Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Guide to Malaysian Armed Forces number plates and Malaysian Army vehicle markings

Top of the list: The Malaysian military's number plate, Z1, is the counterpart of 1 MID used in Singapore. Z1 is used by the Malaysian Chief of Defence Force.

Tracked and wheeled transport used by the Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM, Malaysian Armed Forces) are readily identifiable by their Z prefix.

The naming convention for ATM vehicle number plates is a further aid to observers. This is because the number plates are assigned according to the branch of the ATM that the vehicle serves. This is quite unlike the nomenclature adopted for Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) vehicles, which share a common MID identifier that is unique to SAF military vehicles.

Malay terms will be used for the ATM Services (i.e. army, navy, air force) as this will help you better understand how Malaysia assigns number plates to its military vehicles.

The Z prefix can stand alone or it can be followed by another letter. No more than two letters have been seen preceding the numerals, which can be up to four digits long. We have yet to observe Z-plate ATM vehicles with five digit numerals.

Among the Z-plate vehicles, Z1 stands is at the top of the table of seniority. It is a number plate assigned for Panglima ATM (Chief of Defence Force). Staff officers subordinate to PATM typically receive staff cars with a single Z letter, with the level of seniority denoted by the number that follows the Z prefix – the smaller the number, the more senior the officer.

Allied to the single letter Z-plate is the ZZ-series. This double letter prefix is typically seen on vehicles assigned to Kementarian Pertahanan (KEMENTAH, Malaysian Ministry of Defence), almost all of which are civilian models from a bewildering array of suppliers.

Vehicles assigned to the Tentera Darat (Malaysian Army), Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia (TLDM, Royal Malaysian Navy) and Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM, Royal Malaysian Air Force) are assigned double letter prefixes as follows:
ZA, ZB, ZC and ZD: Tentera Darat, with ZC apparently the latest series for army vehicles.
ZL: For TLDM vehicles, with the letter “L” indicating Laut (Sea).
ZU: For TUDM vehicles. The letter “U” in this instance indicates Udara (Air)







Vehicles fielded by Malaysian Services chiefs take the numeral “1” (obviously), with ZL 1 and ZU 1 denoting Panglima TLDM and Panglima TUDM respectively. Note that Panglima Tentera Darat is assigned ZD 1 and not ZA 1, with the letter D denoting Darat (Land) to identify the Chief of Army’s personal staff car.

Number plates are issued with white characters on a black background. There appears to be no standardised fonts and two types of fonts have been observed on a single vehicle. The vast majority of ATM number plates do not come with borders, but there are exceptions and Condors have been observed with a non-standard design which features a white border around the edge of the number plate.

Interestingly, ATM MT Lines appear to take a liberal approach to housekeeping: We have observed Malaysian military vehicles with hand-painted number plates, though such instances are rare.

Two of a kind: Note the different font types found on the Condor armoured personnel carrier (left) and AV8 Gempita armoured fighting vehicle. Malaysian Army vehicles have been seen with different fonts on the same vehicle. An example being the PT-91M Pendekar main battle tank, ZC 415, which exhibits a number plate on the front and a stick-on marking on its rear in distinct fonts.





Non-standard: Here are examples of non-standard ATM number plates. The Ferret scout car (above), ZD1-2447, follows an unusual naming convention as the letters in the prefix usually stand alone and are not alpha-numeric. Another non-standard marking is the hand-painted number plate for ZC 2008, a Handalan truck.

Malaysian Army insignia and tactical signs
Apart from looking at the Z-series number plates to find out which ATM branch the vehicle comes from, the insignia and unit markings are another aid to the vehicle ownership.

ATM vehicles typically carry two markings on their front. The marking on the left of the vehicle is for the parent unit, while the marking on the right-hand side is for the tactical sign of the subordinate formation/unit. Markings on the doors of the vehicles may carry the unit insignia, which complements the tactical sign on the vehicle.

The images below will help you identify Malaysian Army vehicles that you might see on the road. At the top of the table of precedence/protocol is the ATM insignia, followed by the Tentera Darat insignia.
The markings below denote the 12 brigeds (brigades) in the Malaysian Army.




The formation sign for the senior unit is found on the left hand side of the vehicle front, and the tactical sign (red and yellow denoting Kor Armor Diraja). Overlaid with the number 2, this tells us the Condor belows to 2 KAD under 3 Divisyen. The white border on the number plate is not commonly seen on Malaysian military vehicles. Note that on the Condor below, the tactical marking is found on the side of the vehicle rear, with the unit insignia (green square) on the door of the vehicle.
Photo credit: Berita Tentera Darat

This rear view of a Handalan truck shows the placement of the insignia and tactical sign, which denotes the 7 Transport Company (the number 7 on the yellow/blue tactical sign for Kor Perkhidmatan Diraja or Royal Service Corps) and the 7 Briged's black scorpion insignia.

Political appointees to Malaysia's defence ministry are given the honour of carrying their title above their civilian number plate. This example shows the vehicle for a deputy minister of KEMENTAH. Bodyguard vehicles that accompany key appointment holders carry civlian license plates, but for opsec reasons, we will not discuss these numbers.

Trailers carry the prefix T/Z, followed by the numerals.

While such colourful markings are displayed during parades or static displays, some assets appear to shy away for overt announcements of their identity and have been seen with markings covered up. Black plastic which is cut from trash bags or black tape is commonly used as a temporary measure to hide the insignia and tactical markings of ATM vehicles that would rather remain anonymous.

Blacked out: There are instances when units would rather move about anonymously. The ambulance above has its unit insignia and tactical sign blanked off. It is believed to belong to the 3 Medical Battalion under 3 Divisyen. Another way of covering the markings is to use mud (below), though this is a temporary measure that would wash of during a river crossing or after the next rain shower.

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Guide to Singapore Armed Forces MID number plates. Click here

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Special Operations Vehicle SOV makers set their sights on Malaysian Army GGK special forces order for "less than 20" light strike vehicles


This NIMR Ajban Special Operations Vehicle (SOV), seen here at last week's Defence Services Asia show in Kuala Lumpur, has stayed behind in Malaysia for field and road trials that could see the vehicle clock some 3,000km.

The in-country trials are part of the Malaysian Army's search for a new SOV for its crack Grup Gerak Khas special forces regiment. Senang Diri understands that GGK is looking to add a small batch of "less than 20" specialised light 4x4, heavily-armed for light strike missions, to its MT line.

The GGK requirement explains the presence of at least four competing designs at DSA 2018. These are the NIMR Ajban, which comes from the United Arab Emirates, and three designs from Malaysian companies. Two of the Malaysian contenders, the Kembara Suci SOV and the Cendana Auto SOV are in their prototype stage. The third Malaysian platform is the Weststar GK-M1 SOV.

Cendana Auto SOV prototype. Despite its 4950mm overall length, the SOV is said to have a turning radius of 8m - about the same as a Malaysian-made Perodua Kancil car.

Kembara Suci SOV prototype

Weststar GK-M1 SOV seen undergoing preparations for DSA 2018 before weapons were added. The windscreen was hinged down for the show and covered by a camouflage net. Its Kuala Lumpur numberplate was also removed for the show. 

GGK is said to be looking for a heli-portable vehicle that can sustain itself for around two weeks outfield. The concept of operations for GGK's SOV might see such 4x4s airlifted into the area of operations by helicopter or pre-deployed by road during a period of tension. The SOV would be inserted into areas astride likely routes of advance or main supply & evacuation routes used by aggressor forces. The SOVs would use their high speed to redeploy in the AO. Such vehicles would be tasked to observe and report aggressor movements to higher headquarters.

Being heavily-armed, the SOVs might also be tasked to interdict soft targets such as the logistics vehicles that sustain aggressor forces, or other targets of opportunity.

Senang Diri understands that while the NIMR Ajban will be the first of the SOVs displayed at DSA to undergo field trials, the Malaysian stable of SOVs should be put through the same evaluation after the Malaysian General Election (9 May'18) and the end of the Muslim fasting month in mid-June.

This time interval would give the Malaysian companies the time needed to fine tune their prototypes before GGK has a go at the vehicles.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Malaysian Army's Network Centric Operations NCO capability demonstration at Defence Services Asia 2018 a hit with its audience

Malaysian Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, has a firsthand look at the Malaysia Army's Network Centric Operations capability demonstration at DSA 2018. Photo credit: Berita Tentera Darat


From Monday till Thursday (16 to 19 Apr'18) this week, a hill in Melaka became the most heavily-shelled place in Malaysia. The summit of this hill was ground zero for Markas Tentera Darat’s (Malaysian Army HQ's) Network Centric Operations (NCO) capability demonstration at the Defence Services Asia (DSA) arms show.

As the world’s defence industry descended on Kuala Lumpur (KL) to talk shop at DSA with top guns from Asia-Pacific armed forces and elsewhere, gunners from 4 Rejimen Artileri Diraja (4 RAD) stood by with a full regiment of 18 105mm Pack Howitzers. Several times a day, fire control orders relayed via satellite from the “command post” (CP) set up at the Malaysian Army pavilion at DSA would see 4 RAD spring into action. The VVIP would go through scripted voice commands under the tutorship of 3 Divisyen staff officers, whose formation staged the NCO demo. These commands established contact with 4 RAD gunners some 190km away, designated the target and ended the sequence with the command: “Fire for effect. Fire, over!”.

Almost always, the response from an unknown gunner from 4 RAD would be a rousing “TEMBAAAAK!” (Fire!), screamed into the microphone from the Asahan range in Melaka with bone-chilling ferocity.

In KL, all eyes would be on the video wall in CP, which was dimly-lit to enhance the video footage and electronic maps displayed to explain what NCO entailed. One screen showed the 105mm guns firing a salvo with near simultaneous appearance of gun smoke while the main home theatre-style screen in the centre zoomed in on the target. Seconds later, a series of 18 shell bursts would erupt on the summit of the lonely hilltop in ulu Melaka as point detonating 105mm shells from a full artillery regiment rearranged the landscape. A drone would then orbit the target, with the narrator explaining that this was for battle damage assessment. A ripple of applause from the audience for 4 RAD’s ribut api (fire storm) and the 20-minute show would be over.

Wayang (theatre)? Yes. But the theatrics worked its magic.





Malaysia’s official news agency, Bernama, dubbed the Malaysian Army’s NCO prowess as “digital muscle”.

The Malay-language newspaper, Berita Harian, highlighted the Malaysian Army’s ability to direct artillery fire from a distance of 190km away.

Malaysian media also brought the story to its domestic audience. Senior commanders such as the Grup Artileri Pertahanan Udara (army air defence) commander (above) explained NCO in simple terms during his Malay-language television interview with Radio Televisyen Malaysia

From what Senang Diri observed, the audience loved the NCO demonstration that showcased the Malaysian Army’s determination to push into the digital age.

Were there cock-ups? Sure.

Take the instance when a Malaysian Army general walked unannounced into the CP, asked for call signs and a set of headphones, and then proceeded to take command ala Call of Duty. This was totally off-script. The general apparently caught some soldiers networked with the CP off guard. Not surprisingly, the unscripted orders relayed from KL did not always result in the intended effect and the general terminated one exchange with an exasperated “I think we are on the wrong frequency, over”.

Then there were VVIPs who issued commands into the table top microphone ever so delicately, as if the Yang Berbahagia was speaking to his secretary on the office intercom. As a result, it was possible that the message was not heard on the other end of the line outfield in ulu Melaka where ear drums might still be ringing from the last salvo. As an awkward silence prevailed, the Yang Berbahagia would be prompted to repeat the command, sometimes again and again. In the case of one elderly Tun - who has a distinguished voice that spoke in Queen’s English – the lack of action on the 4 RAD gun line resulted in a flurry of activity as the communications cell sought to ensure the gunners could hear his lordship loud and clear. 

Markas 3 Divisyen (HQ 3 Div) took things in their stride. Staff officers adjusted their script calmly and professionally without missing a beat. In short, such moments were never show-stoppers.

Back story to the NCO demo
Considering that the Malaysian Army decided about a month before DSA to showcase its digitised NCO capabilities, Markas Tentera Darat accomplished its intent masterfully. The easier choice for Markas Tentera Darat when setting up shop at DSA’s new venue was to follow the template for previous shows. This invariably comprised a pameran statik dan aset Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (static display of Malaysian Armed Forces assets) and the obligatory mock attack. At DSA 2016, it was Malaysian special forces who put on a rousing display with blanks, flash bangs and mock explosions during a hostage rescue mission.

While DSA 2018 had no mock attack, the Malaysian Army nonetheless put on a far bigger and more significant capability demonstration. Think about it: The Malaysia Army's display area stretched the length of Peninsular Malaysia from Melaka to the Malaysia-Thai border with three areas of operations networked to the CP in the heart of Malaysia's capital city. This made the NCO demonstration the biggest ever staged by the Malaysian Army at a DSA show.

Three AOs were used for the following scenarios. At Asahan in Melaka state, 4 Briged (Mekanize) and 4 RAD joined forces to demonstrate armoured manoeuvre and firepower, with live ammunition employed. At Pusat Latihan Darat (PULADA), the Army Training Centre, troops staged an operation in a built-up area. The third AO at Rantau Panjang, along the river in Kelantan that marks the Malaysia-Thai border, brought video footage from an Operasi Wawasan infantry patrol, deployed for border security duty, right to the NCO show centre.

Senang Diri understands that the planning stage considered two other AOs. These would have involved the Malaysian Battalion (Malbatt) in Lebanon and the crack 10th Briged (Para) Pasukan Atugerak Cepat (Rapid Deployment Force) in Melaka. These two AOs were dropped after careful consideration as planning staff reckoned that DSA visitors might be pressed for time. Good call.

It was thus deemed that three AOs would suffice for visitors to gain a deeper appreciation of the Malaysian Army’s capabilities in networked C2. A professional audience viewing the demo could be expected to join the dots themselves and draw further inferences into what the Malaysian Army could potentially achieve in C2. (Note: Had Lebanon been included, it would have underlined the strategic nature of Markas Tentera Darat’s command network, with its ability to reach out over several time zones. Perhaps a professional audience would already come to that conclusion as adding Lebanon might come across as being less subtle and somewhat of an overkill.)

What would you have done if you were in charge? Short of time and short of money, and tasked to operate in a brand new venue which almost all of your officers had never been to, would the option of gunning for the usual template have appealed to you?

The back story to the Malaysian Army's NCO capability demo helps us better understand what the Malaysians sought to achieve. By staffing the NCO display with officers, men and women who appeared well-briefed on the complexities of realtime C4ISTAR, the confidence and technical competency of NCO hosts ensured most visitors walked away with a positive impression of the ATM in general and of 3 Div, in particular. The division, which is the Malaysian Army's first combined arms division, is currently spearheading the army's NCO drive.

Photo credit: Senang Diri reader




Whether by accident or design, all visitors to the South Entrance of the DSA venue at MITEC – the Malaysian International Trade & Exhibition Centre – walked or drove past the satellite dishes (above) so essential to the success of long-range comms for the NCO demonstration. At parking bays just outside the South Entrance, three vehicles from Rejimen Semboyan Diraja (RSD) deployed with their satellite dishes in full flower. These vehicles underscored the point made by the narrators at the NCO demo – that the battle scenes were “live” and not pre-recorded.

Interestingly, the narration for the NCO storyline was done in English even when some audience groups comprised principally of ATM personnel or Malaysian nationals. As DSA draws delegates from across the globe, it was perhaps fitting that the Malaysian Army make its presentation in English. Even so, the fluency and confidence of officers who spoke of the common situation picture and sensor-to-shooter loops was commendable.

Another interesting factoid: The NCO show was brought to you wholly by the Malaysian Army. With budgets tight, the job of building the Malaysian Army pavilion was left in the good hands of Kor Jurutera Letrik Dan Jentera Diraja (KJLJD), the Army’s Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineer Corps. This is why the structure of the Malaysian Army booth looked different from those of  neighbouring DSA exhibitors. That said, KJLJD's efforts looked no less showworthy.

Thanks to the foresight and daring of Markas TD, the NCO capability demo brought the Malaysian Army’s presence at DSA to a whole new level.

We can’t wait to see what they have planned for DSA 2020. Gagah Setia!

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Malaysian Army to receive first of 18 Nexter 105 LG1 light guns from November 2019

Dato’ Shafii Hj Roshad and Olivier Travert signing the Purchase Contract, witnessed by (from
left) Maj Gen Dato’ Nordin Hj Salleh, Malaysian Army Director of Artillery, Dato’ Abdul Hadi Abdul Razak, Chairman of ADS, Maj Gen Thierry Marchand, Armed Forces Commander for New Caledonia and Col Jean Francois Shoonmann, French Defense Attache to Malaysia.(Photo: Nexter Systems-ADSSB)


The Malaysian Army will receive its 18 105mm LG1 light guns from Nexter Systems afterall. The press release announcing the signing of an agreement in Kuala Lumpur between French defence company, Nexter, and its Malaysian partner, ADS Sdn Bhd, was released yesterday. The signing presumably took place yesterday - the final day of the four-day Defence Services Asia arms show.

ADS is short for Advanced Defence Systems.

Here is the full press release for your reading pleasure. Do note the error: As far as we know, the Singapore Artillery no longer uses the LG1. One of these guns is now at the Singapore Artillery museum at Khatib Camp.

Malaysian Ministry of Defense opts for 18 105LG1 Artillery Systems of Nexter and his partner ADS

Kuala Lumpur, April 19, 2018 - The Ministry of Defense, Malaysia announced the acquisition of 18 units of 105LG1 artillery systems for the Armed Forces during one of the largest defense services exhibition in Asia, DSA&NATSEC 2018. This 3-year contract will start by November 2019 with the first delivery of 6 light guns and the last delivery is due to take place in February 2020.

The 105LG1 is a 105mm gun designed for intervention and rapid reaction forces. With a maximum range of 17 km, it can be towed by a light vehicle, transported by an average helicopter (PUMA or Bell 212 type) or parachuted by a tactical transport aircraft (C130-Hercules type). This extreme mobility, thanks to its low weight (1650 kg), allows it to be deployed on any theater of operation as complex as it is (jungle, forest, mountains etc.). A crew of 5 men is enough to make it operational very quickly (a battery setup of 30 seconds) and to shoot at a rate of at least 12 rounds per minute.

Combat Proven and qualified by the French army, the gun of 105LG1 equips today six armies around the world: Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Belgium, Canada and Colombia. This new acquisition of 105LG1 by the Malaysian army confirms the excellent performance, ease of use and robustness of this gun.

ADS, one of the major Malaysian defense players, and Nexter, the French land defense leader, are business partners since 8 years and this contract is a new step of a fruitful cooperation. In support to the local artillery industry, 105 LG1 systems will be assembled locally at the ADS Assembly facilities near Gemas, Negeri Sembilan. ADS is confident that this initiative will create self-reliance and improve the artillery capabilities among the armed forces. The package will also include long range ERG3 ammunition and Bacara Ballistic Computer.

Dato’Shafii Hj Roshad of ADS Sdn Bhd (ADS) expressed his appreciation to the Malaysian Government for the opportunity to work together and will continue to support the Government of Malaysia in providing solutions for the defense arena. Olivier Travert, Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer of Nexter said that "this contract is a new recognition of the Nexter Group's expertise in the field of artillery and ammunition. This is an important success in our strategy to position our group as the leading artillery partner in Asia.”

END

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Malaysian Navy MRSS proves elusive, 105mm light gun signing ceremony cancelled


The update on the Royal Malaysian Navy Multi-Role Support Ship project did not take place today at the Defence Services Asia arms show. The RMN had earlier indicated the MRSS design would be unveiled at the show and all eyes were on the MOU update staged this morning.

What's more, a Memorandum of Agreement between European weapons manufacturer, Nexter Systems, and its Malaysian partner, ADS Sdn Bhd, related to the supply of Nexter 105LG1 light guns for the Malaysian Army was cancelled at the last minute. It's not fake news. See above.

Had the event taken place, the Malaysian Army would have been due to receive its first of 18 light guns in November 2019, with the balance delivered by February 2020.

No reasons were given for both developments.

I did not attend the MOU signing as I was engaged with 3 Divisyen staff. Staff from 3 Div had hosted Singapore Chief of Army, Brigadier-General Goh Si Hou, at the Malaysian Army pavilion on Tuesday. Split between hearing their perspective of COA's visit or attending a photocall covered by all media, I decided on the former.

Malaysian defence observer, Marhalim Abas, summed today's developments up nicely in his DSA update on his Malaysian Defence blog. See his post, Cold Feet, here.

A related post by Malaysian Defence noted:"Several contracts scheduled for today were left out without any explanation. This includes the contract for the purchase of Nexter 105 LG1 howitzers. ADS Sdn Bhd officials who were at the ceremony were left speechless with the turn of events. Also left out at the ceremony were contracts for Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines to provide transportation for soldiers to and from the peninsula to Sabah and Sarawak. Their representatives who were present at the ceremony were also not given any explaination on why the contracts were not awarded today." 

Click here for the full Malaysian Defence post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Royal Malaysian Navy Multi-Role Support Ship MRSS design due to be announced at Defence Services Asia 2018




The Malaysian Armed Forces has called a press conference tomorrow to announce "an MOU". Senang Diri understands that it has something to do with the Royal Malaysian Navy's Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS) project that will replace the ageing KD Indera Sakti (1503) and KD Mahawangsa (1504).

The MOU will pave the way for one of three contenders (above) to receive a Letter of Intent that will bring the MRSS project to the next phase.

And just when you thought Day 3 of the four-day DSA event would see things winding down, a second armament-related media event tomorrow is for the supply of Nexter LG1 105mm light guns to the Malaysian Army.(Note: The Singapore Artillery retired its Giat LG1 light guns years ago as it standardised its tubes to 155mm. Pros and cons of this move could easily sustain several blog posts...)

Stay tuned for more.

Malaysian Army Weststar-IAG Guardian armoured security vehicles due to arrive in Lebanon next week




The Malaysian Army's new warhorses, the Weststar-International Armored Group Guardian armoured security vehicles, are due to arrive in Lebanon in about 10 days' time.

Nine Weststar-IAG Guardians will join the Malaysian Battalion (MalBatt) peace-keeping force deployed in Lebanon. The new 4x4 vehicles will augment Condor armoured personnel carriers that serve as troop transports for MalBatt.

According to Weststar-IAG, the Guardian's due to serve MalBatt have been tailored for the Malaysian Army's specific operational requirements. Changes to the left-hand drive Guardians include the additional of wire mesh to screen all windows and the choice of a cupola-mounted MG with all-round traverse, instead of the remotely-operated weapon system seen on the Guardian now on show at Kuala Lumpur's Defence Services Asia 2018 weapons show.

The Guardians add to an increasingly varied stable of Malaysian Army war machines, which already has the DefTech Lipanbara high mobility armoured vehicle fielded for MRAP-type roles.

Here are some views of the Guardian at DSA 2018. The vehicle is configured to carry eight troops in the rear compartment, with a front cabin for a driver and the vehicle commander.