LCS delay will put Malaysia's security at risk, say experts

KUALA LUMPUR: The delay in the completion of the littoral combat ships (LCS) to 2029 would further put Malaysia's security at risk should there be threats around the region and Malaysia's coastline, say defence experts.

Professor Dr Mohd Mizan Aslam, who is a Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) professor at the Defence Studies and Management Faculty's International Relations, Security and Law Department, said the government must come up with an alternative plan as the country was not ready should there be threats in the region or close to its shores due to the project's delay.

"We need these assets to help us. But in situations (of threats in nearby waters), our government and the Defence Ministry have to come up with Plan B or Plan C because our Plan A, the LCS, is not yet ready," he said.

"Apart from partnering with certain countries for joint controls or patrols, we could also lease assets.

"Otherwise, we are in big trouble because we are not ready as we don't have the capacity if something happens in our region or close to our shores."

He said it was important for Malaysia to use the latest technology and facilities in building the LCS as it would be a "major catastrophe" for the country if they could not use the assets once they were completed in 2029.

Mizan said moving forward, the government should not rule out procuring vessels from other countries as the latest episode underscored problems with Malaysia's own capacity and capability to build its own.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in declassifying its report on the LCS project yesterday, said the construction period for the vessels would be extended to 83 more months and all five LCS would be handed over to the Royal Malaysian Navy only in 2029.

UPNM's Defence and International Security Studies Centre director Professor Dr Adam Leong Kok Wey said the delay in the LCS project could significantly impact the Royal Malaysian Navy's operational capabilities.

He echoed the suggestion for the government to explore the possibility of leasing assets to support and sustain navy operations prior to the completion of the LCS project.

"This stop gap measure may be necessary for the navy to sustain critical missions to safeguard Malaysia's maritime zone.

"The 'government operates, company owns and maintains' model used by the Royal Malaysian Air Force can be refined and adapted for the navy's needs," he said.

Defence and geo-strategic analyst Muhammad Fuad Mat Noor attributed the delays in the LCS project to governance issues stemming from the frequent changes in government.

"When the government changes, the new defence minister will bring his own team, so they have to study everything all over again.

"If there is no political stability, there is no continuity (in the project). Who will oversee the governance and work progress?"

Fuad stressed the necessity of taking stern action against those responsible for the delay.

"PAC can continue to release its report. We can even conduct a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

"But for as long as no one is held accountable for the delay, it may continue to persist.

"Who can say for sure that the construction period will not be further extended after 83 months."

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