Thursday, 7 November 2013


 By M . Hanif Ismail

Malaysia is ranked third in ASEAN in terms of nominal GDP, after Indonesia and Thailand. In terms of GDP per capita, the country is again ranked third after Singapore and Brunei. However, despite being one of the regional leaders in terms of economic power, due to the current political situation, Malaysia can hardly claim to be the leading defence spenders.

This means that any defence spending have to be prudent and maximises (the apparent) value for money.

Here we will look at Korps Mariniers as an example of a Marine Corps which is small in size but big in capabilities.


The Korps Mariniers is the Marine Corps and amphibious infantry component of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The Marines are trained to operate anywhere in the world in all environments, under any condition and circumstance, as a rapid reaction force. The Korps Mariniers can be deployed to a given location within 48 hours. 

Since 1973, units of the Netherlands Marine Corps have formed part of the British 3 Commando Brigade during exercises and real conflict situations. Also, the 7th SBS NL troop will be placed under UK operational command as part of C Squadron, UK Special Boat Service. Together, these form the UK/NL Landing Force. Either the First or the Second Marine Battalion can be assigned as the Dutch contribution to this force.

The cooperation between the Korps Mariniers and the Royal Marines has led to extensive integration in the areas of operations, logistics and materials. Within NATO this is seen as a prime example of what can be achieved in military integration.

Table 2: Korps Mariniers 

Troop Lift, Large
The Netherlands
Korps Mariniers
4,800, 4 battalions
2x Rotterdam-class LPD, Rotterdam (L800) and Johan de Witt (L801), 1x Joint Support Ship, Karel Doorman

Several points to note: the Korps Mariniers is a rapid deployment force; they are trained to operate around the world (and have been deployed all over the world, from Cambodia to Bosnia to Ethiopia to Afghanistan); they have enough troop lift capacity to deploy two battalions / 1,200 troops for amphibious landings (provided by the two Rotterdam-class LPDs); and lastly, they are trained to a high standard due to their close affiliation with the Royal Marines ( which is arguably the best trained Marine Corps in the world, with recruit training lasting 32 weeks for Marines and 64 weeks for officers).

What are the lessons for Malaysia? 

One, the new Marine Corps ideally should be able to be rapidly deployed for any kind of contingencies, especially those requiring amphibious landings. Ideally again, it should be part of the Rapid Deployment Force (Pasukan Aturgerak Cepat or PAC in Malay) and its personnel should be treated accordingly (having to go through specific selection process, eligible for RDF allowances, etc.). To be rapidly deployable requires basing in close proximity to its main mode of transport, the amphibious warfare ships.

Two, training to operate both on land and for amphibious landings are of paramount importance for the new Marine Corps. In this case, converting Infantry Battalions of the Malaysian Army to form the core of the new Marine Corps makes more sense than raising new Infantry Battalions made up of Navy personnel. The Army already has personnel trained in land operations, the required basing to house these personnel, the command and control structure for land operations, career progression opportunities, etc. Raising new Infantry Battalions made up of Navy personnel will require huge initial outlay: in training, basing requirements, change to training modules, creating new career thread for the Marine Corps personnel, etc.   
Third, having enough troop lift capacity to transport all these personnel is again of paramount importance. The kind of troop lift needed would depend on the kind of reach the new Marine Corps is envisioned to have. 

Fourth, as a new institution, the new Marine Corps should look at established Marine Corps around the world to be their benchmark. There are many Marine Corps around the world with proven capabilities and good professional track record. The Royal Marine Corps of the UK for example has long historical ties to many units of the Malaysian Army and Royal Malaysia Police and is highly regarded worldwide. . The Royal Marines regularly sends their personnel for combat tracking and jungle survival courses at the Army Combat Training Centre (PULADA) at Johor Bahru and British Army Jungle Warfare Training School at Seria, Brunei. The US Marine Corps regularly interact with the Malaysian Armed Forces through the annual CARAT exercises, thus would be a good benchmark as well. The Korps Marinir of Indonesia is another regular training partner and has long historical ties to the Navy Special Forces, PASKAL. The benchmarking can be done through a combination of a few things: sending personnel to complete the selection process of these Marine Corps, inviting them to send the instructors for the initial amphibious operations trainings, attending amphibious warfare courses at their training institutions, through regular officer exchange programmes as well as through holding regular combined exercises here and abroad.  

Part IV will look at the requirements for a power projection-capable Malaysian Marine Corps.

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