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RMAF to train in urban warfare as terror threat grows in region

 | November 21, 2017

Urban warfare like the siege on Marawi in southern Philippines is something new for the Royal Malaysian Air Force, says Gen Affendi Buang.

Gen Affendi Buang

Gen Affendi Buang

KOTA BELUD: The Malaysian air force will introduce urban warfare to its capability in the face of terrorism threats such as the recent Marawi city siege in southern Philippines, said its chief Gen Affendi Buang today.

The Philippine military, mostly trained in conventional warfare, was reportedly inadequately prepared for the May attacks on the city by Islamic State (IS)-affiliated groups and had to improvise before they could retake the city five months later.

Consequently, security experts have called on Asean military forces to enhance their capability to tackle urban threats by terror groups eyeing the region as their new focus after the fall of IS’ so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

“Urban warfare like in the Marawi siege is something new for us. We will introduce it in our training from next year,” Affendi told reporters after witnessing an exercise and officially receiving a mobile electronic warfare system at the air range here.

“We have to change our air power approach in an urban warfare situation.

“This will involve our weaponry, surveillance capabilities and assets.

“For example, we currently have a small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) capability. We need to enhance this so that we can be fully prepared to face not just conventional threats but also threats of terrorism and violent extremism.”

One of the problems faced by the Philippine military during the Marawi clashes was friendly fire on ground troops by its air force.

It was reported that the Philippine air force had not held a joint urban warfare exercise with the army.

The attacks on the city by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups came as a surprise to the Philippine security forces who had been battling insurgencies for decades but mostly in a non-urban setting.

The battle for the city, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, lasted more than four times longer than the US-led campaign to liberate Manila from Japanese World War II occupation forces.

In the process, the military literally destroyed Marawi to save it from pro-IS gunmen who it said were intent on carving out territory for a Southeast Asian caliphate.

Military officials said the militants, who numbered about one thousand, brought in a new style of urban warfare that initially flummoxed Filipino troops.

“These terrorists are using combat tactics that we’ve seen in the Middle East,” US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris told a security forum in Singapore last month.

It also marked the first time that IS-inspired forces had banded together to fight on such a scale in the region, he added.

According to Affendi, the addition of UAVs would boost the air force’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

“This UAV capability will strengthen us strategically, technically and operationally.

“It will allow us to monitor a situation on land and also as far as 200km out at sea not just in the peninsula but also in Sarawak and Sabah.

“The South China Sea, Strait of Melaka and Sulu Sea (off Sabah’s east coast) are some of the hotspots that we can better monitor with improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

“This is part of our blueprint until 2030, to build an enhanced air force able to face threats from the whole spectrum, including terror threats.”

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