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Military 101: Professional Military Need Strategic Assets, Not Farm Lands

Sukhoi 30 MKK Electronic Warfare Military Russia

As China and other countries in the region keep upgrading their military defence and offence assets such as this Sukhoi-30-based dedicated electronic warfare fighter (known as Shenyang J-16D), Malaysia needs to ensure that its existing defence assets are upgraded in par to keep up its effectiveness and also work with other countries like India who are facing the same threats. Image source: Defense News

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Vegetable Gardens At Army Camps?

In recent weeks, there have been a lot of updates on social media on the shortage of chicken for consumers and the rise in the cost of foodstuff. Understandably it impacts all ranges of society and this includes the enforcement agencies who are on active duty on the frontline and the military.

But instead of tackling the root cause which is the cost of farming, illegal cartels and the lack of modernisation of the agricultural sector, we have this weird idea:-

The Defence Ministry (Mindef) aims to create vegetable gardens at every military camp throughout the country to ensure food security, especially for the needs of military personnel.

Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said for the initial stage, Syed Sirajuddin Camp in Gemas here has been selected as a pioneer project.

“Farming activities have already begun. I have just seen it…so in whatever situation, including rising prices, we are self sufficient. At least our personnel can focus on their duties of security and defence.

“I want a report later and if possible, it can be expanded to all camps and all zones,” he told reporters after watching the 2022 Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) Firepower Training (LKT) here today.

(Source: Malay Mail)

Pushing all military camps to have their own vegetable gardens as a backup plan for food sources may seem to be a quick solution but it is not the right solution for several factors:-

1. Scope of the military duties – it is not the duty of a professional army to do farming. They are trained to handle weapons & explosives, master land, air and sea warfare, do intelligence on the enemy & illegal intruders and do interception effectively. They are not trained in farming, not trained in pest control or trained in handling farm types of equipment.

2. Time to manage vegetable gardens – the military especially on the frontline will not have any leisure time at the camp to take care of the vegetable garden. They will be on night watch and patrol and when not on duty, they need to take sufficient rest so that they can remain alert and be ready for any eventuality.

3. Quantum of vegetables from the vegetable garden – seriously how much of the vegetables can be cultivated and is sufficient to feed at least a platoon of infantrymen? We do not expect our military to survive on only vegetables which will take time to grow and will not be easy to bring along on long patrols.

Tractor Farming Farm Equipment

Are we going to see more farming equipment than main battle tanks & armoured personal carriers in army camps soon? We need specialisation and the right people trained to handle these specialised tasks. We do what we are trained best and the same is the case for the military. Image source: Photo by Jannis Knorr

Military Ration Pack

The military that is on the move survives on ration packs or meals-ready-to-eat (MRE) when on the frontline or on patrols and rations comes in many forms and content. Some military ration packs are designed to handle 24 hours of active duties and some are broken into a specific time of the meal.

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This is a good video of a 24 hours ration pack packed for the Royal Malaysian Army and this covers the food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has different types of food so that meals on the frontline are not boring. The rations are packed in durable packs and cover the main meals, snacks, drinks and also vitamin tablets. Being military rations, it may not taste as good as home cooking but it gets the job done of feeding the army on the frontline.

Ration packs or MRE used to be available exclusively to the military but with the growing culture of prepping especially in the West, one can get a good set of MRE online. There are some local brands on sale as well on Shopee and Lazada that are designed for campers to bring along and all they need to do is to heat up the pack and they can start eating without much effort.

Then we have the next evolution from the Science & Technology Research Institute For Defence (STRIDE) which had developed for the Malaysian military:-

Food-based and poultry-based food products ready to be eaten using retort technology. Meat Bars provides a real taste of traditional dishes in three flavors; satay, black pepper and honey spots. The product can be eaten without cooking or heating.

(Source: STRIDE)

It will be interesting if they can come up with MREs that can be easily stored away, with a very long shelf-life and comes with multiple flavours & choices and if offered on the retail market & online sale.

Gowind 3100 RMN Navy Littoral Combat Ship

Malaysian’s 6 Littoral Combat Ship is based on the French’s robust design of Gowind 2500 but with a higher displacement of 3100 tonnes. It is well-armed with a 57 mm Bofors gun, 16 vertical launched anti-aircraft missiles, 2 torpedo launchers and 8 anti-ship missiles. Image source: DCNS

Littoral Combat Ship Fiasco

What the military needs is actually strategic assets and one area where this is lacking is in the navy where there are insufficient modern naval ships that patrol the vast coastline from intrusion from the Chinese military and illegal immigrants.

Even the littoral combat ships project that supposes to provide the Royal Malaysia Navy (RMN) with 6 modern, capable vessels that are based on the Gowind 3100 design is sabotaged by corruption and greed:-

A businessman is being investigated for submitting invoices from three companies to a shipping firm under the pretext of being suppliers to the littoral combat ships (LCS) project, which resulted in a payment of RM24mil.

According to earlier reports, the project worth more than RM9bil was awarded in 2014 and the order was for six LCS to be constructed by Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS).

In November 2020, BNS’s parent company Boustead Heavy Industries lodged a report with the MACC on possible irregularities in the LCS project.

(Source: The Star)

The ships should have been delivered in April 2019 but so far, none has been built despite the government having already paid RM6bil to the company. These people who mismanaged the project and who have siphoned off the money meant for the construction should be charged with high treason.

RM6 billion out of the budgeted RM9 billion have been paid out without any single ship completed and delivered to RMN. Not surprisingly the government have no choice but to put in additional money and complete the project. The big question is how much more it is going to cost the taxpayers? Will it be enough to build all 6 ships? And will we recover the money that has been spent to date?

Then there is the question of the naval shipyard itself being able to complete the project with huge debts on its head:-

The outstanding debts of the littoral combat ships (LCS) procurement project that have not been paid for the past three years need to be settled as soon as possible to enable the vendors involved to continue with their respective work.

Maritime Strategic Association of Malaysia (Mastra) Defence and Security Committee chairman Datuk Wan Othman Wan Ab Rahman said the debt of the Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) estimated at RM1 billion to over 100 local vendors had affected their financial situation, causing many workers to be laid off.

He said the settlement of all outstanding debts was important to enable vendors to proceed with their work to complete the six LCS.

(Source: The Edge Market)

We had a similar financial scandal when the country purchased the Scorpene-class submarine in 2009 and that ended with someone blown away with C4 explosives.

FA-50 Failure for Philippine Air Force?

Then we have this long outstanding matter of finalising the light combat aircraft for the Royal Malaysian Air Force with the choice shortlisted between the South Korean’s FA-50 and Indian’s Tejas fighters. Now it is reported that the Philippines Air Force had found that FA-50 is not providing the results as expected by the air force:-

The Philippine Air Force is desperately seeking new fighter jets for its front-line security forces. It currently operates 12 Korean-made FA-50 trainer/light-attack jets. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is scrambling to catch up while working within a limited budget to replace ageing defence capabilities.

The FA 50 is insufficient to the PAF because it has not provided promising results in terms of protection; the Philippines may look for newer fighter jets. The Tejas aircraft, built in India, may be suitable for its requirements because it is already in use by the Indian air force and has proven technology.

PAF is now looking to expand its fighter fleet and is considering placing orders for 12 more fighter jets under its MRF acquisition programme, for which it is negotiating with Lockheed Martin for the F-16 Block-70 Fighting Falcon and Saab for the JAS 39 Gripen-C.

However, Philippine National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated that the F-16 cost is prohibitively expensive, fueling speculation that the Gripen will be the front-runner for the contract. However, the recent sale of a Gripen-E to Brazil confirms that its fly-by-unit cost is around $80 million, and even the much smaller C version costs around $60-65 million, prompting PH to consider other options.

The Tejas Mk1A has a fly-by unit cost of around $42 million, which means it could be used instead of spending nearly $2.43 billion for 12 jets quoted by Lockheed Martin and even more from Saab.

(Source: Jetline Marvel)

It is not clear why PAF is reported to be having problems with FA-50 and is now considering looking at Tejas Mark 1A closely. But the fact that the Philippines already operating Indian-made BrahMos cruise missiles may end up having Tejas Mark 1A equipped squadrons earlier than Malaysia does open up the opportunities for more Indian-based weapon systems to be deployed in this region, closer to the threat from the Chinese military.

Final Say

It is unfortunate that the country is cursed with politicians who don’t know how to manage the core issues effectively. The root cause for the shortage of foodstuff namely chicken, eggs and vegetables must be identified first and then they can take the necessary short-term and long-term actions to improve and sustain the food source.

The wrong way is to ask a professional military to be farmers and to spend considerable time, money & resources on farming which is not their scope. For these, we will need professional and modern farmers, new & modern farming techniques and modern farming equipment to improve the quality and quantity of foodstuff produced within the country itself. We also need to spend substantial money to save struggling farmers from debts & subsidise the high cost of farming.

The military, on the other hand, needs strategic assets to replace their ageing pieces of equipment and also to procure modern pieces of equipment. As I mentioned before, the navy and the air force should take priority on this considering that they are at the frontline of the Chinese military, Sulu terrorists and Rohingya illegal immigrants’ blatant intrusions. These intrusions have a significant impact on the national security of the country.

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