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Royal Malaysian Navy

Malaysia's primary geopolitical and strategic interests lie at sea. Physically, Malaysia is surrounded by two globally significant water bodies - the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea, which in turn borders other strategic seas such as the Indian Ocean, the Andaman Sea, the Sulu Sea and the Sulawesi Sea. Malaysia also derives part of its economic wealth from the sea from its exploitation of petroleum and fisheries resources. The significance of the sea to Malaysia is also manifested in the unresolved conflicts it has with its neighbors over maritime boundaries and marine resources.

The Royal Malaysian Navy has its genesis in the Straits States Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve established a mere one year after the formation of the Royal Malay Regiment in 1933. The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) came into being as a volunteer force to augment British naval forces during World War II. Most of its personnel served aboard ships of the British Royal Navy in India, Ceylon, and East Africa. This volunteer force was demobilized after the war but was reactivated in 1948 as an indigenous force under British command and control. It served in the area as a colonial defense unit until independence in 1957, at which time it was transferred to the new government. The naval force continued to be based at Woodlands, Singapore, however. This small band of sailors proved their mettle during the 'Konfrantasi' with Indonesia in the 1960s.

In 1970 the government began building a base for its navy at Lumut, on the coast of Perak facing the Strait of Malacca; it was scheduled for completion in 1984, when it was to become the Fleet Operations Command Center and the main fleet base. As of early 1984, the RMN headquarters was located in Kuala Lumpur. The navy continued to use the base at Woodlands, to which Singapore had guaranteed it long-term access. Other bases included a modern facility at Kuantan on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, which was completed in 1981, and a facility at Labuan Island, Sabah, that was undergoing improvement in the early 1980s. Operational command of naval forces was shared by naval commanders at Woodlands and Labuan Island, who had authority to operate ships out of Peninsular Malaysia and out of Sabah and Sarawak, respectively.

The navy was undergoing expansion in the early 1980s to meet new responsibilities associated with the increase of areas under its control and changes in the regional security setting. In light of this, it was seeking to acquire a force capable of performing both a blue-water role as well as inshore and coastal patrol tasks. Naval operations focused mainly on the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea. The former is a heavily traveled international water-way, where for many centuries pirates have preyed on unarmed commercial vessels. In addition to ensuring safe transit through the strait, the navy also devoted its resources to maintaining constant surveillance on Soviet warships using the channel, which averaged three per month in the 1981-82 period. United States naval vessels, which used the strait over twice as frequently during the same period, were not so closely watched. Operations in the South China Sea appeared to center on protecting seabed re- sources believed to underlie Malaysia's EEZ and, over the longer term, on providing defense against possible threats to national security from the Indochina region. During the late 1970s and early 1980s the navy also devoted some attention to patrolling the seas separating Sabah and the Philippines, where piracy and smuggling had long been problems.

The navy was the smallest of the three services in the early 1980s, having a personnel strength of approximately 8,700. The RMN was attempting to build a balanced fleet: its inventory included two frigates (one of which carried surface-to- air missiles) and eight missile fast attack craft, in addition to conventionally armed fast attack craft, large patrol vessels, mine-sweepers, landing vessels, and other support craft. On order were two missile frigates and four minehunters. The fleet had no submarines in early 1984, but Malaysia has expressed interest in seeking foreign assistance to provide submarine training for some of its personnel.

After undergoing basic training at Port Dickson, naval officer cadets entered a three-year course at the Singapore base. That program included a year of sea training. Personnel of other ranks attended special schools at various facilities. Most training of officer cadets and other ranks was scheduled to be moved to the Lumut base during the mid-1980s. The navy had a small volunteer reserve force, the Royal Malaysian Naval Volunteer Reserve.

In the mid-1990s Malaysia entered a joint venture project with Australia to build 39 Off-shore Patrol Vessels for the Malaysian Navy, thus opening an opportunity for an export-oriented ship-building industry. This vessel would have been of sufficient size and capability to fulfil patrolling duties. Importantly, the OPV was designed to carry a helicopter, essential for the conduct of boarding operations in extremely rough weather conditions. The 'failed' Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) project was cancelled in the mid-1990's after Malaysia pulled out of negotiations for the joint project.

As of October 2011 the French military shipbuilding group DCNS was the favorite in a tender on 24 corvettes for Malaysia. This represented the third attempt at such an ambitious program, following the project with Australia to build 39 Off-shore Patrol Vessels which never got started, and the KD Kadah MEKO 100 New Generation Patrol Vessel (NGPV) which only produced six of the originally envisioned a total of 27 ships.

A letter of intent had been received by the group in September 2011 and advanced discussions were ongoing. If DNCS was actually preferred, TKMS and Damen Dutch German groups might have been provided by the Malaysian authorities. The French group proposed a corvette of the "Gowind" family. It is intended for area surveillance missions, the fight against piracy and terrorism as well as the preservation of the environment, among others. It also allows deploying a helicopter or a drone.

Malaysia has announced its intention to buy at least two frigates with an option for two more from BAE Systems. However, because of uncertainty over the budget, by early 2009 the future of this deal, known as the Frigate Batch 2 program, was cloudy. Malaysia was presumed to also be looking at other sources to supplement their fleet. Malaysia was also looking to acquire one or more multi role amphibious ships to supplement its ageing amphibious support ships, to support peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. Among the potential sources were Spain's Navantia, Dutch Royal Schelde and Merwede, France's DCNS, China and the Republic of Korea. However, budget for the program remained a problem.

The Government of Brunei decided to sell off the three OPVs, KDB Nakhoda Ragam, KDB Bendahara Sakam and KDB Jerambak, built at BAE Systems shipyard in Glasgow for the Royal Brunei Navy after a long-running legal dispute was resolved. The ships were built under a deal costing 600 million, between BAE Systems and Brunei, and were completed in 2004. However the Brunei claimed the ships were not as they had ordered, and they remained berthed in Scotstoun until the arbitration dispute ended in May 2007, allowing the ships to be sold. Malaysia at one time seemed the likeliest buyer for the three ships, provided they could get it at a reasonable price, but as of late 2012 it appeared they would go to Indonesia.

The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) wants an organic maritime patrol and reconnaissance capability. This role is currently provided by four Raytheon Beechcraft Super King Air B200Ts acquired in 1994. Given the requirement to better patrol the Malacca Straits against piracy and smuggling, the RMN has examined offers from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Saab/Embraer and EADS. Malaysia has identified a requirement for three to four platforms.

The Navy had plans to buy 12 Eurocopter EC-725 worth RM1.607 billion, to replace the ageing fleet of Sikorsky S61-A4 Nuri. However, the purchase was postponed on 28 October 2008 because the government had to focus on projects that were more beneficial to the people. The EC-725 aircraft was chosen because the model was an upgrade from the AS532 Cougar helicopter and had made its first flight in 2000 to fulfil French Air Force Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) requirements. The Royal Malaysian Navy plans to purchase at least six anti-submarine warfare helicopters, but this requirement is likely to be postponed to 2013 due to the 2012 budget cuts. Sikorsky has been heavily marketing the MH-60R Seahawk for this requirement, although Eurocopter has offered the possibility of a navalized EC725.

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