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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Defence Procurement Policy - Diplomacy

This will be the last article of this series that discuss on procurement policy.  As I had covered the topic rather extensively in the previous articles, this article will be shorter.

One of the least discussed functions of defence procurement is as a diplomatic tool.  Often, war is quoted as the extension of diplomacy.  But it is very seldom discussed that defence procurement itself is used as diplomatic tool.

The United States is apparently the pioneer in establishing their defence industry as part of their diplomatic tool.  With their technological prowess, their equipment are sought by many countries.

Under the thinly veiled moral high ground of human rights, the US used these procurements to seek to control the regimes of their buyers.

This tool is also used by the British after 1980's; the fact that British-made equipment were used by the Argies against British forces during the Falkland war and the increasing awareness of human rights probably helped to change British opinions on exporting defence equipment.

Some countries have lesser compunction and continue to serve what may be deemed as undesirable markets.  France continue to export their weapons globally despite having had angered British for exporting the Exocet to Argentina; the Exocet would prove it's mettle by sinking 2 British Royal Navy frigates and 1 merchant Navy ship, the Atlantic Voyager.

Singapore was found to have exported it's light machine-gun to Croatia during the Balkan war and was believed to have helped to upgrade several Bloodhound surface-to-air missile (SAM) for Myanmar Armed Forces in the 90's.

Malaysia - The Receiving End
As a recipient nation, Malaysia unfortunately bore the brunt of having foreign powers to dictate our procurement.
Purchase of American-made system for Malaysian Armed Forces had always require an approval from US Congress.  RMAF had the infamy of having half of their A4PTM SkyHawk being prevented from delivery to Malaysia due to dissatisfaction of US Congress (please note this information is not corroborated anywhere).

When Malaysia was offered the F/A18D Hornet in the early 1990's, similar roadblocks were met. The Hornets offered were of a lower specifications.  In retaliation, then Prime Minister Tun Mahathir decided to buy only 8 units of Hornets and in its place, 18 units of MiG29N/NUB were procured.

Lower Specs Hornet
According to an interview of Tun Mahathir, the Hornets that Malaysia had purchased were of a lower specifications.  The source code for the plane's system are barred from being amended by Malaysian technical support staffs.

The plane's IFF (Identification - Friend or Foe) interrogator system had been locked out, preventing the possibility of RMAF firing missiles at other US-made jets.

RMAF is also not able to integrate weapons suite from other countries; this requires access to source code.  This has limited RMAF weapon suite choice to only weapons which US had agreed.

However, this may not be true; some sources pointed that US is desperate to obtain back all 8 Hornets from RMAF as they were said to have given us USMC full specs.  Boeing was said to be even offering new Advanced Super Hornet in return.
However, that is a moot point. 

Military Diplomacy - Malaysian Style
Despite Malaysia being the receiving ends of foreign military diplomacy, there are time Malaysia turned the table.

During the procurement of SU30MKM, Malaysian government had specifically requested that all Israeli-made components to be replaced by French.  Small steps in making our statement.

There were a few other occasions where Malaysia had donated excess defence assets to our neighbouring countries as a diplomatic goodwill.  Indonesia for example, received 5 former RMAF F86 Sabre as part of 23 Sabres donated to Tentara Negara Indonesia - Angkatan Udara in a move made together with RAAF. 

Malaysia - Recipient of Foreign Excess Defence Assets
At times, Malaysia do get good deals.  Recently, US had offered up to 30 units of M109A5 which Malaysian government had agreed to.  This was the first US EDA that Malaysian Government had accepted since at least 1994, the last being KD Inderapura (LST Newport class - former USS Spartanburg County).

Not that US Government seldom offer defence assets to Malaysia.  There were many offers which Malaysia had declined, either on the pretense that we were building our own defence industry, or that we prefer new assets.  Amongst others were around 2 to 6 units of Oliver Hazard Perry class destroyers, which was rejected.  Reasons made were that RMN does not have the manpower to support the destroyer's operation.  A more likely version was the acceptance would affect the regional geopolitical balance. 

Defence procurement policy, if it comes to being, will be a multi-faceted policy that would serve as a guiding principle for future defence procurement.  The benefits from having this policy will be that of future large ticket defence procurements having a guided basis, and hopefully would remove the element of being politicised.  Better assets can be procured and within the framework.  Potential embezzlement and block obsolescence can be minimised if the policy is diligently followed.

Note: this article is the last article in this series of 7 articles on defence procurement policies.  Each of these article can be read independently from the other, but ideally read together to get a fuller picture.  Do note though, some parts might seems to be disjointed from one another due to the length of time used to write these articles, 5 months altogether.  This had resulted in me missing a deadline to translate these articles for publication with the Patriot group.  Anyway, that would be a project itself for another time.

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