Saturday, September 28, 2013
A finely calibrated show of force: Malaysian Armed Forces 80th anniversary parade
Ground rules for photographing Malaysia's biggest show of military might were simple enough: 1) Stay behind the white line. 2) Don't block the people behind you.
Watched over by unsmiling Military Police from Kor Polis Tentera Diraja (KPTD), that vantage point put one within touching distance of the sharp end of the Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM, Malaysian Armed Forces) as Malaysia's war machine went into show of strength mode.
The parade to celebrate the ATM's 80th anniversary was held on 21 September 2013 in Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in the heart of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The last time the Malaysian military showcased its capabilities was the parade to mark the Tentera Darat's (Malaysian Army) 80th anniversary in Port Dickson on 2 March and the amphibious landing demo on 3 March. In the week immediately following the TD parade and capability demo, ATM forces went into action against Sulu militants in Sabah in a ATM-PDRM (Polis DiRaja Malaysia, Royal Malaysian Police) joint operation codenamed Operasi Daulat (Operation Sovereignty).
Last weekend's capability display appeared calibrated to assure Malaysia's domestic and foreign audience that the Malaysian military is well armed and capable of protecting the Federation's vital interests.
It is interesting to note that the tagline for Hari ATM Ke-80, ATM Perkasa, Kedaulatan Terpelihara, contained a play on the Malay word for "sovereignty". And lest foreign observers miss the message, the tagline appeared in English on the parade's main stage - A Formidable MAF, Sovereignty Safeguarded.
Two full dress rehearsals and calibrated disclosures of ATM firepower such as TUDM's seldom-seen Russian ordnance and fast attack vehicles were all it took to raise eyebrows.
Malaysian spectators who were there to watch the ATM parade loved it and the muscle-flexing did not go unnoticed among netizens, creating a stir in cyberspace that outlasted the 2.5 hours it took for the parade to unfold with mock attacks capped by 12 marching contingents and five waves of Mobile Column elements. Speaking of outlast, the rhythmic beat of the ATM March (click here) and the Malaysian Army March (click here) played over and over, were strangely addictive and lingered in one's head long after the event. :-)
There were minor hiccups. These include the apparent lack of coordination between the deployed 35mm Oerlikon battery and the parade (the guns were supposed to fire blank rounds at some point during the parade), noticeable gaps between the commentary and the appearance of flypast elements, the less-than-symmetrical bomb burst by four Su-30MKM fighter jets and the Alvis Stormer which nearly stalled during the drive past (It didn't and the crowd cheered when it trundled along). But what do you expect with just two rehearsals?
On balance, takeaways from the event point to an ATM that has matured in the past two decades or so when it shed its counter insurgency orientation to move towards a conventional warfighting posture.
Looking at the ATM's growth trajectory in the past decades, one can expect an even more potent Malaysian military in years to come.
Posted by David Boey at 4:38 PM