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Armed Forces of Malta

The objectives of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) are to maintain a military organisation with the primary aim of defending the Islands' integrity according to the defence roles as set by Government in an efficient and cost effective manner. This it does by emphasizing on the maintenance of Malta's territorial waters and airspace integrity. The AFM is also devoted to combating terrorism, fighting against illicit drug trafficking, conducting anti-illegal immigrant and anti-illegal fishing operations, operating Search and Rescue (SAR) services, and physical/electronic security/surveillance of sensitive locations. As a military organisation, the AFM also provides backup support to the Malta Police Force and other Government Departments/Agencies in situations as required in an organised, disciplined manner in the event of national emergencies (such as natural disasters) or internal security and bomb disposal. On another level, the AFM establishes and/or consolidates bilateral co-operation with other countries to reach higher operational effectiveness related to AFM roles.

The AFM presently consists of a Headquarters, and three regiments. 1st Regiment is established as an Infantry Battalion; 2nd Regiment consists of a Maritime Squadron, Air Squadron and an Air Defence Battery; 3rd Regiment incorporates all the Logistics Services. While equipment procurement and funding are a problem, as indeed is the case in most armed forces, it is manpower which is the biggest issue. At 1,600 men and women, the AFM is well below the establishment level laid down in a White Paper in 1997. And there is the added concern that well-trained technicians particularly those specialised on aircraft and patrol boat maintenance, are moving to better paid private sector jobs. The roles of the AFM have changed even since the 1997 White Paper. While the AFM now has more to do, especially in view of illegal migration, border control, fisheries protection and counter terrorism, it no longer has responsibility for air traffic services and the airport fire service. The AFM needs more people, an establishment of around 2,000, but perhaps not as much as laid down in the 1997 report.

Armed Forces of MaltaIn April 1800, Brigadier General Thomas Graham raised the first official embodiment of Maltese Troops in the British Army, which became known as the Maltese Light Infantry. This battalion of men was disbanded in 1802 and succeeded by the Maltese Provincial Battalion, the Malta Coast Artillery and the Maltese Veterans. In 1815, Lt. Col. Count Francis Rivarola was entrusted with the task of raising the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment following the disbandment of the Provincials, Veterans and Coast Artillery.

The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment was converted to an Artillery Regiment in 1861 and became known as the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. Twenty-eight years later the worthy predecessors of the Armed Forces of Malta came into existence following the formation of the Royal Malta Artillery on 23rd March 1889. The Royal Malta Artillery, more widely known as the RMA, is famed for the part it played during the siege of Malta during the Second World War. 1st Regiment RMA served in the British Army of the Rhine from 1962 to early 1970. In 1970, the Malta Government assumed responsibility for the Royal Malta Artillery. Incorporating also the Royal Engineers (Malta) it was re-instituted as the Malta Land Force. On the 19th April 1973 the Malta Land Force was re-designated The Armed Forces of Malta. New responsibilities were taken on - including the raising of the Malta Pioneer Corps and the Dirajn il-Maltin.

The setup of the Armed Forces was revised in March 1976 to consist of a Headquarters element, a regular regiment (1st Regiment AFM) an engineer unit, the Pioneer Corps and the Dirghajn il-Maltin. The engineer unit was re-named 2nd (Engineer) Regiment on March 7, 1977. An additional responsibility to come the way of the Armed Forces on October 2, 1978 was the formation, organisation and administration of the Revenue Security Corps. The corps, which is still in existence, assists the government in the protection of revenue and, when necessary, the investigation of contraventions relating to fiscal and monetary laws. The RSC also performs security duties with the commercial banks, as well as cash escort duties. By late that year, the Armed Forces also assumed responsibility for providing a search and rescue service in lieu of the departing British forces that were stationed in Malta. In the meantime, the necessary planning continued to absorb all the essential airport services (such as Air Traffic Control, Meteorological and Airport Fire Services) into the AFM.

With the departure of all British troops from Malta on March 31, 1979, more emphasis was also placed on military training in recognition of the heavy responsibility that now fell squarely on the Force of an independent and neutral state to provide for the defence of the islands. On April 1, 1980, certain units of the Armed Forces of Malta were placed under a separate command and commander, and designated as Task Force. At the time of formation, the Task Force was composed of a Headquarters, an Infantry Company, the Maritime Squadron and the Helicopter Flight. At a later stage, the Ammunition and Explosives Company, the Explosives Ordnance Disposal Troop and the Airport Company were integrated into the same Force. One year later, the government opened up yet another engagement in a new corps Id-Dejma, a corps that was to remain part of the Force till the late 1980s. The Dejma Corps existed from June 1981 to December 1989. Suffice to say that over 15,000 men and women served in the Corps over a period of sixteen years.

Illegal immigration, he said, was straining the AFM in many ways. Nearly all maritime patrolling is now concentrated on illegal migration and then there are the problems of accommodating the migrants. The recent creation of the Detention Service was a step in the right direction, but it may be followed up by further action aimed at relieving the burden from the AFM over the short term.The new service has absorbed 124 officers and soldiers from the AFM, eight per cent of the Force. Other soldiers are employed in catering and maintenance duties with the immigrants centers.

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Page last modified: 28-11-2011 14:46:57 ZULU