Naval Strategies: How the Royal Malaysian Navy Operates to Fight Maritime Crimes

Naval Strategies: How the Royal Malaysian Navy Operates to Fight Maritime Crimes
  • PublishedMarch 28, 2023

The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has always had close ties with its neighbor, the Singapore Navy. Because these countries are relatively nearby geographically, they have formed a coalition, supporting each other in fighting maritime crimes. With close ties and operating in the same region, it is little wonder that these two forces have developed a similar naval strategy to surveil ocean traffic and battle criminality in their territorial waters.

History of the Royal Malaysian Navy

On April 28, 1934, the British government in Singapore had already formed the Straits Settlement Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (SSRNVR). This Reserve would later have close ties with the creation of the Malaysian Navy.

After the Second World War, there existed only 600 personnel in the Malaysian Navy, which was disbanded in 1947. It was later revived on December 24, 1948, once the Malayan Emergency began, with communists rising against British rule.

Shortly after that, the Malayan Naval Force (MNF) came into being on March 4, 1949, with its base in Woodlands, Singapore. Starting as the “MNF Barracks,” it was renamed HMS Malaya, and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) was created.

After the Federation of Malaya obtained its independence on August 31, 1957, a slow transfer of control began. This newly independent country later requested the British government to transfer the naval equipment to it, forming the new Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) on September 16, 1963.

Royal Malaysian Navy collaborations, naval strategy and threats

This Navy must develop regional and international collaborations to protect its primary Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs). It must create these alliances to safeguard its waters from crimes on many levels and ward off threats to its well-being.

Royal Malaysian Navy collaborations

Malaysia is a part of the United Nations and the Commonwealth Nations. Because of these links, Malaysia’s naval forces have built a strong network with traditional allies, especially the U.S. 7th Fleet, the Australian Navy and the U.K.

This country is also part of The Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), a collective of bilateral defense alliances. This FPDA agreement consists of various multi-lateral agreements between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. All of these countries are members of the Commonwealth.

Besides collaboration with the West, the RMN actively builds and maintains close military and naval diplomacy ties with countries like China. Malaysia must strengthen amicable relations with this country due to China’s assertive presence in the South China Sea. The reason for this strategy is the insecurity in Southeast Asia arising from the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia due to China’s strong presence.

Royal Malaysian Navy fights naval crimes

The RMN actively engages in regular naval exercises with its allies. One of these arrangements is the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) initiative between it and the U.S. This naval exercise includes anti-submarine, surface, and air warfare training.

It also focuses on defensive antiterrorism tactics and other activities to confirm cooperation. CARAT also reinforces the mutual country commitment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) partners. These ASEAN partners highlight joint priorities like regional security and stability.

The Australian Navy also arranges regular naval exercises with the RMN to maintain training and readiness to protect regional and international interests.

Additionally, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), previously the Malaysia Coast Guard, works with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Japan Coast Guard (JCG) for crime fighting and search and rescue operations.

The Royal Malaysian Navy – threats and enemies

The South China Sea (SCS) is a delicate territory in the Malaysian region, giving rise to security and economic threats should it become unstable. But the RMN reacts with similar aggression as China when protecting its territorial waters from Chinese aggression, unafraid to safeguard the region with naval power.

Besides being fully prepared to safeguard its airspace and sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf between itself and its neighbors, the RMN also wards off other threats. These threats include piracy, smuggling, and illegal fishing that causes ecological marine damage.

Instead of signing regional agreements such as the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy & Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (the SUA Act), the RMN deals with these threats alone. It does so by sending naval units to control such events.

The future of the Royal Malaysian Navy

Future RMN plans are modernization. It intends to overhaul two frigates – the KD Lekiu and KD Jebat. Further naval strategies are to extend the lifespan of four of its corvettes in the Laksamana class by upgrading their sensors and weaponry. Other plans include purchasing two additional submarines to round off its fleet by 2040 to grow into a well-balanced maritime power that can protect its security and economic interests.

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