It is now the turn of the Royal Malaysian Navy to rue its decision to buy ships
from China. Many of these Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) supplied to the navy
by China are showing early signs of wear and tear, compromising mission
objectives. The Chinese, as in the past, are resisting attempts to take blame
for the deficiencies, forcing the Malaysian Navy to look for new suppliers.
The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) bought four Keris-class littoral mission ship
from China, the last one was commissioned as KD Rencong, on January 28
this year at the RMN’s naval base in Kota Kinabalu. These four ships formed
part of a contract signed between the Malaysian government and the trading
subsidiary of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation in April 2017. The total
cost of the contract was RM1.17 billion (approx. US$265 million).
The 68.8-meter vessels are part of the navy’s critical transformation plan that
aims to reduce the number of ship classes from 15 to 5.
International defence journal, Janes, reported in 2020 that the Malaysian Navy
had compiled a list of deficiencies that were observed in the operation of the
first Keris class ship. The main issues in the ship revolve around its Chinesesupplied sensors and combat systems. The list formed part of discussions the
Navy has been having various Chinese contractors.The Naval shipyard has
recently written to M/S China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co. Ltd
(CSOC) on the issue listing the various defects and demanding their early
resolution. The defects range from leakages, paint, sensors and other defective
The negotiations with the Chinese suppliers seem to have run aground
considering the navy’s latest replacement of Chinese-supplied radios on its
three Keris-class ships with those from German electronics manufacturer,
Rohde & Schwarz. Information published on the Malaysian Finance Ministry’s
procurement website indicate that the contracts are worth USD115000 each.
The Malaysian case of Chinese defective defence equipment is one among
many in the recent past. Last year, Pakistan, considered to be a strong ally of
China, had to beg and plead, with no success, to Chinese companies for
rectifying or replacing ships armaments, sensors and hulls of several battle
ships brought from them. In many cases, the Pakistan Navy authorities were
stern in reprimanding Chinese conglomerates for supplying defective
equipment aboard ships and then refusing to replace or rectify them as per the
contract. Pakistan Air Force had similar stories with Chinese aircraft, missiles
and equipment. Although Pakistan has been trying to keep a tight light on
Chinese skulduggery, but in reality these hardware deficiencies have seriously
compromised its military capabilities.
Bangladesh had bought two 1970s era Ming class Type 035G submarines to
Bangladesh at $100 mn each in 2017. They were meant as training vessels
but have been lying unused in docks. In 2020, the country acquired two
Chinese 053H3 Frigates (BNS Umar Farooq and BNS Abu Ubaidah), which
experienced multiple defects en route. These included a non-functioning
navigation radar and gun system. The Chinese have reportedly asked for
additional payment to repair the boats. In Kenya, the Chinese hardware has
been the cause of death of several security personnel. In 2016, Kenya bought
Norinco VN-4 armoured personnel carriers. Since then dozens of personnel
have been reportedly killed in those vehicles.