Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Malaysian Army Kompeni Angkut tank transporters go into action


[Note: The following is a fictional account of how the Malaysian Army might send its MBT tank squadrons south on the Malay peninsula. I thank the various parties who helped educate me on the tactics, techniques, procedures and terminology. I used my imagination for the rest. I hope the story describes the process with reasonable accuracy. This is an extract from a much longer writing project on Markas ATM. It was a joy researching and writing about the ATM. Thank you for the trust and friendship. To all celebrating: Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Maaf Zahir dan Batin.]



There are several Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM, Malaysian Armed Forces) units that people have never heard of. This is not because the units are secret but because their role is so ordinary and the media hardly writes about them as their work appears unexciting.

Kompeni Angkut is one example. Its name, which is Malay for Transport Company, sums up in a simple and direct manner the role it serves under the Malaysian Army’s Kor Perkhidmatan Diraja (KPA, Royal Logistics Corps).

If you’ve never heard of Kompeni Angkut, you’re in good company because neither have many Malaysians.

Despite its low profile, this transport company performs a vital role. The unit transports Malaysian Army equipment like main battle tanks using huge 15-tonne tank transporters, delivers soldiers by the thousands and moves tonnes of ammunition, water and stores across Malaysia with its fleet of specialised trucks. 

Put simply, Kompeni Angkut is staffed by transport planners, drivers and mechanics who job of moving things from A to B comes under the grand sounding title of military logistics. 

Kompeni Angkut supported the Malaysian Army’s deployment effort south with an interesting pairing of war machines. In doing so, the men and women from these companies debunked the notion that logistics units operated in rear areas safe from firefights at the front. 

The Malaysian Army’s longest and heaviest soft-skinned vehicle (and the one with the most wheels, with 20 in total), the Iveco Eurotrakker tank transporter, was sent south of the Malay peninsula carrying the army’s heaviest and best protected armoured vehicle, the upgraded PT-91M Pendekar MBT.

Just past midnight, Markas ATM (Malaysian Armed Forces headquarters) issued the notice to move to the tank transporter units. 

Logisticians from 11 Kompeni Angkut  (Askar Wataniah), which was a Territorial Army unit, rushed south from the middle of the peninsula where scores of upgraded Pendekar MBTs from the Federation’s first tank unit, Rejimen Kesebelas Kor Armor Diraja (11 KAD) lay waiting for the call to action. The tank squadrons were dispersed under cover in hideouts which the tank crew called “hides”. 

Each tank transporter made its own way to its assigned hide, with the drivers guided by GPS coordinates. Once they left the safety of paved roads and entered jungle paths or plantations, the pitch black environment and rough terrain tested the driving skills of the weekend soldiers as their mammoth 20-wheelers bashed through thick underground and the wheels churned up unpaved paths turned to mud by the unrelenting thunderstorm.

Looking up from their tank hatch, the Pendekar tankees could not see the sky as each hide was sited under the protection of thick canopies within tropical jungle, palm oil or rubber plantations. For good measure, a camouflage net was propped over each tank using bamboo poles. Enemy sensors scouring the area would find it hard to spot the tanks as they were obscured by layers of foliage. Thermal sensors were of little use either as the MBTs were cloaked with special heat absorbing padding that minimised their infrared signature.

When fully fuelled, the Polish-made tanks could have easily driven themselves to the forward edge of battle area. But the Iveco tank transporters did the job faster without wearing out men and machines or draining their fuel tanks. The aim was to deliver the 11 KAD tank squadrons fit to fight close to the FEBA, fully fueled and loaded with ammo.

More importantly, tank crews travelling with the Ivecos arrived fresh for battle. A ride in the air-conditioned tank transporters was a much better way to travel to the war zone as long road marches cramped in a hot, noisy and uncomfortable tank as it clattered along the road inevitably resulted in crew fatigue.

As no one could be sure when the atrocious weather would clear, there was no time to waste. 

Every minute saved could bring the MBTs one kilometre closer to the front. The compact battleground at the Johor front, which was small compared to terrain in Europe and the Middle East,  made a 150km convoy movement a strategic manoeuvre that could tilt the military balance decisively. The deployment of tanks from 11 KAD south, paired with the southward push by wheeled Gempita 8x8 and Astros rocket artillery batteries that self-deployed, could turn the tide of the battle in Johor if the MBTs could suddenly appear at the weak spot identified on the frontline and rupture the enemy’s forward line. 

And so, 11 Kompeni Angkut (AW) made best use of  every second.  

Tank transporter drivers braved the freak storm that created an unexpected window of opportunity for Malaysian army convoys to move on open roads without interference from enemy aircraft.

Extreme weather brought a welcome respite for Malaysian Army transport planners who struggled to find a way to move 11 KAD south undetected when the enemy controlled the air. 

The freak storm was a game changer. Thick banks of rain clouds drifted across the peninsula, drenching the land with torrents of rain driven by howling winds that cleared the skies over Johor of enemy fighters, helicopters and UAVs. With the enemy air force suddenly grounded by the ferocious weather, the tank transporters raced south while they could.

It was an opportunity Markas ATM welcomed gladly.

One after another, Iveco Eurotrakkers in northern states untouched by the war emerged from the tank hides for a night transport mission. 


Breaking cover in the darkness beneath a blanket of intense rain, the Ivecos swayed from side to side on deeply rutted dirt tracks, each loaded with a 48-tonne tank, their long trailers creaking and groaning in protest as the tank transporters moved out from their hiding places in the Malaysian belukar (bush).

Drivers from 11 Kompeni Angkut had to work quickly as enemy air strikes were not the biggest threat to the operation. The drivers aimed to reach the road network before the downpour flooded the nameless tracks and turned the unpaved dirt tracks into muddy rivers that could leave the heavily laden Ivecos stranded once the axles were stuck in soft mud.

Safe on firmer ground, tank transporters drivers revved their mighty machines into gear and moved south at best possible speed. With diesel engines roaring and exhaust pipes trailing streamers of smoke, the Iveco tank transporters set off independently after collecting the tanks from widely dispersed hideouts. The tank transporters drove towards convoy assembly areas along the North-South Highway as sheets of rain lashed the roads, the raging thunderstorm creating near whiteout conditions that challenged the skill of every driver.

The men and women from 11 Kompeni Angut were undeterred.

Road movements were speeded up by grouping the massive tank transporters into convoys escorted by Kor Polis Tentera Diraja (KPTD, Royal Military Police Corps) motorcycle outriders who swept expressways and trunk roads to move aside - sometimes forcibly - civilian traffic that might block the swift passage of the tank convoys.

With headlights switched on, hazard lights flashing and the two revolving amber lights at the top of the driver’s cabin blinking their warning repeatedly, the Ivecos hurried south as civilian traffic gave way respectfully by moving to the side of the road. 

Malaysian Army tank transporters punched through curtains of rain, the steel chains securing the tanks to the semi-trailers rattling briskly, the window wipers sloshing off sheets of rainwater that cascaded down flat windshields of the Ivecos as watery veils stirred up by the long vehicles chased the convoy through the pre-dawn murk.

With every Malaysian Army tank transporter used to move MBTs, civil resources were mobilised to support the transfer of lighter tracked AFVs like the Adnan APCs, self-propelled mortars and ATGM carriers.

If marshalling and deploying army vehicles from all over the peninsula was a challenge, so was the task of finding enough drivers and vehicles to move the heavy weapons. Army drivers pulled from other army divisions found themselves at the wheel of a mixed bag of civilian tractor-trailer combos, pulling flatbeds and lowboys in all colours and configurations.

Malaysia’s HANRUH total defence plan cranked into action, moving the Federation from a peacetime posture to its highest state of war readiness.

The Malaysian Army driver of a requisitioned prime mover was about to start the engine of the civilian truck when he saw a note placed next to the gear shift where the driver would not miss seeing it. The civilian driver who handed over the truck to the army had a message for the new driver.

The hand-written message from the civilian driver was scrawled in Bahasa Malaysia on the back of a torn sheet of calendar paper. It said briefly: “Pantang berundur” (Never retreat).

15 comments:

Observer said...

In the history of Modern Warfare, no country has won a war losing the airspace. In this scenario, they will be lucky if they get to form up. Once they engage, they will be knocked out quite quickly. In whatever scenario the Malaysians plan for, the whole penisular can be lost much faster than planners can imagine and this is a problem for Singapore.

David Boey said...

@Observer

Hi,
I doubt the victor of the Vietnam War had command of the air.
Pse see Hezbollah versus Israel Defense Forces, fought to stalemate several times. Hezbollah doesn't even have an air force.

Happy to hear from anyone the conflict termination end game scenario if part of the peninsula is lost because I struggle with this one.

Best regards,

db


Zulu475 said...

Those control the air, control the war, but does not win the war, vietnam, Soviet Afgan Occupation and others.

Observer said...

Hi David, with all due respect, I am not sure that the Americans wanted to Annihilate North Vietnam for fear of drawing China into the conflict like the Korean war did. Evidently, the defensive line posture gets eroded as the conflict went on. Besides, the aircraft did not have the sensors and targeting capabilties of modern airforce has. On the same note, IDF did not has the propensity to destroy Hezbollah without escalating it into a wider conflict. As such, it is not a good example of what armies will do in an all out conflict.

sepecatgr1a said...

Before all out hostilities begin, opposing forces will already have been mobilized and in their form up positions. No air interdiction required during initial phase of conflict.

Guerilla forces have in many wars shown their ingenuity in avoiding detection from the air. There is no preventing conventional forces adopting similar tactics.
The Balkans war also show that a clever opponent can thwart detection from the air, no matter the technology.

Operation Fortitude, in preparation for the Normandy landings is a good lesson in deception to lure an opposing force into making incorrect locations and intent of their forces.

Furthermore, the assumption of SG possessing air superiority in an all out conflict IMHO is seriously flawed. With only less than a handful of runways all within easy artillery, rocket & even mortar range the ability to generate sorties can be zero.
It has already been demonstrated that C-RAM defenses can be easily overwhelmed by saturation attacks. And the cost benefit equation is highly favorable to rockets and artillery.

Continuous bombardment of these runways by low cost rockets and artillery can be easily sustained over the period of a few days. Even if fighters can take off, there will be no runways to land on. Without air support ( let alone air superiority ) in those critical initial few days, defenses will take a very severe beating.

Observer said...

I do not think SAF will be imprudent to allow the form up of such forces to threaten Singapore. As for runways, we can repair them as fast as we want them to be. Besides, there are so many backup runways all over Singapore. I am also not of the view that artillery attack can be sustained. How fast can you shoot and scoot? Your artillery men will have to make a choice of firing the rounds (which may not even hit the target) and dying or staying put. SAF will survive first strike or second strike, but when we return fire, that will be the end of the enemy. Singapore and SAF will demand total annihilation. It will shown that Singapore will not spend over 50 years of investment in our defense for nothing.

sepecatgr1a said...

It is with almost 100% certainty that any form up of forces will be completed before any shooting starts.
Unless the SAF has a first strike strategy which is highly unlikely.

I believe that there are only a few back up runways. And to sustain the generation of sorties, the necessary infrastructure must be available at these locations. I believe they are not present. These runways are probably good only for emergency landings. And they share the same vulnerability – they are all well within rocket & artillery range.

Much easier to bombard a handful of runways then to repair it under constant rocket & artillery fire.

With self propelled artillery & MLRS, all armies practice shoot & scoot tactics. And we must assume that
that they are all good at it. Below is a run down of what our closest neighbors have in terms of mobile artillery & MLRS, with most of them being armored.

Indonesia
37 ( + 18 ? ) Caesar 52 cal 155 mm
36 M109A4 39 cal 155 mm
36 Astros II MLRS
4 Type 90 122 mm MLRS
39 RM 70 122 mm MLRS
Local manufacture of 122 mm rockets with a potentially
very large stock of cheap rockets.

Malaysia
36 ( + 18 ? ) Astros II MLRS
24 M109A5 39 cal 155 mm

In my opinion, to sustain bombardment of a couple of runways for a few days non stop is not quite difficult
given the amount of resources available.

On the other hand, the SAF has way too few ( 18 Himars ) MLRS and self propelled artillery ( 50 Primus ? ) . Towed artillery is too vulnerable, so they ( FH88s & 2000s ) cannot be used to shoot & scoot. But I hope this will change in the near future.

Of course, all out war is a scenario of last resort and one which I believe all countries ( in their right mind )
would avoid. But it helps if the SAF spends more resources to modernize & update its self propelled artillery and MLRS systems. Purchasing 2 or 3 fewer F35s ( best to purchase more F15s instead ) will generate sufficient funds for a very formidable counter battery force - the bean counters will love this idea.

Locust said...

It is ludicrous for Sg not to strike first. The entire concept of mobilization is based on that. There are clear red lines which have been conveyed to certain parties - MFA. No neighbour has the capability to match Sg in terms of the array of firepower that it can rapidly bring to bear.

There is no way any neighbour can rapidly move as fast as Sg due to obvious physical restrictions (of being larger) without being noticed.

Sg has invested decades to ensure the continued generation of offensive power e.g. air power generation, C-RAM, rapid repairs, etc.

Not to mention the presence of foreign forces in Sg.

We have too few MLRS or artillery thst cannot shoot or scoot? Haha. Do you even know the numbers we have or our ballistic ammo tech.

There is no need to purchase 2-3 F35s less.

sim said...

Sensor technology has advanced way beyond what was possible in the Vietnam war. Much of it spurred by challenges in the Vietnam war. Same for the Israelis challenges in Lebanon 2006.

Fopen radar is now mature, vehicles under canopy are now detectable even when stationary. On the move they will be detected rapidly. Human sized targets are likewise detectable under canopy when moving. The Israelis are now using ground emplaced fopen radars to counter hezbollah attempts to densely vegetate the border for concealment.

With respect to thermal obscuring netting, while they may function to mask radiation at specific IR wavelengths, hyperspectral imagers have rendered that obsolete as it is extremely difficult to radiate at the exact signature to vegetation across a wide frequency range, the netting will stand out like a sore thumb against the rest of the vegetation.

Next it is wrong to imagine plantations offer cover akin to dense jungle. Go to Google earth and zoom all the way in on some of them. Look at the gaps in the canopy. In fact the uniform spacing of the trees may allow for decluttering algorithms to disregard them and just display what's underneath. The gaps may even allow shorter wavelengths to get under the canopy allowing for fopen effects with tactical radars.

Lastly Israel failed in 2006 because of tactical hubris and trying to wage too surgical a war. Once they started using combined arms tactics particularly massed artillery prep they over ran all the strong points. If we ever have to fight i hope we fight with everything we've got civilian casualties and collateral damage be damned.

sepecatgr1a said...

A first strike strategy is politically unacceptable.
The mere transportation of military resources close to a country's
borders cannot be construed as an act of war.

As to the comparison of SG artillery & MLRS with neighboring
countries, we are more or less evenly matched or
outgunned especially where MLRS is concerned.
The numbers are from open sources.

And I don't know what "our ballistic ammo tech"
SG possesses whatever this means.

From open sources, the litany of very serious problems
exposed in the F35 program continues with new ones
emerging on a continuous basis ever since the first plane
flew. No simple solutions are in sight.
The biggest issue with costs is not the price of the plane
but the cost of maintaining it in order to make it operational.
Additional costs are also in the works for new upgraded software
which will be passed to the user.

Best to use the funds to purchase well proven 4G+ fighters and
fill key gaps in SAF equipment inventory such as in artillery & MLRS.

Locust said...

Politically unacceptable by whom? The OIC? If you go by this mantra, you are almost certainly doomed to wait to be attacked. This is by far Sgs greatest deterrance - to reach first, far , destructively and decisively. There you go..open sources..if you are lucky you will see them..F15sgs, tanks, etc. Again up to you to believe what you can see or find. The SAF reveals only enough for those that need to know will know when they connect the dots.

Locust said...

The F35 program is very exposed to public scrutiny. You do not get see the crap that goes on with other military programmes. How many crashes has the Typhoon suffered? What happened to Pak-FA?

sepecatgr1a said...

The civilian leadership runs the nation & they are whom the
military takes instruction from. Trigger happy military types
make for a very dangerous world.
Obviously, any decision to pull the trigger first
is way above an OIC's pay grade.

SG's deterrence strategy is clear. So is its strategy of total annihilation of
anyone harming SG if the need ever arises.

It will come as no surprise if SG possesses so called secret weapons.
But likewise so do other nations. The public can only rely on open source
information regarding a nation's military hardware.
The privileged few may be privy to the mentioned "our ballistic ammo tech"
which must really be a secret weapon since we do not know what it is or means.

F15SGs, L2SGs etc are highly visible hardware.
If SG's aim to overmatch others, then it is also painfully clear that
SG is currently lacking in MLRS numbers & even mobile artillery.

All military programs have development problems, but
the F35 program is in a class of its own. It is so visible
because it is massively over budget & at least a decade behind schedule.
Major problems persist with no solutions in sight & they continue to bug this fighter.
To date it can only achieve its baseline capability.
IMHO SG can ill afford this fighter which looks truly like a blackhole.
Better to stick to well proven advanced 4+ G fighters and fill gaps in
our MLRS & artillery among other things.

Locust said...

No government in Singapore (esp the incumbent) will hesistate in pulling the trigger when required or risk the ire of an angry electorate. Singapore is probably one of the few countries with a supportive citizenry in that respect.

Singapore has more 5000 defence scientists. Thats the edge few countries have when it comes to black projects. Plus the budget to boot.

How to claim the F35s claimed troubles is in a class of its own when you do not have perfect knowledge of what goes on with other programmes?

What is clear is that the defence agencies of many countries, including Singapore, have elected to purchase the F35s.

No comment on artillery since you have opted to look at open sources (at least what is available now). Interestingly, the IISS military balance has shown Singapore as having one of the largest inventory of tube and rocket artillery pieces. And yes you are right, it is a lot harder to hide planes like the F15sg. To the contrary, it is a lot less hard to hide field vehicles like artillery, tanks, ammo, etc. We only them after they or if they are cleared for public knowledge in military coffee books.

sepecatgr1a said...

I have no doubt that SG will pull the trigger when required.

The question is if it will pull the trigger first. And in my opinion
the simple answer to this is no. And I also seriously doubt
the citizenry will support a first strike when diplomacy has a
good chance of resolving an issue.

War is the last resort but it is a card SG can play if
absolutely necessary.

I have great respect for our defence scientists. However,
technology is but only one aspect of defence strategy.
And technology by itself never wins wars.

Furthermore, most of SAF's high tech weaponry are
purchased from overseas countries. Some may
have been tweaked by our scientists to give these
weapons a slight advantage over others
who may have the same or similar equipment.

Other SG made defence products are an amalgamation
of key foreign components. The Hunter AIFV is a good example.
( Mexican Samson 2 turret , Spike LR missile, sighting systems &
German MTU engine ).
Nothing wrong with this as many AIFVs are built this way
with components from various sources. But unfortunately,
SG does not manufacture the critical high tech components
which are at the heart this type of weapons.

History has also shown that technology only gives a temporary
advantage ( e.g. the Sagger AT-3 ATGM & SA-6 SAM
during the Yom Kippur 1973 war ) unless it is a revolutionary
weapon that the other side has no chance of obtaining or countering
e.g. the atomic bomb during WW2.
I do not think SG's defence scientists have a
black weapons project so revolutionary.

No one has perfect info. It dwells in the fantasy realm.
The F35's troubles are many & real and is plain for all to see.
They are well documented & have not been denied by
the manufacturer and users alike.

Countries have opted for the F35 for various reasons.
Some are F35 program industrial partners.
Many are key USA allies.
Many are also looking for alternative 4G+ fighters.
Even the USAF is looking at the alternative F15X.
Some have already purchased & are using F35s but may
not purchase more due to overwhelming sustainment costs.

I assume IISS is open source. Please post link stating
that " Singapore as having one of the largest inventory
of tube and rocket artillery pieces ". I wonder what is listed.