Budget 2023: Focus on developing military assets, says Navy chief

KUALA LUMPUR: Budget 2023 should give proper attention to developing Armed Forces assets, especially those of the Royal Malaysian Navy, says Admiral Tan Sri Mohd Reza Mohd Sany (pic).

The Navy chief said the government should also take into account the preparedness of current assets so that they can be deployed at any time.

"Existing assets need to be maintained and maintenance requires sufficient funds.

"Hence, we hope that the defence budget could be increased from 1% to 1.5% of GDP starting next year as mentioned previously by the Armed Forces chief," he said in a recent interview.

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Development of military capabilities could not be achieved within a short time or acquired off the shelf, he added.

"To increase military alertness and preparedness to a high level will take a lot of time as military assets are unique. It takes a lot of time to build and develop," he pointed out.

Generally, priority was always given to addressing the poor condition of current military assets compared to acquiring and developing new ones, he said.

"In turn, the budget for maintenance is always limited, making it hard for the Armed Forces to defend the country's sovereignty," he added.

Previously, the Navy had 16 combat ships of various sizes, Adm Mohd Reza said.

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"However, the number has dwindled significantly given that the majority of the ships have lost their combat capabilities due to deterioration of equipment and weapons systems.

"Replacing such ships has been planned through the acquisition of littoral combat ships (LCS ) but the project delay has disrupted the Navy's planning.

"I like to stress that the LCS acquisition is still not sufficient to fill in the gap in combat ships. Thus, the government should give serious attention to the need to acquire additional combat ships," he said.

The Navy always planned to acquire new assets each year but financial constraints and priority for other areas prevented this from happening, Adm Mohd Reza said.

"With an ageing fleet, we won't be ... a credible force.

"An armada with a long life span needs huge funds to (stay) operational so we have come up with a transformation plan to overcome the issue of an ageing armada," he said, adding that the plan would be moot without commitment from the government.

"Through the three-year Rolling Plan 2023, we have ascertained that the acquisition of the littoral mission ship (LMS) Batch 2 is the most critical and important.

"It is different from the previous LMS as it is equipped with a weapons system that will be able to bridge the gap in our current combat capabilities.

"Such an approach is needed as a short-term solution given geostrategic developments in the region, especially issues involving the South China Sea," he said.

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No matter the situation, the Navy is always focused on its mission of defending Malaysia's sovereignty and protecting the country's maritime interests, he said.

"That is our promise but I worry that we will not be able to act effectively if we lack suitable assets," he added.

Adm Mohd Reza commended all members of the Armed Forces for their strength in spirit, which "inspires me to serve until the end of my service."

"However, spirit alone is not enough as they must be equipped with the right and complete tools to enable them to perform their duties efficiently and effectively," he said.

Pointing out the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) situation in the world today, he added: "The security scenario is dynamic and ever-changing ... and hard to predict.

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"The nation's maritime border is faced with issues including overlapping claims, trespassing as well as piracy and sea robberies.

"Such activities can threaten maritime economic activities and jeopardise safety," he said, adding that they require a proper response from the Navy.

"Limited and deteriorating assets worries me as it jeopardises the Navy's credibility as a sea force that is solid and ever ready.

"I always like to say that defence is insurance and an investment.

"The government needs to make this investment so that if any security threats occur, the country can withstand them with minimal impact," he said.

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