KD Tunku Abdul Rahman's Arrival Among Defence Highlights

By Mohd Yusof Saari

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 (Bernama) -- The arrival of KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, the nation's first submarine, after a 55-day journey from Toulon, France, was among the highlights of 2009.

Sept 3 was an historic date for the nation, especially the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), as the submarine, piloted by Commander Zulhelmy Ithnain and with a 35-member crew arrived at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Naval Base in Pulau Indah, Port Klang.

KD Tunku Abdul Rahman is a new-generation diesel-electric powered Scorpene submarine. Malaysia is only the third country in Southeast Asia to have submarines, after Singapore and Indonesia.

The Scorpene, built by Defence Conseil National (DCN) of France and Navantia of Spain, can reach a speed of 20 knots and is equipped with SUBTICS, a sophisticated navigation system.

It has sub-surface to surface missiles, torpedoes (10) and mines (30) with a fully automatic reloading system.

Malaysia also bought another Scorpene, named KD Tun Razak, which is scheduled to leave France on Jan 26, 2010, and arrive here two months later.

History was also created when Gen Tan Sri Azizan Ariffin became the first RMN Chief to be appointed Chief of Defence Forces, charged with protecting the nation's sovereignty and integrity.

In an interview to mark the malaysian Armed Forces' (ATM) 76th anniversary in September, Azizan said he wanted to see a progressive ATM capable of facing the many challenges in defending the nation.

"The ATM will not compromise and look back. We are determined to defend the nation's airspace, land and waters from intruders.

"The ATM's transformation will be done in stages until it reaches `Objective Force' where it will become a force that is balanced, credible, integrated and ready to face all spectra of conflict," he said.

In June, the government announced that it would retire 18 MIG-29N fighter jets of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and replace them with Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA).

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the MIG-29N aircraft had reached the end of its lifespan and that refurbishment would be very costly and not beneficial.

He said the move would save the government RM260 million allocated annually to maintain the Russian-made aircraft.

The government has shortlisted aircraft from five countries as replacement for the MIG-29N. Defence analysts and observers believe that Malaysia would choose the Sukhoi SU-30MKM and F-18 E/F Super Hornet aircraft.

The RMAF currently has 18 Sukhoi SU-30MKM and a squadron of eight FA-18 C/D Hornet aircraft.

Ahmad Zahid was reported as saying that two parties had shown interest in buying the MIG-29N aircraft.

MIG-29N's last appearance was at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Exhibition 2009 on Dec 1-5.

Despite the global economic crisis, Lima 2009 raked in defence contracts worth RM4.7 billion.

Several purchases could not be inked at Lima 2009, including that of EC-725 Cougar combat helicopters from Eurocopter.

--source: BERNAMA

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