Billions in defence deal was concluded by the Malaysian government on behalf of the MAF at DSA 2010. One must be reminded that the signatory to any major defence purchase agreement will be signed by the Ministry’s KSU on behalf of the government, with the respective service chiefs merely witnessing the signing ceremony. This translates into the awesome power that the KSU has with regards to all major capital acquisitions for the Armed Forces. And with this too, the public has to be forgiven if they perceive that with every signing, there is the accompanying largess that is attached to it. Such a perception I think was non existence in the 60’s and 70’s, and even if there was, the amount was too little to arouse public suspicion. I will always have my highest respect and regards to the top civil servants of the past who presented themselves with dignity, integrity and honour.
Here, I would like to touch on two deals that have attracted my attention as follows.
Firstly, it appears that the Eurocopter EC725 deal as a replacement for the aging RMAF Sikorsky S-61 (Nuri) helicopters is about to be sealed (NST Online dated April 19, 2010). The costs for an initial six helicopters is said to be in excess of RM1.6 billion. I am told that the RMAF will eventually acquire a total of 12 such helicopters.
With the announcement by the Defence Minister at the opening of DSA 2010, puts to rest the long and much awaited decision that was hotly debated among defence watchers, as well as among the opposition parliamentarians. There will surely be those who are dead against such an acquisition, for reasons best known to them. I am quite sure arguments against this purchase will continue even after the Letter of Award has been successfully concluded.
The helicopter being French manufactured may arouse in the minds of Malaysians that this will be another submarine deal. Hopefully it is not. I am told that kickbacks among French defence manufacturers offered to clients are quite common. Not having anything to do with defence sales, I am not quite sure who is the appointed agent for Eurocopter in Malaysia, and I don’t really care because I do not represent any foreign helicopter companies here.
But my concern and the concern of most Malaysians are that, whatever is being acquired for defence should not be compromise in terms of its quality and the justifications for which it was acquired. Like the Nuri helicopters, it was indeed a worthy acquisition and it has served its useful life and has provided exemplary service to the Armed Forces. Defence purchases are associated with the security of the nation, as well as it affects the lives of our soldiers, and this cannot be compromised. Hence, should there be a bad decision in defence acquisition; the authorities/person(s) making such a decision ought to be send to the gallows, or at least be made responsible.
Secondly, I note too that a decision has also been made for the acquisition of an 8 x 8 Amoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) from Turkey to replace the Sigmas. FNSS the manufacturer of the AFV will be collaborating with a local company to manufacture the vehicle locally, which is an excellent proposition. However, questions has been raised as to why does the army need an 8 x 8 AFV that is far too heavy for deployment in the Malaysian terrain. The experience of the Sigmas on military exercises clearly points out the weaknesses of deployment and employment of such vehicles in our terrain environment. Compared to the Sigmas which is a 16 ton vehicle; the weight of the 8 x 8 AFV ranges from 18 tons to 26 tons, and at this weight, the vehicle will sink in most of our terrain. Certainly, deploying them in dry padi land and oil palm/rubber estates is out of the question. So where will these heavy leaden vehicles be deployed, if it is not along the main highways and on firm tracks/roads which will make them easy targets. I am not quite sure what weapon systems will be installed in the vehicle. Hopefully, it is not another French or a South African manufactured weapon system; the latter I am told is a strong contender with super powerful links with the army’s top brass. Surely, the army does not want to be saddled with a similar problem faced by the primary weapons of the Scorpion AFV and similarly the Sibmas, where there are difficulties in traversing the primary gun.
I am not a military tactician, but certainly I do not agree with the army acquiring large, heavy and cumbersome armoured vehicles simply because our terrain inhibits the deployment of such vehicles. What the army should be looking at are lightweight armoured vehicles, but equipped with sufficient fire power, is highly mobile and easy to maintain. These are lessons that army officers learn at their military colleges, but why have they failed to put such lessons into practice. This being the case, I am therefore of the opinion that the army’s acquisitions are based on the principles of ‘the larger and the costlier the acquisition, the better it is’.
I want to be proven wrong for my adverse remarks on the acquisition of the 8 x 8 AFV for the Malaysian Army, and I will only be too glad to be invited to witness the deployment and employment of the 8 x 8 AFV on any army exercise, whenever there is one.
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