In 2002, The Royal Malaysia Navy (RMN) procured two French-made Scorpene submarines at the cost of RM 3.4 billion.
According to the RMN, the move was to prevent a repeat of the ‘1511 episode’ when the Portuguese armada attacked and seized the port city of Melaka, famous for being the trading hub in Southeast Asia, at the time.
In the annals of Malaysian history, the Portuguese overwhelmed the defenders of Melaka after three days of heavy fighting that culminated in the capture of the bridge over the Melaka River which led to the fall of the city.
The Portuguese had far superior armaments including muskets and cannons as compared to the defenders whose spirit and bravery was beyond question.
After the Portuguese, the Dutch came in 1644 followed by the British after the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824 in London.
RMN chief Laksamana Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar said the two submarines were meant to add ‘muscle’ to the country’s defence of its waters and sovereignty.
During a recent media visit to the RMN base here, Abdul Aziz said despite adverse claims against the nation’s defence assets, he was confident of the submarines’ capability in ensuring protection of Malaysia’s sovereignty.
Abdul Aziz took over as the RMN chief in 2008.
The Scorpenes, named after the first two Malaysian prime ministers, are advanced diesel-powered submarines. The KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Razak operate on the stealth principle and can surprise any encroaching hostile vessels.
Each submarine, which is also capable of water-to-surface attack, can stay under the sea for up to 45 days with 32 crewmen onboard.
Abdul Aziz said the RMN base here is set to be the world’s first training centre for Scorpene submarines after the completion of a second simulator training facility, costing about Euro 27 million (RM 135 million), early next year.
“India and Chile have expressed interest in training their navy personnel at the base.
“As Malaysia is a littoral state, it is vital for RMN to enhance its capability in Littoral Combat Ships (LCS),” he said, adding that the effort was part of modernisation plans of the armed forces.
(Littoral zone is the part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore. In coastal environments the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged).
In the years after the Second World War, Emergency and Confrontation, the RMN has gone through a modernisation programme and is considered to be among the strongest navies in Southeast Asia now.
The RMN has staff strength of about 20,000 personnel with modern naval assets in the region.
There is also an airbase for the fleet air arm that consists of two squadrons of naval helicopters.
Other than the various classes of patrol ships and vessels, the RMN is now equipped with aircrafts comprising of the Agusta Westland Super Lynx 300 and Eurocopter AS 555 Fennec helicopters.
The navy also has a special force called ‘Paskal”