle. Harold C. Hutchison ([email protected])




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