LANGKAWI, March 18 — Malaysia’s first forward operating base modified out of a decommissioned oil platform in the Sulu Sea east of Sabah will be in place by early next month, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
He said the base was being created and paid for by Petronas and SapuraKencana Petroleum Berhad.
Hishammuddin spoke to reporters today on the second day of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace 2015 (LIMA’15) Exhibition on this resort island.
He also said that work to modify a decommissioned merchant vessel into a mobile forward operating base was almost complete and it was expected to be ready in a few months.
Hishammuddin said these two forward operating bases would enable the country’s security forces to respond faster during an emergency compared to getting mobilised from a land base.
He said these forward operating bases would eventually be equipped with various assets, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), small patrol craft and armed helicopters.
The minister said the collaboration with oil companies to modify oil platforms and merchant vessels into forward bases served a common interest as their operations on the high seas would be safeguarded as well.
“The oil platforms of petroleum companies on the high seas will be the first to face any threat out there, similar to that posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” he said.
Hishammuddin said that besides stepping up security control to the east of Sabah with the modified oil platforms and merchant vessels, the government was also restructuring the placement of its military assets.
This included deploying Hawk fighter aircraft to the Labuan air base, stationing two military battalions in eastern Sabah and moving 12 Gempita 8x8 armoured vehicles there as well, he said.
“All these are being done to safeguard the people of Sabah,” he said, adding that security control in eastern Sabah had the cooperation of Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines and Indonesia.
On the proposed decommissioning of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) MiG-29N fighter aircraft at the end of this year, he said the government was seeking a win-win solution.
He said negotiations would have to be held with Russia on a win-win solution before a decision was made to decommission the aircraft.
The RMAF has 16 of these aircraft, which are used for air interdiction operations.
Fighter aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation of France has offered the Rafale aircraft; BAE Systems, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to replace the MiG aircraft. — Bernama