Online “news” portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) today published a story on the level of preparedness of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) if faced with a situation such as Marawi, and got an expert opinion to strengthen its story.
While FMT was talking about clearly refers to the recent statement made by the Chief of RMAF, General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Haji Affendi bin Buang RMAF, stating that the RMAF will be including urban warfare in its doctrine. This was a reply to a question by a journalist during the recently-concluded Exercise PARADISE 4/2017 in Kota Belud, Sabah.
FMT sought the expert opinion of a Dr Zachary Abuza, a political scientist at the National War College in Washington DC, who focuses on security and political issues in the region.
Dr Abuza instantly criticised the RMAF for not being prepared for urban warfare.
“RMAF’s training is based on preparing to face traditional threats. It’s birth was when fighting the MCP (Malayan Communist Party) in the jungles. It has never had to adjust its training.
“To me, this is understandable but reckless,” he said to FMT.
Abuza felt urban warfare preparedness and capability were still important.
“It’s not that the RMAF has to worry about an invasion, but what if a detachment of RMAF peacekeepers finds itself unexpectedly bogged down during an urban assault?” he was quoted by FMT to have asked.
It is clear to sharp readers that Dr Abuza referred to the RMAF as Royal Malaysian Armed Forces instead of the Air Force. Why would the RMAF have a detachment of peacekeepers anyway?
Therefore, it is forgivable that Dr Abuza had made such a criticism towards the RMAF as the Malaysian Army, which had numerous peacekeeping experiences under its belt. Although the RMAF and the Royal Malaysian Navy participate in peacekeeping missions, the main combat duties is shouldered by the Army.
And FMT being FMT, went to town and published the piece, hammering the Royal Malaysian AIR FORCE for not being ready for urban warfare.
The RMAF’s role in urban warfare is merely a support one, with the Army playing the main role on the ground. All the RMAF needs to do is to insert its Ground Laser Targeting Designator team into the combat zone and paint targets that are to be bombed by its fighters.
Other roles include dropping bombs or perform rocket strikes on targets marked by elements of the Malaysian Army, including interdiction strikes to cut off enemy supply and reinforcement lines, provision of air mobility in support of the Army Air Wing, or perform combat search-and-rescue of downed airmen.
The RMAF and the Malaysian Army have held countless joint exercises to enhance interoperability and coordination and it will take very little tweaking for the two organisations to operate in the urban environment.
Did FMT clarify its story before publishing? I doubt. Else we won’t see the faux pas today.