An article in Utusan Malaysia Online (Polis & Tentera Column) dated February 3rd 2010 reads, ‘Pendeka PT 91M: Igauan kepada musuh negara’, written by Mohd Asron Mustapha is a must read by officers of the Armoured Corps (for whatever it is worth). If the title is to be translated literally into the English language, it reads, ‘Warrior PT 91M: A frightening nightmare for the nation’s enemy’.
The author is making reference to the Malaysian Army‘s main battle tank (MBT) acquired from Poland, that first came into service with the army in 2007, at a cost that is little known to the public. Reading from the article, Mohd Asron seems to have made the PT 91M appear to be the best MBT in the world, and this to many, is a serious fallacy.
With just 48 MBTs for the entire Malaysia Army, can this really be a ‘frightening nightmare for the nation’s enemy’, as the title of the article seems to suggest? And may I ask - who is the enemy that Mohd Asron is referring to? And let me say this, that if ever the nation is to go to war, it is the crew of the PT 91M that is more worried; not the enemy. The worry is because the ‘assorted systems’ that has been incorporated into the tank, have yet to be tested in battle. I have no qualms that the PT 91M performed reasonably well during the Merdeka Day parade.
The acquisition of the MBT has taken many years to realize before the final choice was made to acquire the Polish manufactured MBT. But why a Polish tank, and not other makes is best known to those who had a hand in making the final decision; rightfully or otherwise. But I do know that there are officers from the Armoured Corps who were dead against the acquisition on grounds that the PT 91M is no better than the T 72 (an earlier version of the PT 91M) that performed poorly during the 1991 Gulf War against the more advanced US M1A1 and the British manufactured Challenger 2 tanks.
In the process of acquiring more information regarding the PT 91M, someone whom I had discussed with regarding the acquisition remarked that, “of all these years, the best armoured vehicle that the Malaysian Army has had in its inventory is the Ferret Scout car. All other armoured vehicles purchased since the 70’s are a total flop”. He went on to say that the PT 91M is a total failure even before it entered service in the Malaysian Army; the major mechanical glitch being the gearing system. And what is even worse is that the Malaysian Army has incorporated a number of foreign manufactured systems (other than Polish) into the tank, and this makes the maintenance of the tank a nightmare for the maintenance crew; besides the exorbitant cost that the army has to bear to maintain these systems. He does not foresee the PT 91M being operational worthy after 10 years of service; where it will finally end up as targets at Asahan Range.
I do not know much about the writer, but he certainly had caused a misconception in the minds of public (other than those in the army), that the PT 91M is truly one of the best MBT in the world. Even if it was acclaimed the best at the point when the acquisition was made, technological advancement will make the tank obsolescence within a few years, as the army does not have the technological know-how to make significant improvements to the tank systems.
If this posting is deemed critical to the army’s acquisition of the PT 91M, I wish to be corrected by those who are physically handling the tank; in this instant officers of the Armoured Corps, and not by some civilian writers who don’t even know the difference between a tank and an Armoured Personnal Carrier.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION