KOTA KINABALU: It is critical for the country's defence budget to be increased to address the issue of the Royal Malaysian Navy's ageing combat assets.
Eastern Fleet Command chief Vice Admiral Datuk Sabri Zali in a statement on Tuesday (Oct 4) expressed hope that the government would consider the acquisition of new military assets as well as upgrading existing ones in Budget 2023.
"The Eastern Fleet Command headquarters agrees with the statement by Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Mohd Reza Mohd Sany who proposed that the government commits to increase the defence budget in 2023 to 1.5% of GDP.
"The poor condition of assets is a main challenge faced by the Navy in planning the assets movement at optimum capacity.
"With the current changes of maritime threats landscape as well as bigger power interference in the South China Sea, the Navy is in dire need of combat assets – and at present, ours are at critical level," he said.
He added that assets under the Eastern Fleet consisted of Flotilla Ronda range, which are not equipped with combat abilities like weaponry systems, surveillance and tracking radar as well as missiles.
"Therefore, acquisition of new assets like Littoral Combat Ships and Littoral Mission Ships from the second batch is critical for the Navy to carry out its duty," said Sabri.
He said that the defence budget should be treated as an "insurance policy" for national security.
For now, the Eastern Fleet Command will continue focusing on carrying out the Navy's mission to protect the country's maritime interests to the best of their ability despite the existing assets not being in the best of shape.
Sabri added that there are currently 23 assets from both the Eastern and Western Fleets at the Kota Kinabalu base in Sepanggar undergoing an annual naval exercise to test the preparedness of their assets as well as their crew in maritime operations and to evaluate the Navy's logistics support system.