Real Growth For The East Coast

Graphic courtesy of The Star

The first rail line was opened in 1885 running between Port Weld and Taiping.  The line to the east coast running between Gemas and Tumpat was only completed in 1931, by passing major towns such as Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu.

For decades after that there was no real growth in terms of communications in the east coast.

As a punishment to the people of the east coast for not voting in the Barisan Nasional, aid to Kelantan was curbed and was changed into the form of ‘Wang Ihsan‘ in 1990, and the East Coast Highway terminated near Kuantan because Barisan Nasional was ousted by the people of Terengganu in 1999.

Najib Razak changed all that.

Phase 3 of the East Coast Highway which will terminate at Kota Bharu will commence during the 11th Malaysian Plan (2016-2020), as well as the East Coast Rail Link, a new rail link cutting through green fields.

The first phase will see the Klang Valley connected to Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu in the second phase and Kota Bharu and Wakaf Bharu in the third and final phase.


Announcing at the handover ceremony of the Ganchong Water Treatment Plant, he said that the GDP of the state of Pahang would increase by 1.5 percent when the ECRL comes online.

The Opposition as usual is opposed to anything that is good for the people if it comes from the government.

PAN’s Mujahid Yusof Rawa, for instance, questioned how it will benefit the local economy – and you do not need to be a member of Parliament let alone a rocket scientist to figure out the answer.

The ECRL will act as a land bridge for goods coming from the west coast going to especially Shenzen in China through Kuantan port, and similarly goods from the east coast get sent to the Middle East and India through Port Klang.

This land bridge would also allow goods from the eastern part of the globe be sent to the western part through these two ports without having to circumnavigate the Singapore strait.

This cuts down the over-reliance on the Strait of Malacca. Today, more than 80 percent of China’s energy needs pass through that narrow waterway.

So if you imagine it takes just four hours for goods to be transported by a lorry from Kota Bharu to Port Klang using the ECRL as compared to seven hours using the Gua Musang way or nine hours via the East Coast highway, you would be able to imagine the kind of economic growth the east coast states would stand to benefit from the ECRL.

No longer would SME or heavy industries have to be centred in the Klang Valley where the costs of land and living are far higher compared to in Kelantan and Terengganu. More jobs would be created and the luxury gap lessened tremendously.

The time for goods to be transported from Shenzen to Port Klang would be 30 hours lesser than having to sail them around Singapore.

Cost issues aside, this new network will create new alternative routes to boost trade for Asean, with Malaysia as the base; and why this has to be taken seriously is because the Chinese have a direct interest in the (Kuantan) port and the rail link,” said Mr G. Durairaj, managing director of maritime and logistics consultancy PortsWorld.

Already Kuantan port is home to several petrochemical companies such as the BASF-PETRONAS Chemicals. 

The port has also attracted RM8.9 billion worrh of investments including a RM3.5 billion steel facility.

The integrated steel mill will occupy a 287ha site – half the size of Singapore’s Sentosa island – and have an annual production of 3.5 million tonnes.

Imagine the size of investments that the ECRL could bring into the east coast states. Would you now question the benefits the ECRL would bring?

Lagi Pembohongan

Kalau ikut Mahathir, macam-macam dah kena tutup kini. Namun, seperti yang didakwa Alexandria Luger, Mahathir akan masuk neraka kerana kerap berbohong.

Hari ini Mahathir berbohong lagi. Dia kata Forest City memberi hakmilik tanah kekal kepada para pembeli.

Rasanya dah berbuih dah penerangan diberikan mengenai perkara ini. Bhaiya Bangladesh kontrak mungkin telah faham sefahamnya akan penerangan tersebut. Tetapi sebab penerangan ini bukan diberikan dalam bahasa ibunda beliau maka agak sukar bagi beliau memahami.

Ahli Parlimen Sekijang terpaksa terangkan sekali lagi bahawa yang hakmilik kekal adalah hartanah strata. Dua bulan lepas pun DYMM Sultan Johor dah terangkan perkara yang sama.

Nak diterangkan dalam bahasa apa lagi?

Kemudian, Najib Razak pula yang dipersalahkan. Bukankah Forest City perihal tanah negeri Johor? Apa kena-mengena dengan kerajaan pusat? Masing-masing negeri ada unit perancang ekonominya sendiri.

Kenapa tak salahkan Tuanku Sultan Johor? Tak berani macam rakan sekapal beliau?

Memang Forest City bakal mendapat status bebas cukai. Apa masalahnya? Langkawi juga masih pulau bebas cukai.

Kalau Mahathir gunakan Internet sewajarnya dan bukan untuk menyebarkan fitnah semata-mata maka beliau pasti mengetahui bahawa kenyataan beliau bahawa status bebas cukai Langkawi akan ditarik balik hanyalah pembohongan yang nyata.

Apa yang diumum kerajaan adalah hanya kedai-kedai berlesen sahaja yang akan dibenarkan menjual barangan rokok dan arak bebas cukai di Langkawi.

Begitu juga langkah untuk meminta pemilik kenderaan yang berdaftar di Langkawi mengemukakan jaminan bank sebelum boleh dibenarkan membawa kenderaan mereka keluar dari pulau tersebut. Ini adalah untuk mengatasi kepincangan yang berlaku sejak sekian lama.

Siapakah yang telah menjual sebegitu banyak tanah orang tempatan Langkawi kepada para kroni suatu ketika dahulu? Siapa yang mengambil tanah 80 penduduk Melayu Pantai Gelang, Langkawi untuk dijadikan resort

Mengenai pinjaman oleh warga China pula, itu semua cerita basi yang diulang berkali-kali. Saya maafkan beliau. Bercerita sesuatu berulang kali ini ada hubungkaitnya dengan penyakit nyanyuk. Mungkin suatu hari nanti beliau akan memandang kepada anak beliau dan bertanya, “Hang apanama?” berkali-kali juga.

Sebenarnya saya kasihankan beliau. Pernah disanjung ramai suatu masa dahulu tetapi pernah ditolak sebagai perwakilan oleh Bahagian sendiri semasa masih dalam parti angkat beliau, UMNO. Namun beliau masih tidak sedarkan diri.

Kini beliau hanya mampu merangkak sambil menjilat kahak hijau yang diludahnya dahulu sambil ditunggangi oleh joki-joki yang mengharapkan kemenangan seekor kaldai tua.

Sudah-sudahlah berbohong. Kita tak boleh hidup selama-lamanya. Janganlah diikuti perangai Rafizi. Beliau rasa beliau masih muda.

Jangan sampai anda digelar SOTUN pula.

Scare-a-monger

He dressed up not as James Bond as he looks like Scaramanga
He dressed up not as James Bond as he looks like Scaramanga

When he wore his tuxedo to his James Bond themed birthday ball, YABhg U-Turn Mahathir did not turn up as Bond himself, but rather as one of the antagonists in the James Bond movie, Francisco Scaramanga. While Scaramanga used a golden gun to kill others, Mr Scare-a-monger here uses a golden pen.

In his reply to HRH Sultan of Johor Scare-a-monger pointed out that the bulk of purchasers of the Forest City properties are the mainland Chinese and that would cause that part of Johor to have “an inordinate percentage of foreign people.”

When Scare-a-monger launched the ‘Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H)’ programme in 2002, an inordinate percentage of foreign people did come to Malaysia to purchase properties.  Some even opened up companies to help facilitate their countrymen to own properties in Malaysia like Mr Ishihara Shotaro who is now a Malaysian permanent resident after being in Malaysia since 1992 and owns quite a number of properties around Malaysia.  Ishihara says that the dropped in the Ringgit is like a twenty percent discount for the Japanese on all properties in Malaysia.

As a matter of fact in October 2015 Nomura reported that Malaysian properties remain in Japanese firms’ sight.  And this was before the drop in the Ringgit.

So, when mainland Chinese property buyers come over to take advantage of Scare-a-monger’s MM2H programme, why is he crying foul?

It would also be a matter of time for Mr Ishihara Shotaro to be able to become a Malaysian citizen if he wishes to do so – thank you to Scare-a-monger’s MM2H programme.

Scare-a-monger also forgot to mention that when he wanted the Petronas Twin Towers (KLCC) built, foreign companies built it – namely Hazama Corporation from Japan for Tower One and Samsung Engineering and Construction for Tower Two.  In fact although Ekovest led the construction for the KLIA, foreign companies became the consultants.

Scare-a-monger also went on to say that when foreigners take a loan to buy properties here, they take loans from local banks.  Therefore, there is no capital inflow from abroad.  Is he saying that foreigners can take up loans without having to have an account opened at local banks but locals do?

And if a bank account is required, do these foreigners go to Bank Negara to wait for newly-minted notes to be given to them for free so they could open up bank accounts here to get a loan? So where do they get money from to open bank accounts if not by bringing in from abroad?

And when he says a foreigner can buy property in China and get one flat or house free in Malaysia, no profit will be made in Malaysia, therefore no taxes will be paid to the Malaysian Government, can he tell me how is it possible for the Chinese developer in China to give free house in Malaysia for the buyer in China without first purchasing the house in Malaysia?  If these houses can be given for free to foreigners, why not give away some of these houses to Malaysians?

Scare-a-monger is getting old. Time is nearly up for him and he fears that when he dies, there would not be enough bank notes to cover his grave when others are contented to have earth fill up theirs.

So all he does is shoot off his golden gun and see what gets hit.

The only thing is he has so far been firing blanks just to scare people.

 

Defence: Friendship Expanded Through Exercise Aman Youyi 3/2016

A major disaster strikes and the damage to infrastructure massive. Despite an overwhelming situation, friendly countries extend assistance through their military to rescue and treat injured survivors as well as provide humanitarian relief aid.

That was the scenario displayed during the opening ceremony of Exercise Aman Youyi 3/2016, conducted jointly by the Malaysian Armed Forces and the People’s Liberation Army of China at the Paya Indah Wetlands in Dengkil, Selangor.

The exercise uses humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as theme is conducted through Staff Exercise (STAFFEX) with the aim to establish a Standard Operating Procedure and enhance interoperability in the event of a disaster.

This exercise is another major development and an extension to the exercise by Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak to further enhance the 42-year old friendship between Malaysia and China last month.

Officiating the ceremony was Chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces, General Tan Sri Dato’ Seri (Dr) Haji Zulkifeli bin Mohd Zin and Chief of Joint Staff PLA, General Fang Fenghui.

In his speech General Haji Zulkifeli said that humanitarian assistance and disaster relief was adopted as the backdrop of the exercise because the Asia-Pacific region suffered approximately 160 disasters in 2015 resulting in 16,000 deaths and a loss of about USD45.1 billion.

Therefore the synchronisation of collective multinational measures will determine the efficiency and success of humanitarian assistance.

Also in attendance were the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia His Excellency Dr Huang Huikang, and Team Leader for the Royal Thai Armed Forces observers Major General Thitichai Tiantong.

A total of 410 personnel are involved in this exercise namely 215 from Malaysia and 195 from China, with 10 observers from the Royal Thai Armed Forces.

Trumped

Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America
Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America

A few hours before Hillary Clinton conceded defeat, signs were everywhere that she was heading down the abyss.  On Twitter people were talking about moving to Canada while the Canadian Immigration website crashed for reasons not yet known to us.  Hillary finally conceded defeat making Trump the President-elect.  The next four years of his Presidency is going to be worth watching.

I can understand how the supporters of the Democrats feel right now, my home state of Selangor fell to what was the Barisan Alternatif in 2008 and the first 24 hours was filled with uncertainties.  In the end, it was business as usual albeit having to sufer the occasional water outtages as well as incompetent solid wastes collection contractors.  Other than that the state runs on autopilot while the politicians in charge of the state are busy giving ceramahs non-stop.

Trump has promised to make America great again.  To make America great again America’s military would also be made great.  It also means that America’s businesses will be given priority over foreign-owned ones.

How does this augur for Malaysia?

Firstly, the Republican-heavy Congress would not pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as Trump sees the TPPA as a vehicle that would allow Asian businesses to take over the American economy.  If it were to go ahead a major tweaking of the TPPA needs to be done – tariffs would be raised to favour the American economy and that would not go down well with the other potential TPPA partners.  Anyhow, with the TPPA still not ratified, Trump is likely to hold to his pledge to withdraw the United States from the free-trade agreement.  The good thing from that would be Malaysia’s continued hold on its protectionist policies aimed at preserving the Bumiputra rights as well as the protection for local industries.

Malaysia’s manufactured exports to the US saw an increase by 13 percent recently.  With Trump favouring the great American economy, this would be greatly affected since Malaysia’s economy is 90 percent reliant on exports.  Nomura Holdings in early July 2016 in a report titled ‘Trumping Asia’ bluntly said that if Trump wins, Asia loses.  The Philippines would be the country in the South East Asian region that would be most affected by Trump’s Presidency while Malaysia is fourth after Indonesia.

Chart image from Boomberg with source from Nomura
Chart image from Boomberg with source from Nomura

It is not surprising then to see Prayuth Chan-O-Cha of Thailand, Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Duterte of the Philippines and Najib Razak of Malaysia visit China in May, September, mid October and end October respectively to strengthen economic ties and increase trade with China.  These leaders must have predicted that the Democrats would lose to the GOP and knew that if trade is not increased with the largest Asian economic power these nations would stand to lose.  Purchasing the Chinese corvettes was definitely a good decision now given that any purchase from the Western powers would come with lots of strings attached.

China is not without danger because of Trump’s Presidency.  With levels breaching the USD 600 billion level, China is the US’s largest trading partner, and as President, Trump could impose punitive duties that includes a 15 percent tariff on China for a maximum of 150 days without having to go to Congress for approval.

Militarily, Trump had made a statement on China’s expansion in the South China Sea. “We have rebuilt China, and yet they will go in the South China Sea and build a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen,” Trump said. “Amazing, actually. They do that, and they do that at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.”

I am of the opinion that the term “We have rebuilt China” used by Trump is the large balance of payments deficit that the US has with China.  If the US could ‘prove’ that China is a currency manipulator, which the US Treasury could easily declare without needing the approval of the Congress, it could trigger a range of trade restrictions against China – a form of pressure for China to ‘respect’ the US as required by Trump to make America great again.  Which is why the visit by Najib Razak to China recently was not an act of ‘kow-towing‘ to a Big Brother, but rather saying “Malaysia is a friend, how can you (China) help us so we can help you?”  China now needs its South East Asian neighbours as well as Russia as its allies.

We have stepped into an era that will be filled with surprises and not less scarily challenging.  The only consolation is that George Soros who finances both the Hillary campaign machinery as well as the Opposition and pro-Opposition organisations in Malaysia will find it hard to thrive.  Perhaps as a gesture of goodwill Trump should look into the affairs of the Open Society Institute and how its financing of the Arab Spring has given rise to the terrorist activities in North Africa, the Middle East as well as in South East Asia and take criminal action against the OSI.

As Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister said early this year, “We are all discovering Donald Trump, as he is himself: there is a stream of consciousness approach to policy pronouncements. One can only hope that it evolves towards addressing the strategic interests of the United States in the world.”

There may be a side to Donald Trump that we have not yet seen.  Others with better insight into things would probably have a better read of his character.  Of course, I am not talking about the Pribumi supremo. He never has anything good to say.

Madman
Madman

Trump would also need friends as China does, and he would look at nations with leaders who are level-headed as they are smart.  I was about to end this post when I saw this Tweet on my timeline:

A tweet by Jonathan Head, BBC's Southeast Asia correspondent
A tweet by Jonathan Head, BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent

Apparently, not only is Najib Razak a golf buddy of Barack Obama.  He is also Trump’s favourite Prime Minister, as signed on a photograph taken of the two of them.  As I said, leaders have to have foresight and know what is best for the country he leads.  And a line in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII that reminds me exactly of this situation:

Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself.

Najib Razak's looking forward to meeting Trump...again
Najib Razak’s looking forward to meeting Trump…again

I call that a masterstroke from a great Statesman.

Defence: RMN’s Look At China

The Royal Malaysian Navy has announced the procurement of up to four vessels from China for its Littoral Mission Ships programme. The Type 056 corvettes virtually matches the requirements of the RMN (image by Wikipedia)
The Royal Malaysian Navy has announced the procurement of up to four vessels from China for its Littoral Mission Ships programme. The Type 056 corvettes virtually matches the requirements of the RMN (image by Wikipedia)
The dust has yet to settle.  Pro-US tweethandles have been lambasting Malaysia for its ‘shift’ in trade approach – a whopping RM143.64 billion (USD34.4 billion) worth of MoUs have been signed between the two countries that includes what Prime Minister Najib Razak termed as ‘a landmark deal’ – the purchase of four vessels from China to fulfill the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN)’s ‘Littoral Mission Ship (LMS)’ programme.  It is a ‘landmark’ deal because it is a departure from the usual military purchases from Western manufacturers.

However, shift it is not.  Between January and August of 2016 Malaysian exports totalled RM500.33 billion (USD119.72 billion) with China being the second largest buyer of Malaysian products at RM58.93 billion (USD14.10 billion) surpassing the US by RM6.51 billion (USD 1.56 billion).  In the same corresponding period for 2015, China imported RM18.52 billion (USD4.43 billion) more than the US. Malaysia has been trading with China since 1974.

Given the requirements of the RMN, the platform that would be most suitable for the LMS programme is the Type 056 Corvette.  The RMN had embarked on several programmes such as the Kedah-class NGPV and the Samudera-class Training vessels with local yards being the preference.  In both programmes, the local yards had failed to manage the projects efficiently and effectively causing delays the RMN could not afford.  Extra funds had to be pumped in in order to complete the projects.

The ‘KD Perak’, first of the Kedah-class NGPVs to be constructed locally was laid down in March of 2002 and was launched on the 12th November 2007, more than five years compared to less than 18 months for the first two that were constructed at Blohm & Voss as well as the HDW yards. She was only commissioned on the 3rd June 2009, seven years and three months after being laid down!  In the end, due to the rising cost to complete the vessels that had been laid down, only six of the Kedah-class was built out of the 27 planned.  This had left the RMN barely able to patrol Malaysian waters as almost all the 40-year old patrol crafts had been taken out of service.

The Samudera-class programme in 2011 called for two training ships namely the Gagah Samudera and the Teguh Samudera to be constructed at a local yard in Sijangkang, Selangor.  Due to a mismanagement of the programme the yard was unable to complete both vessels although both had been launched in 2012 and had to fold up when a creditor took them to court in 2013. In late 2015, funds were made available only for the Gagah Samudera and a yard in Lumut was selected to complete her fitting out.  As of October 2016, she is still undergoing her testing phase. The fate of the Teguh Samudera is still not known.

The Chinese option gives the RMN the edge of procuring proven modern vessels that are common-of-the-shelf (COTS) for a lot less. This augurs well with the RMN as her assets are being stretched thin, with combat boats such as the CB90 doing crew change and supply runs to the various RMN stations located in the Spratlys. Two years ago last month one CB90 went missing for more than a day in rough seas.  With the LMS coming online, these tasks could be handed over to these more capable vessels.

Despite being known as a strong ally of the US, the Royal Thai Navy has been using Chinese-made vessels since the mid 1990s when the first two frigates, HTMS Naresuan and HTMS Taksin were commissioned in 1995.  Newer and more modern vessels such as the HTMS Pattani and HTMS Narathiwat were commissioned between 2005 and 2007.

htms-narathiwat
Royal Thai Navy’s OPV HTMS Narathiwat
Bring COTS model the Type 056 corvette can be obtained quickly as compared to its American contemporary, the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LSC).  The Type 056 corvette began production in 2012. To date People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN-N) have commissioned its 25th vessel compared to three of the Freedom-class vessels which began production in 2005. With automation being the key feature of the Type 056, a single unit requires only up to 60 officers and men to operate with a mission endurance of about 21 days compared to the Freedom-class that requires 115 men with the same endurance.  This will definitely reduce RMN’s cost of operating each LMS.

The purchase of the China-made vessels also fits into the RMN’s ’15-to-5′ armada transformation programme which aims at reducing the current fifteen classes of vessels built in seven countries to just five – the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); New Generation Patrol Vessels (NGPV); Littoral Mission Ships (LMS); Multi-Support Ships (MRSS) and submarines.

The move offers the RMN a broader spectrum to choose from for platforms that are fit for purpose based on mission capabilities and the RMN doctrine. This would make the armada more cost-effective to manage and maintain.  We have the leadership of the RMN to thank for finally taking the step to transform the organisation into a lean and mean fighting force.

 

58 And Wanting

Will the 58th Air Force Day see the full retirement of the MiG-29N?

2016 has seen the Royal Malaysian Air Force lose two of its valuable assets – a CN235 transport aircraft, and a MB-339CM lead-in fighter trainer. To top that, there is still no announcement of a stop-gap measure to replace the MiG-29N.

The shortfall is very noticeable especially among observers whom have noted that in regional exercises, the RMAF would normally commit four fighters per squadron while a neighbour could easily muster ten.

The Royal Malaysian Navy has recently embarked on its Littoral Combat Ship program. This has been a long-awaited program given that China has forward bases in the Spratlys after reclaiming some 1,170 hectares. Commercial aircraft have been landing at the airstrips built there, we know what those airstrips are able to handle.

The Falklands War of 1982 and the Force ‘Z’ disaster closer to home on 10th December 1941 are poignant reminders that air superiority and the element of surprise are critical in modern air and naval warfare. Without the MiG-29s or their replacements force projection is somewhat limited. Maritime Patrol Aircraft play an important role in locating   enemy surface assets, while airborne tankers will allow air assets to have longer loiter and patrol capabilities. As written in a previous article an Airborne Early Warning system would also help the RMAF to “see beyond” what it currently could. The RMAF has been in want of AEW assets since the 1980s, a dream yet to be fulfilled.

Also important would be a mobile radar in the Peninsular with at least three in Sabah and Sarawak would enhance our air defence capabilities. Passive radar system would also enhance aircraft identification process.

Importantly everything should be at a minimum operational and combat readiness level of seventy percent. And this number should include the spares we need to run these systems.

The RMAF has very good and skilled human assets but without the tools needed to make the organisation combat-effective. Again, it is hoped that the government can pay serious attention to the needs of the Armed Forces – the RMAF in particular. A stop-gap measure with over 70 percent operational and combat readiness is what the government needs to assist the RMAF with.

Only then the RMAF would truly be “Sentiasa Di Angkasaraya.”

Happy 58th Anniversary, RMAF. We hope your dreams will soon come true.

Protest Against China’s Blatant Intrusion

Ever since my last posting on China’s hegemonic role in the South China Sea I was told that China has agreed to not station its coast guard cutter at the Luconia Shoals while Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Shahidan Kassim, announced in Parliament that there has been an increase in operational presence by the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency at the South Luconia Shoals from 269 days in 2014 to 345 days this year. It is believed that Malaysia’s continuous diplomatic stance that is seen as friendly by China as opposed to holding demonstrations as held in other claimant countries is the reason for the one step back taken by China at the Luconia Shoals. However, the Chinese coast guard continues to loiter in the South China Sea.

  
However this morning (18th December 2015) a group of about 16 people calling themselves the Sarawak Association for People’s Aspiration or SAPA, headed by Lina Soo as its President, held a protest rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Kuching, Sarawak.

The protest which began at about 9am kicked off by the submission of a protest note at 9.28am to the personal assistant for Mr Liu Quan by SAPA, followed by shouts in Hokkien saying “Get out and don’t return” by the SAPA members.

  
Although small, this protest is significant as it displays a growing awareness amongst Malaysians on the blatant incursions by the Chinese navy as well coast guard.

China has been aggressive in creating ad hoc ADIZ (Air Defence Identification Zone) around its man-made islands, warning off other military aircraft and vessels that got too near. Four days ago the BBC filed a story on how one of its journalist flying in a Cessna 206 was asked to leave the area to avoid miscalculations.

Last month a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft was told by the Chinese to leave and that “it would be a shame if a plane fell from the sky.”

Things are not going to get better as China continues to claim the South China Sea as its territorial waters whereas two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 per cent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and 80 per cent of China’s crude oil imports come through the South China Sea. Even Indonesia, a non-claimant, has begun to reinforce its military presence in the Natuna islands to face the Chinese.

It will be a matter of time, sooner rather than later, that we will see aggressive flying by PLAAF aircraft that will be stationed at China’s South China Sea airstrips when intercepting other military aircraft. The South China Sea is a potential flashpoint Malaysian cannot ignore nor take lightly.

Paradise Won

A flight of B-52 bombers from the USAF flew around Second Thomas Shoal and Mischief Reef in the Spratlys and were quickly challenged by Chinese Air Traffic Controller during the weekend of the 8th and 9th November 2015.

US PACAF released the transcript of the exchange between the bombers and the Chinese ATC and was reproduced by Alert 5 and are as follows:

Chinese ATC: “You have violated my reef. Change your course to avoid misjudgement.”

Chinese ATC: “You have violated the security of my reef. Change course to avoid misjudgment.”

Reply from the B-52: “I’m a United States military aircraft conducting lawful activities in international waters, and exercising these rights as guaranteed by international law. In exercising these rights as guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard to the right and duties of all states.”

China has been making de facto claims on the Spratlys by doing reclamation works on reefs that include the construction of airfields and enforcing its “Nine-Dash Line” policy all the way into Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone. Being the sole regional Big Brother China has been flexing its muscle against its smaller neighbours economically and militarily. China’s runway at Fiery Cross reef has a runway that could land a H-6G bomber that could operate 5,700 kilometres from a home base, not to mention Shenyang J-11 fighters that could operate within a radius of 1,400 kilometres. Malaysia is now within a 45-minute strike distance.

As if that is not enough, the threat if asymmetric warfare from Sulu in the southern Philippines is also a clear and present danger. On the 15th November 2015, the Abu Sayyaf was reported to have met with elements from the IS to conduct terrorist attacks in Malaysia. The Abu Sayyaf is also notorious fir the kidnappings of westerners and Malaysians alike.

 

RMAF assets involved in Ex Paradise 2/15 – photo by Marhalim Abas
 
With the above in mind, the Royal Malaysian Air Force conducted and concluded Exercise Paradise 2/15 from the 9th until the 20th November 2015. With the objective to test its combat readiness and capabilities in the Second Air Region, the RMAF deployed assets such as the F/A-18D Hornet, Su-30MKM Flanker, BAe Hawk, 108/208, C-130H-30 transport aircraft, KC-130 tankers, CN-235 transport aircraft, helos such as the Sikorsky S61A4 Nuri and the Eurocopter EC725 and also involved the RMAF Special Forces regiment. The Malaysian Army’s 10th Brigade (Para) provided a team of air despatchers.

 

A RMAF F/A-18D Hornet from No.18 Squadron – pic by Capt Rahmat
 
Up until the 18th November 2015, a total of 198 air sorties had been flown. During the Field Training Exercise (FTX) RMAF assets successfully conducted Air to Ground firing exercises as well as Air Drop operations and insertion of special forces elements to support ground operations.

During the War Exercise (WAREX), the assets were then combined for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), High-Value Air Asset Protection (HVAAP), Combined Air Operations (COMAO), Mixed Fighter Force Operation (MFFO) and Large Force Employment (LFE).

According to Exercise Chairman, Major General Dato’ Mohd Shabre bin Haji Hussein RMAF, the exercise achieved more than 90 percent of its objectives in accordance with the Scenarios of Exercise (SOE) and was a success.

The media was also invited to witness the exercise in a bid by the Ministry of Defence as well as the RMAF in educating the media, and in turn the public, on the capabilities of the RMAF and the importance of public support towards the Malaysian Armed Forces in general.

Members of media had the privilege to take part in a Aircraft Force Down exercise involving fighter and transport assets.

 

Members of the media experiencing aircraft force down procedures in a side-exercise – photo by Fadzli Hafiz
 
In an observation by this writer, the Ministry of Defence has to seriously look at beefing up the assets of both the Royal Malaysian Air Force as well as the Royal Malaysian Navy. The Chinese government gets away with murder in the South China Sea simply because Malaysia lacks effective deterrence. The RMAF for example should be equipped with AWACS aircraft as well as the still-elusive MRCA.

 

A KC-130 tanker leading a formation of F/A-18Ds, Su-30MKMs and Bae Hawks – photo by MINDEF
 
This writer opines that in line with the principles of force projection, MRCAs should also be based in Labuan in sufficient numbers to deter the advance of PLAAF and PLAN assets, while the Hawks concentrate especially in providing air support for the ESSZONE by having forward operating bases in Tawau and Lahad Datu or Sandakan. Without strong deterrence, Malaysia will never be able to have diplomatic bargainjng power against any larger forces in the region.

South China Sea: The Gatling Gun Approach?

China's build-up in the South China Seas brings this region closer to a conflict
China’s build-up in the South China Seas brings this region closer to a conflict

We need to look at what we see as the threats. What you see is the story unfolding in Syria and Iraq and which fighter is not there at the moment? You’ve got the Super Hornets, you’ve got the Typhoons and yet it is still unfolding before our very eyes. And secondly, the threat from IS is different from our traditional terrorist threats that we have faced in the past, don’t compare with the threats that we’re facing from IS.”

Those were the words uttered by the Malaysian Defence Minister on the eve of the recent Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition that concluded on the 21st March 2015. He added:

You will see the gatling gun that we have fitted on our A109s and maybe the threat that we face just requires a gatling gun.”

Many defence practitioners, analysts, journalists and bloggers such as I, felt as if the military had been let down when we heard those very words uttered on board the Royal Malaysian Navy’s frigate, KD Jebat.  Malaysia has been seeking for the replacement of the MiG-29N fleet for the longest time, and now it has been stalled again.  Furthermore, the fight against the IS is first and foremost a counter-insurgency warfare that falls within the purview of the Home Ministry, with the Defence Ministry in a supporting role.

It would be good to note, too, that missing from the airshow for the first time at LIMA ’15 are the Smokey Bandits, the RMAF’s aerobatics team that consists of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29Ns.  It was looked forward to, and missed by many.

In March of 2013, the PLA-N sent its largest and most modern amphibious assault ship, a destroyer and two guided-missile frigate to James Shoal (Beting Serupai), 80km off the coast of Bintulu in Malaysia’s state of Sarawak, to conduct an oath taking ceremony there.  The PLAN sailors and marines pledged to “defend the South China Sea, maintain national sovereignty and strive towards the dream of a strong China.”  Just 80km off Malaysia’s coast, this flotilla went unchallenged by the Royal Malaysian Navy or by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency vessels.

The RMAF Su-30MKMs are about the only MRCA capable of taking on the PLAN or PLAAF but lack miserably in numbers
The RMAF Su-30MKMs are about the only MRCA capable of taking on the PLAN or PLAAF but lack miserably in numbers

While the Minister focuses on the IS threat, which really should be looked at by the Home Ministry and not Defence as it involves counter-insurgency warfare, both the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force are in dire need of more capable assets.  Without the MiG-29Ns and the F-5E Tiger IIs, the RMAF is down to just 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flankers and 8 F/A-18 Hornets, supported by 14 BAe Hawk 208 and 6 BAe Hawk Mk 108.  Of course, that is if the serviceability rate is at 100 percent.

The Royal Malaysian Navy’s combat power is represented by 2 Scorpene submarines, 2 Frigates (with 6 to be constructed), 6 corvettes, 6 offshore patrol vessels, and 8 missile boats.  Although the Royal Malaysian Navy could give any enemy a bloody nose if required, without air superiority achieved, there will be a repeat of what happened to Force Z in 1941.  The RMN is also somewhat impaired given that its OPVs are fitted-but-not-with strike-capable weapons such as anti-air and surface-to-surface missiles.

The Kedah-class OPVs have been fitted-but-not-with SSMs (Photo courtesy of BERNAMA)
The Kedah-class OPVs have been fitted-but-not-with SSMs
(Photo courtesy of BERNAMA)

Underscoring its intention to subjugate the other claimants especially Malaysia, the Chinese Coast Guard was found in the vicinity of the Luconia Shoals, 150km off Miri, early this month.  With a large to cover, both the Royal Malaysian Air Force as well as the Royal Malaysian Navy are very much lacking in assets.

A Malaysian vessel intercepts a Chinese Coast Guard cutter at the Luconia Shoals off Sarawak, Malaysia - picture courtesy of WSJ
A Malaysian vessel intercepts a Chinese Coast Guard cutter at the Luconia Shoals off Sarawak, Malaysia – picture courtesy of WSJ

In his speech during the recent Air Force Day celebration, General Dato’ Sri Roslan bin Saad RMAF underlined three approaches to ensure that the RMAF stays on top of the game:

  • The amalgamation of assets and organisation: this approach gives focus to the readiness of aircraft and radar systems. Through the Chief of Air Force’s Directive Number 19, several action plans have been formulated to ensure that the serviceability rate for aircraft and radar systems remain high.
  • Enhancement of Human Resource: this is done by raising, training and sustaining the RMAF’s manpower by increasing its specialisation and competency levels.
  • Optimisation of Available Resources and Finance: this is by formulating a strategy to ensure that resources and finances are being managed properly and are well managed.
General Dato Sri Roslan bin Saad RMAF, the Chief of Air Force, delivering his speech at the Air Force Day parade at the Kuantan Air Base.
General Dato Sri Roslan bin Saad RMAF, the Chief of Air Force, delivering his speech at the Air Force Day parade at the Kuantan Air Base.

In my opinion, the amalgamation of assets should also include the reactivation of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29N Fulcrum as well as the Northrop F-5E Tiger II fleets.  With limited funds available for the addition of more interceptors as well as MRCAs, perhaps the RMAF should get the MiG-29Ns back online in a reduced number. The final number of MiG-29Ns maintained by the RMAF was ten.  Perhaps eight is a credible size to maintain.  We know that engine hours is no longer the issue with the MiG-29Ns. If budget constraint is a concern, no upgrades are needed for now. They can still perform their MRCA role with what is readily-available, and perform as Smokey Bandits when needed.  It would be worthwhile to note that the Indian Air Force has upgraded its much-older MiG-29Bs to the MiG-29UPG, at par with Russia’s MiG-29SMTs but sporting western avionics.  I am more than sure that Malaysia’s Aerospace Technology Systems Corporation Sdn Bhd (ATSC) could propose an upgrade to the MiG-29Ns. These upgrades would be cheaper than a total fleet purchase which negotiations will take years to conclude.

The Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) maintains more than 400 F-5E Tigers in its inventory while the Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) maintains more than 200.  These old analog interceptors are based near where the threats are.  The most interesting point about the F-5Es are that they run on analog systems and require less time from cold start to interception.  Malaysia had about 16 F-5Es and 2 RF-5E Tigereye that could do Alert 2 standby for first interception while the Alerts 5 and 7s could come and back them up later.  Two squadrons could still be maintained perhaps in Kuching with an FOB set-up in Miri and Labuan for F-5E detachments.

The two suggestions above is for the RMAF to consider while it waits for budget and arrival of the new MRCA.

It is of no secret that while Dassault Aviation has been promoting its Rafale MRCA heavily in Malaysia especially, the fighter jocks of the RMAF prefer the F-18Ds that they have; and if any addition is to be made to its MRCA fleet, it should be the F-18Ds.  End-users’ opinions and evaluation must be seriously considered.

The other threat that faces Malaysia is the potential insurgency in Sabah’s ESSZONE.  While “helicopters with Gatling guns” may be considered an answer, a helicopter is slow to get away from a fire-fight.  Time and time again we have seen how rebels in the southern Philippines who are also responsible for the kidnappings as well as skirmishes in Sabah brought down military helicopters.

The real answer is in a platform that can deliver enough payload at high speed and conduct effective strafing of known enemy positions.  The RMAF should consider reactivating the Light Attack Squadron (LAS) that was used in counter-insurgency warfare in the 1980s and early 1990s.  The Pilatus PC-7 Mk II, while acting as the aircraft for the LIFT program (Lead-In Fighter Training), can also be used as both counter-insurgency warfare aircraft as well as in support of the roles taken up by the Hawks 108 and 208 as well as the Aermacchi MB-339CM.  Economy-of-effort has always been part of the Principles of War and still holds true today.  Having the experience in the LAS I believe will make them better pilots for the F/A as well as MRCA roles as they progress later.

RMAF BAe Hawks and Aermacchi MB-339CM light fighter/lead trainers flying past during the Air Force Day parade
RMAF BAe Hawks and Aermacchi MB-339CM light fighter/lead trainers flying past during the Air Force Day parade

The RMAF also lacks the eye-in-the-sky.  From the days when I joined the RMAF in the 1980s, the AWACS have always been sought after but never procured.  An AWACS provides the RMAF as well as the RMN a good detail of what is happening both in the sky and at sea.  Four AWACS with good loiter endurance based in Kuching working round-the-clock should suffice. Kuching is at the nearest point between Borneo and the Peninsular, and covers the South China Sea easily.  On top of this, Maritime Patrol Aircraft with anti-ship and anti-submarine capability should be made available for the RMAF.  This is to complement the RMN in its role especially in the South China Sea.

I am not sure but I believe we cannot see much of what is beyond the Crocker range in Sarawak.  Mobile radar systems could be stitched along the range to provide better coverage of what goes beyond the range.  The data can be fed via satellite or HF system.  The RMAF’s HF system is more than capable of providing accurate radar picture of the area.

The Malaysian Army’s “top secret” Vera-E passive radar system should also make its data available and fed into the RMAF’s current air defence radar system to enhance the capability of the the latter.  There is nothing so secret about the Vera-E.  Several keys tapped on Google and one would be able to find out about the Malaysian procurement of the system.  I am flabbergasted that the Malaysian Army has yet to share the Vera-E data with the RMAF.

The government should also allow the RMN to look into procuring available assets from the USN that are capable to deter PLAN assets from entering sovereign waters unchallenged.  Apart from capital assets. the RMN should look into converting some of its smaller assets such as the CB-90s and RHIBs into Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) with 30mm stabilised weapons and targeting system complemented by a STRIKE-MR fire-and-forget missiles that could be operated remotely to conduct swarm attack on larger enemy units.  Using the USV swarm tactic, the RMN should look at the tactics used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) to sink larger Sri Lankan naval units.  Using the CB-90s as well as the RHIBs for swarm warfare at shoals and atolls controlled by Malaysia in the South China seas fits with the concept of “working with what we have and not what we feel we should have.”  Swarm forces can neutralise or deter larger forces from advancing further, while the USV concept does not need the unnecessary loss of lives to achieve its objective.

I urge the government to reconsider the budget put forth by both the RMAF and the RMN. Budget constraint should not be a reason the military is not allowed to enhance their current capabilities.  The warfare doctrine based on the principles of selection and the maintenance of aim must be respected if the Malaysian military, in particular the RMAF and RMN, is to achieve its objectives which mainly is to act as deterrence from potential belligerent forces.  If the RMAF and RMN are not allowed to be strong, Malaysia will always be bullied at the South China Sea diplomatically.