Monday, March 28, 2011

Belated But A Fitting Tribute To Our Men Sang Saka Biru

Please don't mind the grammatical errors but to those who can only paint them with a single brush and brand them all as corrupt, thiefs and thugs and whatever nasty things you can think of, this came from the heart of a policeman who only know how to serve with sacrifice.

The Police Officers' Life

First and foremost, we thank Abdul Manan Bin Shuib for sharing this piece of interesting poem regarding the Police officers' life in the Discussion Board. It's depicted the inner voice of the police officers who scarify (sic sacrifice) in silent (sic silence).

You wonder why he pulled you over and gave you a ticket for speeding...

He just worked on an accident where people died because they were going too fast


You wonder why that cop was so mean...

He's just work on a case where a drunk driver killed a kid


You work for 8 hours...

He works for up to 18 hours


You drink hot coffee to stay awake...

The cold rain in the middle of the night keeps him awake.


You complain of a "headache", and consider it as falling sick ....

He goes into work still hurt and sore from the guy he had to fight the night before


You drink your coffee on your way to the mall.. .

He spills his coffee as he runs to a tragic crash with kids trapped inside.


You make sure your cell phone is in your pocket before you leave the house.

He makes sure his gun is clean and fully loaded and his vest is tight


You talk trash about your "buddies" that are not with you...

He watches his buddy get shot at,and wounded in front of him.


You walk down the beach, staring at all the pretty girls...

He walks down the highway looking for body parts from a tragic crash.


You complain about how hot it is...

He wears fifty pounds of gear and bullet proof vest under the scotching sun and still runs around chasing crack heads


You go out to lunch,and complain because the restaurant got your orders wrong...

He runs out before he gets his food to respond to an armed robbery incident.


You get out of bed in the morning and take your time getting ready...

He gets call and get out of bed at 2 am after working 12 hours and has to rush to work as soon as possible for a traffic homicide


You go into the mall and get your hair done...

He holds the hair of some college girl while shes vomiting in the back of his patrol car


You are angry because your class ran 5 minutes over...

His working shift ended 4 hours ago and there is no end in sight.


You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight...

He cannot make any plans because on his off days he still get back to work


You yell and scream at the patrol car that just past you because they slowed you down...

He is in the driver seat of the patrol car, going to cut somebody out of their car only to find out that their dead when he gets there.


You roll your eyes when a baby cries in public...

He picks up a dead child in his arms and prays that he/she was crying.


You criticize your police department and say they are never there quick enough...

He blasts the siren while the person in front of him refuses to move while talking on his cell phone and doing her makeup.


You hear the jokes about fallen officers and say they should have known better...

He is a hero and runs into situations when everyone else is running away in order to make sure no one else gets hurt and loses his life doing it.


You are asked to go to the grocery shop by your parents. You do not...

He would take a bullet for his buddy without questions.


You sit there and judge him, saying that its a waste of money to have them around...

Yet as soon as you need help he is there.


Thank you to everyone involved, and may each and everyday, everyone in their career come home safely....

"To whom who serve the people, the country with pride, commitment, dedication and passion... We salute you. You deserved this respect. We love you " - From PDRM

AV8- The What If 2

Further to my initial post, my fellow forumer at Mymil Mr Dewafrost had said that in his discussion with DEFTECH's representative during the recent Air Force Open Day in Kuantan, he was informed that there has been a proposal for the AV8's to use Oto Melara's turrets. These are the result of his Photoshopping the available turrets onto the V8 frame.

Oto Melara HITFACT 120mm

Oto Melara HITFIST 25mm

Oto Melara HITFIST 30mm

Meanwhile the photos below are the result of other turrets as suggested by other forumers.

INGWE anti tank missile

INGWE + 50cal turret




And this is another turret from Russia, that even though it looks very utilitarian, is my personal favourite as it can provide three type of lethal treatment. Nonetheless this has not been commercially sold yet but since Malaysia has a track record of being pioneer buyers, why not eh?

AV8 Kliver Turret

Nonetheless to bring back the topic of discussion into serious focus. The posting of the what if photos may seem indulgent bordering on childishness, but the reason I did it is to show the versatility of the platform itself, which if the final design is optimally chosen, can provide a very lethal weaponry combination to an indigenously built fighting platform that nobody should sneer at.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Finally A Mainstream Paper Picks Up The Story

Further to my previous posting that the Navy should be getting another auxiliary ship, finally Berita Harian reported that the Navy confirmed that their proposal has received the attention of MISC. So can we take it that the Corporation has agreed to the proposal?

TLDM bakal dapat satu lagi kapal pengiring

Oleh Zailani Ahmad

BAGI melindungi lebih banyak kapal dagang yang mempunyai kepentingan negara daripada ancaman lanun di perairan antarabangsa, Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia (TLDM) akan menambah satu lagi kapal pengiring keselamatan tidak lama lagi.

Panglima Angkatan Laut, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar, berkata pihaknya sudah mengemukakan cadangan kepada syarikat perkapalan, Malaysian International Shipping Corporation Berhad (MISC) baru-baru ini, supaya menyumbang satu lagi kapal bagi dijadikan kapal pengiring keselamatan dan cadangan itu sudah mendapat perhatian perbadanan berkenaan.

Katanya, usaha itu perlu berikutan banyak syarikat perkapalan antarabangsa menunjukkan minat menggunakan khidmat kapal pengiring TLDM bagi melindungi kargo masing-masing di perairan antarabangsa.

Beliau berkata, sebelum ini MISC menyumbang kapal Bunga Mas 5 kepada TLDM dan berjaya menumpaskan beberapa kegiatan rompakan laut di perairan antarabangsa.

“Kejayaan TLDM membanteras kegiatan lanun di perairan Teluk Aden Januari lalu, membabitkan kapal dagang Bunga Laurel milik MISC, menarik minat banyak kapal dagang untuk menggunakan khidmat kapal pengiring,” katanya selepas mengiringi Sultan Selangor, Sultan Sarafudin Idris Shah yang berkenan menemui pasukan anggota dan pegawai tentera yang terbabit dalam Operasi Fajar di sini, baru-baru ini.

Pada pertemuan ringkas itu, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah memuji usaha pasukan itu menumpaskan tujuh lanun warga Somalia yang merompak kapal dagang MISC di perairan Teluk Aden awal Januari lalu.

Baginda juga berkenan menganugerahkan pingat kepada pasukan yang dianggotai Paskal TLDM, unit Gerak Khas Tentera Darat dan Paskau TUDM.

Mengulas usaha membanteras lanun, Abdul Aziz berkata, Operasi Fajar bermula pada 2008 apabila kapal MISC Bunga Melati 2 dan 5 ditawan lanun di perairan Teluk Aden dan TLDM menggunakan KD Lekiu dan KD Seri Indrapura untuk menumpaskan lanun terbabit.

Katanya, kejayaan itu membawa kepada penugasan berterusan kapal TLDM hingga Operasi Fajar 4 dihentikan sementara pada 2009.

“Berdasarkan situasi semasa di perairan Teluk Aden yang masih diancam lanun, penugasan disambung semula menerusi perkongsian strategik bersama MISC dengan menggunakan kapal Bunga Mas 5.

“Langkah ini perlu bagi menentukan keselamatan kapal dagang yang berkepentingan kepada negara ketika melalui perairan Teluk Aden,” katanya.

Sehingga kini, Bunga Mas 5 sudah melaksanakan empat penugasan membanteras lanun dan 231 mengiring kapal dagang berkepentingan negara serta menyelamatkan harta dagangan melebihi RM63 bilion.

“Kejayaan ini memahat satu lagi tanda kematangan serta kemampuan Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) dalam memikul amanah yang dipertanggungjawabkan negara.

“Ia juga membuktikan keberkesanan kerjasama unik antara pasukan laut, darat dan udara dalam misi membanteras lanun dan menjaga kapal dagang berkepentingan negara," katanya.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

AV8-The What IF?

As a mental exercise, my fellow forumer at Mymil Mr Dewafrost photoshopped these possible representations of the AV8 variants as a matter of conjecture until the real prototype is revealed by June 2011 as expected. At least it may show that what we are buying is a 'ganteng' as the Indonesians say product. He says he based it on the PARS brochure he received during DSA2010 above.

The One Man Turret Variant

The Two Man Variant

Meanwhile the following variants has not been announced but is part of the wishlist that we forumers would like to see developed.

A 105mm Tank Destroyer Version, using the Rooikat turret

A Light Air Defence variant, using the LAV-AD turret.

Remember these are representations and expectations based on available open source information, and we all hope the actual prototype will exceed these expectations.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Here Is All You Want To Know About Kementah, And Its Not Wikileaks!

Many a time people claim they want transparency, but do not even bother to check the truth even it is shoved into their face. Well thanks to Mr Dzirhan Mahadzir, this link below will take you to the Hansard of the current Parliament seating debating the Kementah's issues, including responses to Mr Pua's questions. Go ahead, look it up, all that can be revealed is there, no need to hear it from a third party.

21st March 2011 Parliamentary Hansard- Debate on Kementah issues

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here Is Another Analyst Thoughts On The Av8

In the interest of knowledge-sharing, here is the ADJ's Editor comments on the AV8 purchase;

The Star on Line

Re-equipping the Army

The intensity of combat on the modern battlefield requires infantry vehicles that are mobile, survivable and lethal.

EVEN before the Government agreed to the deployment of troops for the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Lebanon a few years ago, military officials were concerned about the protection of our troops during their tour of duty.

But orders are orders, and the troops were deployed, backed up by a squadron of Condor armoured personnel carriers (APC) made in Germany nearly 30 years ago.

Luckily, as a further back-up, the peacekeepers were supplied with 12 newer Nyala mine-resistant vehicles by the UN.

Since the deployment, no major combat incidents have occurred with the Condors, although one vehicle toppled into a gully in the dry hilly terrain of the MALCON East operational area of Kawkaba, killing a soldier.

“The Condor is a good armoured vehicle that has seen better days, along with the heavier Belgian-made Sibmas which were ordered in the early 1980s and delivered in 1983,” said a local defence analyst.

The vehicles had seen action in the Malaysia-Thai border region, the Balkans, Somalia, Timor Leste and now, Lebanon.

Indeed, the 1993 Bakara Market battle in Mogadishu, highlighted in the Hollywood flick Black Hawk Down where scores of American soldiers were killed and wounded, displayed the vulnerabilities of armoured vehicles in modern-day battle.

Several Malaysian soldiers were also injured and one was killed in the fight when the Condors were hit with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine gun fire.

“What we are facing now is block obsolescence of our wheeled armoured vehicle fleet because the two types were procured at almost the same time to face the communist insurgency,” an army general told this writer recently.

“The threat environment has changed. New vehicles to meet present and future threats need to be acquired,” he said, adding that “our boys have to have that protection against enemy fire in a modern battle environment”.

“The requirement for new armoured vehicles has been on the table for quite some time now,” he further pointed out.

Analysts have said that despite the various upgrades through the years, the Army’s present fleet of wheeled armoured vehicles are somewhat dated.

They say the intensity of combat on the modern battlefield requires infantry vehicles that are mobile, survivable, and lethal.

Due to budgetary constraints, many armies continue to use armoured vehicles which might be considered obsolete.

But the chances of troop survival in a much older machine in modern-day battle with a well-equipped enemy is low, one analyst said.

Aware of the need to protect our troops, the Government recently decided to equip the Army with a new generation of multi-purpose armoured vehicles.

Defence contractor DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies (Deftech), a wholly-owned subsidiary of DRB-Hicom Bhd, early this month announced that it had been awarded a contract worth RM7.55bil from the Government to develop armoured vehicles based on a foreign design for the Army.

Deftech had accepted the Letter of Award dated Feb 23, 2011 from the Government to design, develop, manufacture, commission, supply and deliver 257 units of 12 variants of the 8x8 armoured wheeled vehicles.

The contract is for a period of seven years, starting 2011.

And like many local manufacturers anywhere in the world, the vehicle will be developed in collaboration with a main foreign partner, in this case Turkey.

Deftech will utilise the transfer of advanced defence technologies from its technology partners and original equipment manufacturers (OEM), research and development and local vendor development, it said.

The company also said it expected the contract to create new local OEMs through direct and indirect foreign investments and generate higher employment for the local defence industry.

Deftech had earlier said that the cost of the contract included manufacturing and other costs associated with the production of a new combat vehicle.

DRB-Hicom is one of Malaysia’s leading corporations and plays an integral role in the automotive manufacturing, assembly and distribution industry through its involvement in the passenger car and four-wheel-drive vehicle market segment, the national truck project and the national motorcycle project.

It is an open secret that the Malaysian-developed armoured personnel carrier is being built from the PARS APC produced by the FMC-Nurol Defence System (FNSS) of Turkey.

FNSS is currently one of Turkey’s Top 10 defence firms in terms of total revenue.

Turkey’s Nurol Holding, Inc. maintains a 51% controlling interest in the company.

The PARS is a new generation wheeled amphibious armoured combat vehicle designed and manufactured by FNSS for the Turkish Armed Forces, which reportedly plan to order some 1,000 units.

The vehicles can be easily transported by the Airbus A400M and the Boeing C-17 tactical transport aircraft. The Royal Malaysian Air Force is awaiting delivery of four Airbus A400M tactical airlifters.

Many types of 8x8 armoured vehicles of mostly European and Russian designs are in service in the armed forces of many countries. Even the American Stryker is based on the Swiss Piranha.

Neighbouring Singapore has also developed its Terrex armoured vehicle with foreign technology.

It was reported that the vehicle was developed by Singapore Technologies Kinetics and Irish firm Timoney.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that Deftech has designed and produced an armoured vehicle.

The company has produced an armoured vehicle known as the AV4 in a private venture costing millions of dollars.

The vehicle was intended for the Army and Police but, for some reason, it was not bought by any of these services.

FNSS’ cooperation with Malaysia is not new and the latest one can be seen as a natural progression.

Previously, the company supplied tracked armoured combat vehicles which were assembled by Deftech locally.

The ACV 300 was dubbed by the Malaysian Army as “Adnan” after the Malaysian soldier who fought the invading Japanese to his death along with his men during the Battle of Singapore in World War II.

The PARS armoured vehicle is named after a big cat, as Pars is the Turkish name for the Anatolian Leopard.

Models of the Deftech designs displayed at defence shows were dubbed AV8 but whether it will be later renamed after a big Malaysian cat remains to be seen.

Cynics may regard the Army’s programme for its next-generation wheeled armoured carrier as a wasteful exercise.

Some would say that since we are not at war with anyone and there are no more communist guerillas lurking in the jungles now, why then do we need an armed forces.

But then again, why do we need the fire extinguisher in the house when there is no fire. The current ever-changing strategic and security environment requires that vital element of insurance to ensure that stability, development and economic prosperity can continue unabated.

M. Ghazemy Mahmud is editor of “The Asian Defence Journal”.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Navy Getting Another Auxilliary Ship?

Thank you to Mymil forumer Standupper for providing the following article, which seems to be exclusive Bernama news as I cannot find the link nor an English version. Nonetheless it seems after the announcement by the Defence Minister that the Navy can add another auxiliary ship for anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden as I hoped before in this posting, the additional ship seems to be becoming a reality. There seems to be a change in the specifications as the concept, shape and details of the ship is still being discussed by the Navy and MISC, who has in principle approved the provision of a second ship to act as the auxiliary ship.

Nonetheless as I have also mentioned in another posting, the responsibility should not solely lie with MISC to provide such auxiliary vessels even though they are a GLC company, and other Malaysian shipping companies should consider providing additional vessels so that more range can be added to the convoy coverage by the Malaysian Navy. This is especially pressing as the Somalians seems to have extended their range and also employed more men in their piracy missions like in the hijacking of this Indonesian vessel yesterday and becoming more deadly at that. Thus efforts to engage other Asian navies like Singapore and India to be more involved should be applauded.

Ok here is the Bernama report on the introduction of the second auxiliary vessel, most probably in September this year.

TLDM dijangka dapat kapal tambahan kedua September

17/03/2011 6:21pm

KUALA LUMPUR 17 Mac – Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia (TLDM) dijangka mendapat sebuah lagi kapal pengiring bagi melindungi keselamatan kapal-kapal dagang berkepentingan negara di perairan Teluk Aden pada September depan, kata Panglima Tentera Laut, Laksamana Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar.

Beliau berkata, pada dasarnya syarikat perkapalan, MISC Berhad telah meluluskan penugasan sebuah lagi kapal dagang untuk ditransformasikan sebagai kapal tambahan TLDM yang kedua.

"TLDM dan MISC masih berbincang termasuk menentukan konsep, bentuk dan ciri-ciri kapal kedua itu,” katanya di pejabatnya di sini hari ini.

"Kapal tambahan pertama iaitu Bunga Mas 5 mengambil masa tiga bulan untuk perbincangan awal dan tiga bulan lagi untuk diubah suai menjadi kapal bantuan TLDM.

"Justeru dengan pengalaman itu, anggaran paling lama untuk kita melihat cadangan itu direalisasikan ialah enam bulan dan saya percaya MISC Berhad telah pun membuat penilaian untuk penugasan kapal kedua tersebut,” katanya. – Bernama

Monday, March 14, 2011

So if You Say It Still Cannot Dive...

A bit late as I have been away, but if the naysayers still believe our submarines cannot dive still, you guys bettter stop smoking the stuff you are having....

KOTA KINABALU, March 10 (Bernama) -- Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin was today taken on a ride in the country's first submarine, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, in the South China Sea.

Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) chief Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar said the submarine dived to its maximum operating depth.

Tuanku Mizan also witnessed a series of demonstrations and "evolution" exercises performed by the submarine crew, including the water shot demonstration on the KD Lekiu frigate.

Abdul Aziz said the evolution exercise showed the submarine's capabilities in detecting remote targets even before the enemies were aware of its presence.

Tuanku Mizan also operated the missile firing simulation inside the scorpene-class submarine, he said, adding that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was impressed by the submarine and also expressed his satisfaction over the capabilities of the crew members in handling the KD Tunku Abdul Rahman.

"The dive participated by His Majesty today clearly dismissed all the negative statements against the country's submarine, with some claiming that it could not dive.

"I would like to stress that both the submarines, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Abdul Razak, are in fine condition and operating at the optimum level," he told reporters after seeing off the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who ended his two-day visit to Sabah today.

Abdul Aziz said the RMN would ensure that all its assets and the massive government investment would give high returns to the country.

This was the second time Tuanku Mizan boarded a sophisticated asset of the Malaysian armed forces.

On Feb 7, he was flown at a supersonic speed on a Sukhoi SU-30KM fighter jet over Langkawi, Kedah and Penang.


And this is the same posting in the RMN's website and the picture gallery of the visit.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Something That Does Not Meet The Eye

PARS IFV With 25mm Sharpshooter Turret

I guess everyone would have heard that DEFTECH finally managed to obtain the LOA for the AV8 project. But I feel that the announcement may be truncated in details as something just does not feel right and does not add up. This is especially if you take into consideration this article in the foreign press that did not make it into the local papers regarding the purchase price between Deftech and FNSS that will deliver the base platform.

Turkey's FNSS to produce 257 ACVs for Malaysian Army (Jane's)

By Lale Sariibrahimoglu

25 February 2011

Turkey's FNSS Savunma Sistemleri has signed an export agreement with Malaysian manufacturer DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd (Deftech) for the design, development, production and logistical support of 257 8x8 wheeled armoured combat vehicles (ACVs) for the Malaysian armed forces.

The project, which is worth about USD600 million and is the largest single arms export for the Turkish defence industry, was one of several accords signed in Ankara on 22 February during a visit by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Malaysian ACVs, of which 12 variants will be delivered, will be based on the Pars (Leopard) family of multirole armoured fighting vehicles.

I understand the need for secrecy but to those who has a good inkling about the project will take 2 and 2 together and will not be able to come up with 4. This is because he platform cost of USD600 million or around RM1.9 Billion should have been a major portion of the project cost, instead is only about a third of the overall cost. So many would be thinking what constitutes the cost of the remaining RM5.65 billion.

As it is, some have already started taking potshots at the project by saying that by simple cost division by the number of units that comes to around RM30 million per piece, basically justifies their claims that the AV8 is overpriced. They make the claim that this is even more expensive than the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. After checking the price the Saudi paid in 1989 of USD1.148 Billion for 315 units of M1A2 Abrams, I believe that this makes it easier for them to make the claims even taking into consideration the inflation factor.

All I can say is that there may be a storm if more details are not forthcoming, and I wish that such defence purchases should not draw such uncomplimentary attention by being forthright with all publishable facts from the beginning.

Monday, March 7, 2011

You Want Transparency? You Got It!

It is too bad the mainstream English papers did not pick this up in their reporting. but the Defence Ministry through the Minister intends to invite the Opposition ,especially the leaders like Mr Lim Guan who usually comments on the defence purchases , to LIMA 2011 so that they verify for themselves the capabilities of the purchased defence equipment. The Minister hopes this will answer all their allegations and they can confirm directly the truth regarding the equipment, including the oft-repeated allegation that the nation's submarine cannot dive or submerge by visiting the submarine itself. Therefore no more such unreasonable allegations should be raised under the immunity of parliament.

So what are you guys waiting for, you always ask for transparency and its now being served to you on a silver platter, don't tell me you are afraid of the chance of being proven right, or more likely wrong? If you don't accept the invitation below, it is concrete evidence that you guys have been talking BS all this while.
Menteri Pertahanan, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, berkata beliau sendiri akan mengatur program lawatan Ahli Parlimen pembangkang dengan harapan dapat mengelak pertikaian berhubung kemampuan aset terbabit yang dikhuatiri mewujudkan implikasi negatif terhadap pertahanan dan ketenteraan negara, termasuk dakwaan kononnya kapal selam negara tidak boleh menyelam. “Saya bercadang menjemput Lim Guan Eng melawat LIMA dan secara peribadi nak beliau (Lim) membuat pemeriksaan kapal selam negara. Saya akan mengatur lawatan dan lihat sendiri kapal selam yang didakwa tak boleh menyelam. Saya harap selepas itu tiada lagi persoalan mengenai kemampuan aset ketenteraan diajukan pada sidang Parlimen,” katanya selepas perbarisan kontinjen dan aset Tentera Darat sempena Hari Terbuka Tentera Darat di Dataran Merdeka, semalam.
For those who can and want to read more of this article in Bahasa Malaysia, below is the link :

Parti lawan dibawa lawat LIMA

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Now This Is Responsible Defence Debate

A good article on Malaysian Armed Forces spending that is properly debated, and quoting the article itself "This is where informed groups and individuals, motivated by the national interest rather than narrow partisan concerns, can help enrich discussion by contributing what ideas they can."

I hope this will enlightened those who are really interested in the actual defence needs of the nation.

Need to spend on defence

Issues concerning Malaysia’s defence budget and arms purchases are re-emerging but more open and better-informed discussions will dispel common misperceptions.

IN the 1990s, there were ominous reports from mostly Western sources about a supposed “arms race” in East Asia. Such loose talk was often related to a presumed “China threat” that corresponded with a rising China.

Through the past decade until the present, such perceptions have returned based on accounts of growing national defence budgets. This time, the problem of conflicting claims to disputed maritime territory among Asean members is cited in addition to the spectre of a hulking China.

The current season of critical reporting about South-East Asian defence budgets coincides with the success of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and Russia. By comparison, Asian countries are somehow seen as less responsible.

But responsible reporting itself must be clear about actual developments, not merely perceived ones. They must be grounded in solid evidence, not interpretations of assumptions.

An arms race is a mutually competitive relationship between two or more powers in acquiring additional weaponry. It stems from national ego or crude threat perceptions of the other side, not on mature strategic planning and careful assessments of a country’s actual needs in asset procurement.

Such a “race” is therefore unnecessary and wasteful, being invariably costly, self-propagating and an unjustifiable misallocation of resources. It carries a negative connotation particularly in terms of questionable public expenditure.

However, that is also where much misunderstanding of defence budget allocations begin. Like credible reporting of arms-related developments, assessments and criticisms must be founded on fair judgment and factual evidence.

There is no arms race when two or more countries in a region equip themselves with military hardware for reasons entirely or principally of their own, however large the defence budgets involved.

But there would be an arms race when they do so solely or largely because the other(s) are doing so as well, however small the budgets may be.

In the midst of talk about an “arms race” in Asean, an Australian defence official testified in parliament in September 2008 that there was no such thing going on. He, however, noted “a substantial military modernisation,” distinguishing between the two.

Also, since defence budgets cover acquisitions of increasingly sophisticated hardware, costs escalate from year to year without necessarily any enlargement in overall firepower.

Then there is the element of inflation and the question of currency exchange rates.

Most critics, however, rely only on the size of the budgets year-on-year. They typically assume growing belligerence without factoring in rising costs of production, inflation and currency exchange rates.

Ironically, year-to-year comparisons also tend to neglect how the previous year(s)’ budgets had been slashed, so that a revived budget looks (relatively) large. Malaysia, for example, has lately seen consecutive years of defence budget cuts.

The size of the defence budget alone may seem sensational but is ultimately insubstantial. Gross sums are an unreliable indicator of combat prowess, much less intent, since the single largest component of defence budgets universally comprises the salaries and employment benefits of personnel.

With new procurements in particular, personnel need to be trained or retrained. Costs increase again when the equipment is imported for which technical expertise lies abroad, as the personnel would have to be sent overseas for long periods, sometimes with their immediate families.

Further, there is also the issue of linkage between a nation’s economic fortunes and the size of its defence budget. When a country’s economy is doing well, it may be expected to aim for a larger budget in defence as in other public sectors.

But when the economy is not doing well, defence (and other public sector) budgets are expected to decline. And so some European critics, for example, are targeting some apparently enlarged defence budgets in South-East Asia, given the 2008 financial crisis.

Defence analysts, however, know there is a time lag between declining economic fortunes and defence budget downsizing. For this region, the 2008 crisis was less severe than in Europe or its source, the US, so the budgeting consequences have been modest.

Besides, since the largest cost component of defence budgets is personnel, the impact of an economic downturn is low or slow. Demobilisation of a country’s defence forces is a major decision that takes time to consider and decide on, and more time to have a palpable and appreciable effect.

An Australian study has concluded that “defence expenditure appears less prone to cutbacks” because of the large personnel component. And while it detected a link between economic health and budget size, the link was neither strong nor definitive.

However, the 1997 financial crisis that originated in and shook East Asia had a significant impact on defence imports. After the region recovered, procurements grew markedly and was seen abroad as disturbing.

There is also a common misconception that reduced defence budgets would in themselves enlarge budgets in other public sectors such as education and health. Scandinavian studies have shown no such reciprocal linkage, since the overall government decision-making transcends the defence sector alone.

A broader misperception is that defence expenditure is necessarily unproductive. A 2009 study in Malaysia examined the economy-defence relationship of five Asean countries over four decades (1965-2006) and found very mixed results.

The multi-authored Universiti Putra Malaysia study found that for Malaysia and the Philippines, “no meaningful relationship (between defence expenditure and economic growth) could be detected.” Nonetheless, popular perceptions about invariably wasteful defence expenditure prevails.

Among the basic facts for any country are that national defence is a continual need, and defence budgets are necessary. Pertinent questions would then concern the budget components, in particular the type of equipment purchased.

Apart from new acquisitions and occasional equipment updates, military forces also require periodic replacements of worn hardware. The Royal Malaysian Navy, for example, is due for major replacements of surface vessels within a decade.

Need for practical items

Malaysia needs more multi-function assets like transport aircraft and ships, OPVs (offshore patrol vessels) and spotter aircraft, including helicopters, rather than prestige inventory.

These practical items are essential in military and quasi-military functions like regular patrols and interdictions at sea against smuggling, human trafficking, illegal migration and piracy as well as search-and-rescue operations. A degree of interoperability would therefore make sense.

Various national agencies require such procurements: the Fisheries Department, Customs and Excise, Marine Police, Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Navy. A long coastline in both East and Peninsular Malaysia, and disputed island territory, add to these routine needs.

For its part, the Malaysian army still needs more basic infantry items like field armour. In the interests of budgeting, cuts are made in areas like (UN) overseas postings to make up for needed expenditure elsewhere.

Indonesia and the Philippines are sprawling archipelagic nations with innumerable maritime territories between thousands of islands. But their operating needs are often overshadowed by budgetary constraints.

Thailand’s government-military relations have fluctuated with the party in office, which has in turn fluctuated considerably.

Singapore is by far the biggest spender in the neighbourhood, its defence budget for fiscal 2011 rising 5.4% from last year to S$12.08bil (RM28.89bil).

Singapore is also the region’s most robust economy, posting a high 14.5% growth last year. Growth alone does not account for enlarged defence budgets, but when coupled with a nation’s lack of strategic depth it can produce a compelling need for enhanced security.

Malaysia’s defence budgets have been cut in recent years, as expressed partly in a 30% demobilisation, but actual expenditure has repeatedly exceeded budget allocations. The 2011 defence budget is a modest RM9.1bil, down by some 20% from last year.

The Defence Ministry wants to make better use of existing equipment in place of more new acquisitions, after some high-profile procurements in recent years. Overall, Malaysia’s emphasis is on consolidating the economy as a firm foundation for a more robust nation.

The key defence issues are threat perceptions, strategic planning, operational purposes, maximal use of assets, streamlining, harmonisation, optimalisation and old-fashioned value for money.

And then there is the question of whether ultimate decision-making for these lies best with political or military leaders.

There is still a lack of vigorous debate based on updated information and educated opinion on such matters of great public interest. Opposition political parties still have no cohesive and coherent alternative plan, for all their pent-up anxieties.

This is where informed groups and individuals, motivated by the national interest rather than narrow partisan concerns, can help enrich discussion by contributing what ideas they can.