As tensions escalate over which nations should control the South China Sea, Malaysia is embarking on a military buildup.
The buildup comes as new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad defeated last month incumbent Najib Nazak, who was viewed as being too soft on China. Chinese ships have encroached in oil-rich waters and fishing grounds claimed by Malaysia as part of its Exclusive Economic Zone.
Malaysia recently announced that it would upgrade its naval aircraft as well as purchase ship-based naval helicopters. The enhanced naval aviation capabilities are intended to support a massive transformation of the Royal Malaysian Navy’s surface fleet, which will consolidate from fifteen old classes of warship to just five modern classes.
Last year, Malaysia launched the first of its 3,100-ton Littoral Combat Ships, a stealth design based on France’s Gowind 2500 corvette (not the American Littoral Combat Ship). Six ships are scheduled to be deployed by 2023, with the first arriving by 2019. The 3,100-ton LCS is small but powerfully armed with two quadruple Norwegian-made Naval Strike Missile anti-ship missile launchers, a sixteen-cell Mica surface-to-air missile launcher, cannon and torpedoes.
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