Malaysia’s defence industrial base: a work in progress
Not as easy as it looks
The DSA exhibition this year had little that was brand new. The highlight was the unveiling of the prototype AV4 4×4 MRAP from Thai company Chaiseri, which everybody knew about anyway.
DefTech also displayed some new variants of the AV8 8×8 vehicle including the Anti-Tank Guided Weapon with the LCT30 turret and one with a remote weapon station.
But really the news was that Malaysia is finding the development of a fully working domestic vehicle manufacturing base harder to establish than may have been expected. The rest of the offerings were upgrades to existing vehicles.
This does not really come as a surprise, to start building new vehicles, particularly specialist military platforms such as MRAPs and 8x8s is not easy, it takes years of R&D and pulling together the skilled individuals to do the work.
It has come to light that the manufacturing of the AV8 8×8 vehicles by DefTech are going a bit slower than expected. The Turkish company in partnership with DefTech is FNSS, which provided the first 12 vehicles, may have to step in to help build more chassis to meet a very demanding delivery schedule for 2016 and for the next three years.
Elsewhere Global Komited, the Weststar subsidiary, is still in the testing stage for its GK-M1 vehicle based on the Toyota Hilux vehicle with the Starstreak missile on a Light Missile Launcher from Thales mounted on the rear. The vehicles are destined for the Malaysian navy and air force and were first displayed two years ago at the DSA2014 exhibition.
Starstreak has been tested in Malaysia but progress is slow. But at least Malaysia is making an effort to establish a more sophisticated industrial base and it will reap the rewards over the long term.
One amusing piece of show gossip was that the Vamtac 4×4 vehicle on the stand of Spanish manufacturer URO was initially seen to be sporting the Starstreak missile on a Thales RapidRanger launcher mounted on the roof the day before the show opened.
But when the doors opened on day one the Starstreak missiles were gone and the labelling on the launcher was covered up instead with the name of URO’s local Malaysian partner Destiny. The reason behind this seems to be that Thales’ partner in Malaysia to deliver the Starstreak system is supposed to be Global Komited. They must have taken umbrage at seeing the system they are providing on someone else’s vehicle alongside another Malay company.
Clearly words were said and the missile hastily removed from the URO vehicle.
The reason URO had it on their vehicle is because they are providing their Vamtac ST5 to Indonesia fitted with Starstreak on the RapidRanger mount in partnership with local Indonesian firm PT Len.
However, the Malaysian Army also uses the Vamtac but instead it is fitted with the Igla air defence missile. It is possible in the near future that they might want to move over to using Starstreak to match the GK-M1 vehicles that are being acquired by the navy and air force.