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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Expert, Deconstructed

Recently (6 December 2017), Free Malaysia Today (FMT), an online media outlet with a centre-left leaning had published an interview with Professor Zachary Abuza of National War College, Washington DC criticizing RMAF apparent lack of preparedness in facing urban warfare. The stinging rebuke by the professor was happily published by the online media, apparently showing that they care of our national security.

For the record, Professor Zachary Abuza is considered as a Southeast Asia subject matter expert. Hence, his view is being seen as matter.

However, things does not seemed to be as it is being portrayed, which I will list down below.

Criticism against RMAF
RMAF is one of the 3 service branches that forms Malaysian Armed Forces. The branch is the youngest of the 3 services, being formed in 1958.

RMAF has 2 key roles in the defence of Malaysia; to defend our skies from foreign air intrusion and to be key strategic lift force for Malaysian Armed Forces. There are other roles too; to list them all would be very onerous.

RMAF combat wing consist of jets; first to interdict foreign intrusion and second to bomb the hell out of these intruders that try to disrupt our peace. And that means they are not on the ground, fighting against ground forces. That's the Army's job.

Hence, Dr Abuza's criticism on RMAF is very much out of place.

RMAF's traditional threat are foreign air forces, not ground Forces, which would be handled by the Army. This is what they do best.

Officers' Corp Initiative
Like their US counterparts, RMAF is a top-heavy organisation. They have more officers in their combat line. And that means by default, they have more thinkers.

While RMAF has no official urban warfare training, my sources confirmed that the officers in the service had initiated their own close quarter combat training as recent as the recent Lahad Datu crisis.

If It Happens Tomorrow
FMT's questions to Gen Affendi Buang is probably stemmed from the revelation by the Philippines Armed Forces revelation that 12 of the military deaths were caused by lack of training between the Philippines Army and Philippines Air Force, resulting in friendly fires. For the record, at least 2 friendly fire incidents were recorded during the Battle of Marawi, the first killed 2 soldiers while the second incident resulted in 10 deaths.

Would this happen to RMAF if God forbids, a Malaysian town is being taken over by terrorist and requires air strikes to neutralise key terrorist position with friendly forces nearby?

RMAF has a proven track record of conducting precision air strikes, with RMAF commandos (known as Paskau) provides ground support and identification using ground laser targeting device known as GLTD.

In fact, during the Lahad Datu crisis RMAF neutralized many of the terrorist hideouts, contributing to the high number of enemies killed and disintegrated bodies.

These GLTD devices allow RMAF to hit their targets within the precision of 5m.

Malaysian Army and Urban Warfare
So if the criticism against RMAF is unsubstantiated, how about Malaysian Army?

Malaysian Army was first exposed to a proper urban warfare much earlier than Dr Zachary would have realised.

In 1993, 2 companies from 19 Royal Malay Regiment Mechanised which formed MALBATT 1 under the aegis of UNOSOM II were involved in the rescue operation of 118 US servicemen (consisting of members from US Rangers and US Delta Forces) from Task Force Ranger who were trapped in the middle of Bakara Market after 3 US 160th Special Operations Airborne Regiment Blackhawk helicopters were shot down using RPG by Somali militia. In that operation, 18 US soldiers were killed. We lost 1 soldier, around 8 to 9 others badly wounded and 4 Radpanzer Condor APC were destroyed.

Cpl Mat Aznan Awang, SP. Driver of lead vehicle. He was mortally wounded when his APC was struck by RPG.

One of the four destroyed Radpanzer Condors.

For years, Malaysian Army had been requesting for fund to build a dedicated urban warfare training centre. However, fund are not forthcoming due to economic situation.

But that did not stop Malaysian Army from conducting FIBUA (Fighting In Build-Up Area) training. For the uninitiated, FIBUA is another name of urban warfare.

Exercises were conducted in vacated quarter areas within army camps. This are further drilled in during the annual military exercises between all 3 service branches.

The largest FIBUA exercise conducted by Malaysian Army to-date is Exercise Stallion in 2013. An abandoned township in Selangor was used as the training ground.

However, co-opting civilian locations or even former army quarters for FIBUA is not really feasible in the long term.

Recently, Malaysian Army had launched 2 new initiatives.

The first is the the Virtsim or Virtual Simulator training centre, located in Camp Syed Sirajuddin in Gemas. A company-sized training centre had been set up to accommodate customizable training scenario for our soldiers; like a game of Counter-Strike, but instead of avatars, you wear combat goggles and electronic receptacles which can be used to simulate pain from being shot, while the goggles show a virtual world.

The second initiative is the launching of ZUCoV training centre in PULADA, Johor. ZUCoV is short for Zulkiple's Urban Combat Village is set up with funding from Australian government. Currently, the centre is basically based on makeshift removable containers, with proposal to have permanent structure at the locations.

Who is Prof Abuza
If this is the case, what was Prof Zachary Abuza's contention?

I have tried to contact Prof Zachary Abuza to understand better. But I have yet to receive any replies.

I did a review of Prof Zachary Abuza's articles and I noticed that while he is a Southeast Asia subject matter expert, his area of knowledge are focused on the Philippines, Islamic militancy and China. Nothing much on Malaysia.

So why did FMT interviewed a defence expert who is not an expert on Malaysia to give view on Malaysia?

It is not that Malaysia has a dearth of defence analysts. Jane's Defence Publication, the premiere defence magazine has a Malaysian on board. Dzirhan Mahadzir is one of the best defence analyst and writer out there. He also lectures to UPNM students.

We also have Capt Abdul Rahmat Tun Hanif Omar, call sign Seademon. He's a former Paskau, and he would be able to give you even more intimate understanding of RMAF capabilities.

And we also have Marhalim Abas of Malaysian Defence.

Are these not reliable enough?

Or, do they have some ulterior motives?

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