UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Malaysian Army

The whole Malaysian army is trained in counter-insurgency. The army strength of 80,000 regular soldiers and the permanent force is currently supported by 40,000 reservists.The development of tactics, techniques and procedures for waging Counter-Insurgency (COIN) warfare was uppermost in the minds of defence planners of the post-war period. Thus, when the dust settled in December 1989, the Royal Malaysian Army emerged as one of the foremost exponents of COIN in the world. The army's experience in counter-insurgency, brutally effective against the Malaysian Communist Party (KPM) and the North Kalimantan Communist Party (PARAKU), proves less relevant when viewed in the context of the armed forces' ability to defend the country's interests in the littoral areas such as the South China Sea.

Special Forces Group (Grup Gerak Khas - GGK) has three regiments (11th, 21st and 22nd GGK) under the direct command of the Army Commander. 10th Paratroop Brigade is under the direct command of the Army Commander. Army Aviation Corps some elements work closely with the 21st Special Forces Group and the 10th Paratroop Brigade. Border Security Regiment: for duties along the Thailand border.

The modern Malaysian Army originates from the Federal Council of Federated Malay States Malay Regiment Bill passed on 23 January 1933. The modern Malaysian military traces its beginnings to an "experimental company" of 25 young Malays whom the British accepted into service in the colonial army on a provisional basis in 1933, in response to long-standing agitation for a Malay unit by the Malay rulers. The experiment was pronounced a success within a short time, and the unit was officially designated the First Battalion, the Malay Regiment, on January 1, 1935. A second battalion was formed in December 1941, in time to fight alongside the British army in an unsuccessful attempt to hold back the Japanese invasion later in the month. After the Japanese scattered across Peninsular Malaysia; some elements joined the British- supported guerrilla units known as Force 136.

After the war the British authorities recalled surviving members of the Malay battalions and reactivated the Malay Regiment. The outbreak of communist insurgency in 1948 led to the steady growth of the regiment, which by the end of the Emergency in 1960 had eight battlions and had been renamed the Royal Malay Regiment. As the name of the formation implies, entry into the Malay Regiment during the colonial period was restricted to Malays; the continuance of the unit's ethnic identity in the post-independence period is guaranteed in the Constitution.

The Kor Armor DiRaja (Royal Armoured Corps) originates from the formation of the Federation Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 September 1952. It was later merged with the Federation Regiment to form the Federation Reconnaissance Corps, which eventually became the Kor Armor DiRaja (Royal Armoured Corps) on 8 December 1986.

The first multiethnic military units in the country were formed in 1953 when the threat posed by communist terrorists was at its height, and additional forces were needed. The new units comprised the Federation Regiment and the Federation Armored Car Regiment, renamed the Federation Reconnaissance Corps in 1960 and the Malaysian Reconnaissance Corps in 1963. Theoretically, the new units were to be composed of 50 percent Chinese, 25 percent Malays, and 25 percent Indians and Eurasians. In practice, however, few qualified Chinese responded, even when offered extra incentives to do so, and adherence to the planned ratios proved impossible.

After independence in 1957 the country continued to rely on Britain to provide external security, and British forces continued to be stationed in the nation. At the same time, the armed forces embarked on a long-term program to develop first the capacity to handle threats to public order and eventually to undertake inde- pendent self-defense as well. The army dominated the new nation's armed forces. The navy was only a fledgling force, and the air force was not set up until 1958. The new military establishment was closely patterned on the British model, and Britons continued to fill crucial positions in the defense structure until they were gradually replaced by Malaysians. Although a military college had been set up in 1954 to train officer recruits, many senior officers had attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst or the British Army Staff College at Camberley.

When Malaysia was formed in 1963, a new unit known as the Malaysian Rangers was added to the army, increasing the non- Malay element in the armed forces. The rangers were an out-growth of the Sarawak Rangers, expert jungle fighters created originally in 1862 by Sir James Brooke as an independent force to subdue tribal chieftains; these units were later incorporated into the Sarawak Constabulary (see Police, this ch.). During the years of the Emergency, the British army used ethnic Iban volunteers from Sarawak as jungle trackers to help in locating communist strongholds in Peninsular Malaysia; these units were given the name Sarawak Rangers in honor of the earlier formation. When the Emergency ended, the units returned to Sarawak and were incorporated into the British army as colonial forces available for worldwide service. The Sarawak Rangers were released from British service into the Malaysian Army when Sarawak was incor- porated into Malaysia in 1963; at the same time, they were re-named the Malaysian Rangers.

Using British help, the rangers began to expand into a multi-ethnic force. The first battalion comprised the Iban of the Sarawak Rangers; most of the second battalion was raised in Sabah, formed around a cadre of personnel from the Royal Malay Regiment and the Malaysian Reconnaissance Corps. Subsequent batalions were recruited on a Malaysia-wide basis. Within a few years, the first two battalions of the rangers lost their original territorial and ethnic connotations and assumed a more integrated multiethnic character. Except for a few specialized or technical units, the Malaysian Rangers although often commanded by officiers from the Royal Malay Regiment, remained the sole mul- tiethnic formation of any significance in the armed forces as of the early 1980s.

The army, highly experienced in guerrilla warfare, continued to be the dominant branch of service. During the 1969 riots, army units were called in to restore order in Kuala Lumpur when available police proved unable to do so. The army's forceful crowd-control techniques — of which the Chinese community bore the brunt — prompted many observers to question the utility of employing the army, which was trained for combat, in a law enforcement role. Thereafter, special police units were set up to provide for such contingencies, although the armed forces continued to be charged with supporting the police when necessary.

The Malaysian Army in the early 1980s was essentially a light infantry force of about 80,000 strong. Its traditional character was being transformed, however, by the acquisition of armored vehicles. The army had formerly not incorporated armor because of its mar- ginal utility in jungle terrain or guerrilla warfare. The army was organized according to the conventional pattern into 12 infantry brigades under the operational command of four divisional and one corps headquarters. The infantry brigades were composed of 37 battalions, 26 of which made up the all-Malay Royal Malay Regiment and 11 of which be- longed to the multiethnic Malaysian Rangers. Additional forma- tions included three cavalry, four field artillery, one armored personnel carrier, five engineer, and five signals regiments; two anti-aircraft batteries; and one special forces (commando) regiment. Ground forces also included the general services corps, which handled clerical, pay and education, legal, and public relations services; the military police; electrical and mechanical engineers, medical and dental, ordnance, intelligence, and women's corps; and the Army Reserve Force. For administrative convenience, the army was organized into two regional units: Region I, com- prising Peninsular Malaysia, and Region II, comprising Sabah and Sarawak.

As of the early 1980s army vehicles included light tanks, armored cars, armored scout cars, and armored personnel carries. A large number of armored fighting vehicles and personnel carriers were on order. Arms included 5.5-inch guns, 105mm howitzers, 81mm mortars, 89mm rocket launchers, 120mm recoilless rifles, anti-tank guided missiles, and antiaircraft guns. The basic infantry man's weapon was the M-16.

The Malaysian special forces regiment was organized in 1965 to conduct commando-style operations on land and sea and by air. It had a virtually independent tactical role in the army and acted as the chief of the Army Reserve Force. In the early 1980s the special forces consisted of a headquarters establishment in Kuala Lumpur and one parachute and one special forces battalion that were billeted in Sungai Udang, Malacca. The special forces ran its own training center.

The quality of officers and other personnel turned out by the training centers during the 1979-81 period was adversely affected by the rapid expansion of forces. The problem was complicated by a lack of adequate training facilities in the country. During that period, greatly increased personnel requirements forced the military to be less choosy in selecting recruits than it would have liked. Young officers had to be placed in positions of command before they were sufficiently trained or experienced to handle command responsibilities. Combat proficiency, morale, administration, and discipline were said to have suffered. Recognizing this, the army slowed its own growth in 1981, well before the government-ordered cutback in mid-1982.

The Malaysian Army is currently organised into four Divisions under the Field Army Headquarters. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th divisions of the army are based in Peninsular Malaysia and the 1st Division is based in East Malaysia. The Grup Gerak Khas (Special Forces group), 10th Parachute Brigade and the Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat (army aviation) are independent formations and directly subordinate to the Chief of the Malaysian Army. The Malaysian Army also currently has 17 Corps or Regiments. These are grouped into the Combat Element, the Combat Support Element, and the Support Element.

On the 16 June 1948, the British declared the state of emergency in Malaya against the Malayan Communist Party. This marked the beginning of a guerrilla war between the British Administration (BA) and the Malaysian Government against the ethnic Chinese-led MCP. It took 41 years for the Malaysian Government to bring them to the negotiation table on 2 December 1989, when the Malaysian Government and MCP signed a peace accord. The implementation of the Briggs Plan, the British grand strategy to combat the communist insurgency in Malaya, had effectively suppressed the insurgency in Malaya. The British experience in defeating the communist insurgency in Malaya, has always been cited as one of successful examples on how a government could win ‘a low intensity conflict’.

Malaysian Army's Aviation Corps was declared operational in early 1997. But after the economic turmoil that hit the East Asian region in 1997, Malaysia had to take drastic measures to stabilize its economy. In fact, in July 1998 the Minister of Defense announced that Malaysia would no longer engage in any peacekeeping missions at its own expense due to national austerity measures. Of course, within a few years Malaysia was on its way to recovering from the economic turmoil, which was evident from the resumption of the MAF modernization program when Malaysia announced in 2001 its intention to purchase main battle tanks for the Army.

Since its inception on March 1, 1933, the Malaysian Army (MA) has undergone several transformational processes. From a humble beginning as a counterinsurgency force fighting communist terrorists at the early stage of the nation’s independence, the MA transformed into a conventional force in the 1980’s in view of the threat posed by the Domino Theory. Since 2004, the MA is embarking on a transformation program known as the ‘Army 2 10 plus 10’. General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Zulkifeli bin Mohd Zin, former Chief of the Malaysian Army stated: "The Army 2 10 plus 10 will transform the Malaysian Army into an Objective Force that is professional, versatile and credible, capable of defending the Nation’s integrity, sovereignty and interests at all costs."

Military personnel in Malaysia do not have any constabulary powers to enforce civilian laws except for right of self-defense and citizen’s arrest. This situation is similar to the U.S. military personnel as restricted by the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA). In order to overcome this complication, strict orders and rules of engagement can be enforced in conducting operations at the borders, and street patrols can be conducted jointly with the police.

The Army Reserve Forces, formerly known as the Territorial Army, formed the nation's second line of defense; it numbered an estimated 35,000 as of mid-1982. Plans to expand the reserves to a number equal to or greater than the regular army by 1990 had to be shelved in 1982 because of economic constraints. Reservists were volunteers who trained on weekends and at annual camps. Most units were raised in rural areas, and training took place in regular army camps in small towns. Since 1979 reserve officer training units have been in place in institutions of higher learning in the nation. Rank structure and military formations were similar to those found in the regular army. The Army Reserve Force was intended to support the regular army and performs functions identical to it. Defense analysts in the early 1980s have noted, however, that before the reserves could provide optimal combat support, there must be considerable improvement in training, the professional standards of reserve officers, and equipment supply and services. In addition to the reserves, there were also small militias known as the Local Defense Corps, organized in some remote villages to provide counterinsurgency support and intelligence.

The Territorial Army (TA) was the only fully organized reserve force in the Malaysian Armed Forces. The TA was a home guard force that was raised during the Japanese occupation. The members were called the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force (FMSVF) and their primary mission was to oppose and challenge the Japanese occupation forces. Intended to be a temporary organization, the unit was disbanded after the Japanese surrender. The unit received renewed interest in 1951 as a viable 'player' in the Emergency. General Briggs incorporated thehome guard into his scheme of operations. In Emergency Directive No. 13, February 1951 Briggs laid out his use for the unit now labeled Home Guard, in what Briggs termed"administration of Chinese settlements". In October 1951 Emergency Directive No. 17 the Home Guard were divided into Stage I forces (simply watching/observing Chinese village activities), Stage II forces (augmenting the police for security operations), and Stage III forces(arming and assigning Home Guard to independent security missions).

During the height of the Emergency there were approximately 250,000 Home Guard. At the close of the Emergency, the Home Guard began to disband; however, instead of completely deactivating the force, the units were organized into reserve Infantry battalions and combat support battalions and grouped into the Territorial Army. In 1962, some of the 'best' units were federalized into combat ready attachments to the Reconnaissance Corps while a majority of the remainder became the Local Defense Corps (LDC).

Malaysian Army - Modernization

The Malaysian Defense ministry nominated the Malaysian company DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies (Deftech) a prime contractor to locally produce and supply 257 armored personnel carriers based on the Turkish 8x8 Pars wheeled armored vehicle. The Pars, developed and produced developed by the Turkish company FNSS is based on a design made by the US company GPV. The value of the Malaysian 'letter of intent' is worth over worth about US$2.5 billion. Deliveries were to span over seven years. The prototype APC was expected to be delivered for testing to the Malaysian Army by 2011. Deftech is to build 12 variants from the base vehicle, including personnel carrier, anti-tank weapon carrier, command and control and anti-aircraft weapon vehicles. The Pars (Anatolian Leopard) armored personnel carrier was designed and developed by the Turkish FNSS company, based on a design of U.S. based General Purpose Vehicles (GPV). The 8x8 configured Pars APC was officially unveiled in 2005 as a basis for a family of armored vehicles addressing Turkish Land Forces Command requirement. Heavier and lighter configurations ranging from 6x6 to 10x10 are also proposed by GPV and FNSS.

By 2012, with 11 AgustaWestland A109s fully integrated into the Army Air Corps reconnaissance squadron, the Malaysian army was looking toward building a squadron of six to 12 attack helicopters, although this program was on hold temporarily due to budget cuts. Plans also callled for a tactical transport helicopter squadron. Originally, this would have entailed the transfer of the RMAF’s S-61 fleet to the army but this has been scrapped because the RMAF has been unable to obtain funding to replace the S-61 with the EC725s on a one-for-one basis. The army since prioritized the attack helicopter squadron but the tactical transport helicopter squadron remains part of its long-term goal.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 08-07-2016 19:47:56 ZULU