KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s military modernisation continues to face the same old problem – a lack of funding.
This was once again made clear, according to a report in The Diplomat, by the fact that Malaysia intended to get a third submarine between 2031 and 2035 and another between 2036 and 2040.
The long timeline for buying these two submarines reflects the funding constraints.
The Diplomat report noted that there had long been a “yawning gap” between what Malaysian defence officials said the country required and what the government was willing to fund, even as the country confronted a series of growing challenges, including a dispute over territories in the South China Sea to which Malaysia claims right of ownership.
Defence budget cuts in the past few years, it added, had only widened that gap further, making it difficult to even acquire basic capabilities, let alone submarines, given their cost and political sensitivities.
It noted that there was a surge in defence spending last year, but that it still did not make up for previous cuts.
Malaysia currently has two diesel electric French submarines, which were acquired in 2002 when current Prime Minister Najib Razak was defence minister. The report noted that the purchase of these two submarines was still “a subject of controversy due to irregularities that continue to be debated today”.
It pointed out that Malaysia had been mulling a submarine capability since the 1980s and that the current pair were only acquired after multiple delays.
The report quoted Malaysian navy chief Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin as saying yesterday in Sabah that one of the two new submarines would be acquired between 2031 and 2035 and the other between 2036 and 2040.
Kamarulzaman himself noted the funding constraints when he said, after a handing over of duty ceremony of the commander of the submarine fleet at the Submarine Command Headquarters in Sepanggar, that the government had turned to local submarine training rather than international courses to reduce training costs.
According to the report, Malaysia has fewer submarines than some of its neighbours such as Singapore (four submarines), and Vietnam (six submarines). Indonesia has two submarines and Thailand has ordered three from China.