Sunday, October 20, 2013
Send in the (Malaysian) Marines - New unit expected to boost Malaysia's beach landing capabilities
The Malaysian military's ability to deploy its soldiers on and from the sea is expected to get a boost once its newly-announced Marines unit turns operational.
The Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM, Malaysian Armed Forces) is understood to have had a more robust amphibious warfare capability on its wish list for the past several years and has (finally) cranked things into high gear.
The move is expected to be spearheaded by a core team from the Malaysian Army's Pasukan Aturgerak Cepat (Rapid Deployment Force) grouped under 10 Briged Para (10th Parachute Brigade). The emphasis on raising a Marines force, possibly of battalion size, will build on years on experience gained by the ATM in moving ground forces in the Federation's riverine systems and long coastlines.
The ATM's experience in projecting ground forces in coastal areas dates back to the Confrontation period in the 1960s, when security forces exploited Borneo's extensive waterways to extend their reach into the interior.
The PAC is well capable of putting warfighters ashore on a contested shoreline using assault boats and landing craft.
However, Malaysia's choice of the term "Marines" could point to ambitions for executing surf zone troop movements that are more complex in scope and scale, across longer distances, with these operations sustained over a prolonged period.
It is worth noting that unlike the United States Marine Corps (USMC) which the ATM has trained alongside, not all missions may involve power projection across vast oceans.
To Malaysia's future Marines, the littoral zone could literally be a short boat ride away, not the over-the-horizon missions USMC trains for. Malaysian Marines could conceivably be raised, trained and sustained to rapidly project military force across a short waterway for an operation with limited objectives. Paired with PAC airborne forces who specialise in airfield seizure, a sudden beach landing by ATM Marines could give Malaysia a strategic advantage if they attain the element of surprise (i.e. intelligence failure by their opponent) and manage to secure and thereafter expand the beachhead.
On a less exciting note, the Marines could take over garrison duty, now shouldered by the Malaysian Navy's crack Pasukan Khas Laut (PASKAL) unit, on concrete structures (see above) built in the Spratly islands. The fact that PASKAL has been entrusted to defend these remote localities speaks volumes of the importance of what may seem to us as mundane guard duty.
Timing of the Marines announcement
While no time frame or details have been released, Malaysian defence observers note that the 10 October 2013 announcement may have been timed to polish the image of Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, who is a candidate for a post in the UMNO political party. UMNO members went to the polls on Saturday 19 October to elect three out of six candidates contesting key positions in the party.
Dzirhan Mahadzir noted in his 15 October article for IHS Jane's:"Hishammuddin's description of the Marine force only states that it will be established for amphibious operations, drawn from all three Services and essential for security in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, where Sulu militants staged an incursion in February that was subsequently repelled by a military operation.
"The statement did not give further details but IHS Jane's understands that the Marine Corps proposal was planned before the Sulu incursion but has since been prioritised."
Dzirhan added that two PAC battalions - the 9th Royal Malay Regiment (Para) and 8th Royal Ranger Regiment (Para) - have conducted amphibious warfare training as a secondary mission, most recently in June during the CARAT (Co-operation Afloat Readiness And Training) war games with the USMC in Kuantan and following that, with French forces deployed aboard the Landing Platform Dock, FNS Tonnerre.(Note: the third PAC battalion is the 17 Rejimen Askar Melayu Diraja (Para) )
Senang Diri understands that PAC pairings with the USMC have taken place over the past few years. Such joint war games may indicate that Markas Tentera Darat turned the spotlight on amphibious warfare after planning bandwidth increased following the IOC of new capabilities and completion of unit revamps (2008: Border Regiment, 2006: Army Air Corp new capability).
10 October 2013: Announcement of a Marines unit. This move could signal stronger emphasis on amphibious warfare capabilities by Markas Tentera Darat (Malaysian Army HQ). Observers note that the capability announcement is made a week before a key UMNO election involving the Malaysian Defence Minister.
5 March 2013: Three days after the Tentera Darat ke-80 parade, the Malaysian military goes into action against Sulu militants in Sabah. The operation, initially codenamed Operasi Sulu then amended to Ops Daulat (which means Sovereignty), prompts Malaysians to reflect on the value and readiness of their armed forces. One point of view is that a capable Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, respected by the Rakyat, was held back by dithering politicians and bureaucrats.
2 March 2013: The Malaysian Army's Advanced Combatman System (click here) called Soldier Advanced Kombat Technology Integrated (SAKTI) is unveiled together with the PARS AV-8 8x8 Kenderaan Perisai Pengangkut Anggota (i.e. armoured personnel carrier) at the Tentara Darat ke-80 anniversary parade held in Bandar Tentera Darat in Port Dickson. Please click here for more.
2009: Markas 3 Divisyen continues its transformation into a Combined Arms Division - the first of four Malaysian Army divisions to do so. The division, headquartered in Malacca, is responsible for military operations in the southern part of the Malay peninsula. Markas 3 Divisyen commands assets such as ARTHUR artillery hunting radars that are found only in this formation. The ARTHURs serve with 61 Regimen Artileri Diraja (61 RAD).
2008: Five Regimen Askar Wataniah (Territorial Army) battalions are revamped to form the Regimen Sempadan (Border Regiment) for garrison duty on Malaysia's land frontier with Thailand. This is more than a name change. The Regimen Sempadan battalions focus on border control and security of key avenues of approach to bolster Malaysian security in view of problems in Thailand's southern provinces.
2008: Delivery of PT-91M Pendekar main battle tanks assigned to Rejimen ke-11 Kor Armor Diraja (11 KAD). The Polish-made tanks are Malaysia's first MBTs.
2006: Introduction of Agusta A109 Light Observation Helicopters for PUTD.
2002: Delivery of Avibras Astros II Sistem Roket Lancar Berganda (SRLB) assigned to 51 Rejimen Artileri Diraja (51 RAD), the ATM's first rocket artillery battalion.
1995: Formation of Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat (Army Air Corps).
1987: Designation of 10 Briged Para as the ATM's Pasukan Aturgerak Cepat (Rapid Deployment Force). The formation eventually receives an organic armour capability (Pasukan Armor (Para)) with Scorpion AC 90 light tanks and StormerAPCs and a SAM squadron.
The term "transformation" appears sparingly in Malaysian defence literature. But from the look of things, the phasing in of new equipment and sustained revamp of ATM units indicates defence planners up north have got things figured out.
Posted by David Boey at 12:33 AM