Malaysian Armed Forces
Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (Malay)
Crest of the Armed Forces
Flag of the Armed Forces
Founded1 March 1933; 91 years ago (1933-03-01)
Service branches
HeadquartersWisma Pertahanan, Kuala Lumpur
Supreme Commander Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Ibrahim
Minister of DefenceMalaysia Mohamed Khaled Nordin
Chief of Defence Forces General Tan Sri Mohammad Ab Rahman
Military age18
Available for
military service
15,919,573, age 18–49 (2023 est.)
Fit for
military service
13,209,858, age 18–49 (2023 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
541,943 (2023 est.)
Active personnel113,000[1][2]
Reserve personnel51,600[1][2]
BudgetRM 19.7 billion (US$4.37 billion) (FY2024)[3]
Domestic suppliers
Foreign suppliers
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of Malaysia
RanksMilitary ranks of Malaysia

The Malaysian Armed Forces (Abbr.: MAF; Malay: Angkatan Tentera Malaysia; Jawi: اڠكتن تنترا مليسيا), are the armed forces of Malaysia, consists of three branches; the Malaysian Army, Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force. The number of MAF active personnel is 113,000 along with the reserve forces at 51,600.[1][2] The Supreme Commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong; the King of Malaysia.


Main article: Military history of Malaysia

Malaysia's armed forces were created from the unification of military forces which arose during the first half of the 20th century when Malaya and Singapore were the subjects of British colonial rule, before Malaya achieved independence in 1957. The primary objective of the armed forces in Malaysia is to defend the country's sovereignty and protect it from any and all types of threats.[5]

It is responsible for assisting civilian authorities to overcome all international threats, preserve public order, assist in natural disasters and participate in national development programs. It is also sustaining and upgrading its capabilities in the international sphere to uphold the national foreign policy of being involved under the guidance of the United Nations (UN).

Theater of operation

Operatives of PASKAL, GGK, 69 Commando and PASKAU during the 65th Merdeka Day in Kuala Lumpur.

The main theaters of operations were within Malaysian borders, primarily to fight an insurgency led by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) in what was known as the Emergency. The only foreign incursion of Malaysian territory in modern times were in World War II by Japan (Malaya was then not a unified political entity and consisted of the British Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements, and the British protected Federated Malay States and Unfederated Malay States) and during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation by Indonesia under the leadership of President Sukarno. Operations on foreign soil have mainly been peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations.

Other limited participation under UNPKO are United Nations International Police Force (UNIPTF) since December 1995; United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) since June 1999; United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) since October 1999; United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) since September 1999 and United Nations Organisation Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) since February 2000. 18 Malaysian Armed Forces personnel have been killed during UN peacekeeping operations.

Present development

Malaysian Armed Forces assets
An examples of Malaysian Armed Forces main weaponry assets. Clockwise from top right: Scorpène-class submarine, PT-91M MBT, Malaysian Army paratrooper with M4A1, and Su-30MKM fighter aircraft.

Malaysian defence requirements are assigned to the Malaysian Armed Forces (Angkatan Tentera Malaysia – ATM). The armed forces has three branches, the Malaysian Army (Tentera Darat Malaysia – TDM), Royal Malaysian Navy (Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia – TLDM) and the Royal Malaysian Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia – TUDM). Malaysia does not have conscription, and the required minimum age for voluntary military service is 18.[8]

In the early 1990s, Malaysia undertook a major program to expand and modernise its armed forces. However, budgetary constraints imposed by the 1997 Asian financial crisis held back many of its procurements. The recent economic recovery may lead to a relaxation of budgetary constraints and a resumption of major weapons purchases. In October 2000, the Defence Minister also announced a review of national defence and security policy to bring it up to date. The review addressed new security threats that have emerged in the form of low intensity conflicts, such as the kidnapping of Malaysians and foreigners from resort islands located off the east coast of the state of Sabah and the rising risk of territory disputes with several neighbouring countries. Currently, 1.4% of Malaysia's GDP is spent on the military, and employing 1.23% of Malaysia's manpower.[8] Dr Kogila Balakrishnan is the head of the Defence Industry.

Malaysian Army

Main article: Malaysian Army

PT-91M Pendekar MBT of Malaysian Army.

Since the recovery from the 1997 economic crisis, the army's modernisation program has gained momentum. The acquisition of Main Battle Tanks (MBT), Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) and modern artillery make the Malaysian Army one of the most potent powers in the region.

Royal Malaysian Navy

Main article: Royal Malaysian Navy

Lekiu-class frigate of RMN.

Following the completion of the New Generation Patrol Vessel (NGPV) program, RMN has moved on to its next program called the Second Generation Patrol Vessel (SGPV). RMN is also looking to purchase more submarines as well as a batch of Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) namely Keris-class littoral mission ship and Ada-class corvette. RMN also planned to add Multi Role Support Ship (MRSS) for its support role. In addition to this, an upgrade program called Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) for the aging ships will keep the fleet modern with the latest technologies needed.

Royal Malaysian Air Force

Main article: Royal Malaysian Air Force

Sukhoi Su-30MKM of RMAF.

The RMAF has traditionally looked to the West for its purchases, primarily to the United States and Europe. However, limitations imposed by the United States on "new technology" to the region made the RMAF consider purchases from Russia and other non-traditional sources. Currently, the RMAF operates a unique mix of American, European and Russian-made aircraft.

Forming of Marine Corps

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said in a statement on 10 October 2013, that Malaysia is planning on establishing a marine corps for amphibious operations.[9] The marine corps will be drawn from all three services. The bulk of it being from one of the three parachute battalions of the 10th Parachute Brigade which will consequently be re-designated as a marine battalion. The 9th Royal Malay Regiment (Airborne) and 8th Royal Ranger Regiment (Airborne) have both conducted amphibious warfare training as a secondary mission such as the CARAT exercise with the US Marine Corps (USMC) and other amphibious exercises also conducted with foreign armed forces.[10]

Defence industry

ACV-300 Adnan infantry fighting vehicle.
AV-8 Gempita armoured fighting vehicle.
Kedah-class offshore patrol vessel.
SME Aero Tiga light aircraft.

After independence, Malaysia moved forward by establishing and developing its own defence industry. Malaysia has improved its defence industry through its defence companies by locally manufacturing and producing weapons, such as ammunition, rifles, armoured cars, warships and light aircraft including unmanned aerial vehicles for the armed forces. DefTech, Mildef International Technologies and Weststar Defence Industries are among the local companies that emphasize on the maintenance and manufacturing of military land vehicles and the automotive sector. While the Sapura company focuses more on military electronics and systems integration such as; communication systems, tactical systems, command and control systems, training and simulation systems and surveillance systems.[11] Following the Malaysia's National Defence Policy, Malaysian Armed Forces has adopted locally made weapons such as DefTech ACV-300 Adnan, DefTech AV-8 Gempita, DefTech AV-4 Lipanbara, Weststar GK-M1 and Handalan.[12] In January 2021, Mildef International Technologies has launched its new Mildef Tarantula HMAV intended for the local market and export.[13] At the Defence Services Asia (DSA) 2022, Mildef International Technologies has launched its second armoured vehicle called the Mildef Rentaka 4x4.[14] Another local company, Cendana Auto also introduced its new Cendana Auto Rover which is ready to deliver to the Malaysian Army.

As a country with vast maritime area, Malaysia has long had a great shipbuilding industry since the Malacca Sultanate. During which, the country had been the main shipbuilders in the region. Nowadays, Malaysia houses many shipbuilding companies, giving it its reputation as a country with great maritime expertise and facilities. Through local companies such as Lumut Naval Shipyard, Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation, Destini Berhad and Gading Marine, Malaysia was able to locally build their own major surface combatants and combat boats such as Maharaja Lela-class frigate, Kedah-class offshore patrol vessel, Jerung-class gunboat, Gagah Samudera-class training ship, Sri Tiga-class fast troop vessel, Gading Marine G2000-18m class combat boat and Sandakan Jaya Teknik-class boat.[15] In addition to this, local companies such as Labuan Shipyard and Engineering, Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering and others were also able to execute minor and major maintenance and overhaul to the naval grade vessels locally, without needing to send them abroad. Some of these great achievements were put on display when Malaysia succeeded in completing major overhaul of its Scorpene-class submarines. The upgrade program was done locally by Boustead at the RMN submarine base in Labuan, Sabah. Malaysia also already exports their naval vessels to foreign navies such as the Shin Yang-made Al-Quwaisat-class LST to the United Arab Emirates navy and Northern Shipyard-made Manta MkII-class fast interdiction combat boat to the Nigerian navy. This particular combat boat was marketed under the Singapore-based company, Suncraft Private Limited.[16][17]

In the aerospace sector, it is no doubt that Malaysia is one of the aerospace hubs in the region. AIROD is one of the only companies to have received a certificate from the United States (US) based defence company, Lockheed Martin as a C-130 MRO centre outside the US. In 2015, the United States Marine Corps awarded AIROD for MRO operations on its 13 units of C-130 aircraft that were based in Japan.[18] Besides the C-130, AIROD also had an expertise in servicing other types of commercial and military aircraft and had served other customers across the region. Like AIROD, another local aerospace company named ATSC has also played an important role in the aerospace industry in Malaysia. This company focuses more on MRO services for Russian-built aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-30, MiG-29 and Mil Mi-17. In 2017, ATSC was awarded a contract to do a major overhaul and upgrade on the RMAF Sukhoi Su-30 MKM fleet.[19] Since the 1990s, Malaysia, through SME Aerospace and CTRM has been manufacturing aircraft components such as wing parts, nacelles, composites structures and helicopter parts for the Airbus company. These include parts for the A320, A330, A350, A380, A400 and Airbus helicopters.[20] Other than that, SME Aerospace also manufactures pylons for the BAE Systems Hawk AJT for worldwide customers.[21] Although Malaysia does not build major aircraft locally or through any partnerships, Malaysia already has experience in building light aircraft such as the SME Aero Tiga and CTRM Eagle Aircraft Eagle 150. In addition to this, CTRM also builds their indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle called the CTRM Aludra.[22]

In 1969, Malaysia set up a firearms manufacturing company, SME Ordnance. Starting out by manufacturing ammunition locally, now SME Ordnance are also able to manufacture high-tech firearms. In 1991, SME Ordnance acquired a licence to manufacture Austria-made Steyr AUG rifles locally. By 2001, SME Ordnance moving forward by acquiring a licence to manufacture US-made M4 Carbine rifles locally.[23] Both locally manufactured Steyr and M4 rifles are currently used by the Malaysian Armed Forces and other government agencies. Besides that, SME Ordnance also provides a wide range of NATO standard ammunitions starting from 5.56 mm to 155 mm calibre, mines, explosions and rockets. Another local firearms company; Aegis Malinnov also developed indigenous pistols called the Malinnov M1P intended to be used by Malaysian government agencies.[24] In conjunction of LIMA 2023, United Arab Emirates EDGE Group had signed an agreement with Malaysian-company Ketech Asia Sdn Bhd for the production of CARACAL firearms locally through the transfer of technology.[25]

Malaysia also has its own defence technology research statutory board. The Science Technology Research Institute for Defence (STRIDE) is the statutory board under the Ministry of Defence (Malaysia) and is responsible for performing research and development related to defence technologies for the Malaysian Ministry of Defence and Malaysian Armed Forces.[26]

International action

The Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom is a regional security initiative which has been in place for more than 45 years. It involves joint military exercises held between the five countries.[27]

Malaysia also actively takes part in international exercises such as CARAT,[28] RIMPAC[29] and COPE.[30] Joint exercises and war games also have been held with Brunei,[31]Indonesia,[32]France[33] and the United States.[34] Besides that, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have agreed to host joint security force exercises to secure their maritime borders and tackle issues such as illegal immigration, piracy and smuggling.[35][36][37]

Previously, there were fears that extremist militants activities in the Muslim areas of the southern Philippines[38] and southern Thailand[39] could spill over into Malaysia. In response, Malaysia began to strengthen its border security.[38]


Main article: List of equipment of the Malaysian Armed Forces

See also


  1. ^ a b c International Institute for Strategic Studies (15 February 2023). The Military Balance 2023. London: Taylor & Francis. p. 270. ISBN 1000910709.
  2. ^ a b c International Institute for Strategic Studies (25 February 2021). The Military Balance 2021. London: Routledge. p. 281. ISBN 9781032012278.
  3. ^ Grevatt, Jon; Macdonald, Andrew (28 February 2023). "Malaysia proposes strong budget increase with eye on military procurement". Jane's. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  4. ^ "Arms Transfers". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  5. ^ Babatunde Fagoyinbo, Joseph (2013). The Armed Forces: Instrument of Peace, Strength, Development and Prosperity. Author House. ISBN 978-1477218440.
  6. ^ UN Chronicle: "Mandate for UNOSOM II revised; 'coercive methods' not to be used – UN Operation in Somalia emphasizes nation building", June 1994
  7. ^ "UNIFIL Troop-Contributing Countries". UNIFIL. 14 March 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Malaysian Military statistics". NationMaster. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  9. ^ "Malaysia to establish a marine corps, naval base close to James Shoal". IHS Jane's 360. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  10. ^ "US Marines and Malaysian Soldier Completed Malaysia-United States Amphibious Exercise".
  11. ^ Balakrishnan, Kogila (2008). "Defence Industrialisation in Malaysia". Security Challenges. 4 (4): 135–155. JSTOR 26459817.
  12. ^ "An Overview The Malaysian Defence Industry".
  13. ^ "Unifil Contender Out on Show".
  14. ^ "DSA 2022 Mildef Rentaka".
  15. ^ "Defence Industrialisation in Malaysia: Development Challenges and the Revolution in Military Affairs".
  16. ^ "MRSS As Well, Plan B Shorts - Malaysian Defence".
  17. ^ "Northern Shipyard from Malaysia finalizes construction of four Manta Mk II patrol boats for Nigerian Navy".
  18. ^ "Airod secures contract to maintain US Navy aircraft". 9 November 2015.
  19. ^ "First Overhauled Malaysian Su-30MKM Aircraft to Debut at LIMA 19". Defense Aerospace news, exhibitions, contracts and procurement. 25 March 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Airbus to keep growing with Malaysia". Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  21. ^ "BAE strengthens ties with SMEA, orders more Hawk parts | The Star".
  22. ^ "Pesawat UAV Aludra MK helang perisik ciptaan tempatan" [Aircraft UAV Aludra MK 'eagle' local creation spy] (in Malay). UTUSAN MELAYU. 12 December 2007. Archived from the original on 4 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Products and Services". Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  24. ^ "BERNAMA - Malaysian-Made Pistol To Enter Market By Year-End". 22 April 2016. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016.
  25. ^ "Janes - LIMA 2023: Edge signs agreement with Ketech Asia to produce rifles".
  26. ^ "STRIDE Official Page".
  27. ^ "Australia says major military exercise underway in Malaysia". My Sinchew. 26 April 2010. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  28. ^ "U.S. Sailors and Marines Join the Malaysian Armed Forces for CARAT 2015".
  29. ^ "A First: Malaysia to Deploy Warship for RIMPAC 2018".
  30. ^ "Cope Taufan".
  31. ^ Wood, Daniel (20 April 2014). "Brunei, M'sia train in 11th military exercise". The Brunei Times. Archived from the original on 8 December 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  32. ^ "Indonesia-Malaysia military exercises must continue – defence minister". ANTARA News. 13 September 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  33. ^ "French Navy FREMM Provence in ASW Exercise with Royal Malaysian Navy in South China Sea".
  34. ^ "Malaysia, US armed forces in joint exercise". The Star. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  35. ^ "Malaysia, Philippines committed to enhancing border security". My Sinchew. 9 August 2010. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  36. ^ "Piracy in Southeast Asia: Organised Criminal Syndicates or Small Scale Opportunists?" (PDF). Gray Page. April 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 July 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  37. ^ Carvalho, Martin (15 May 2012). "Malaysia, Thailand military exercise to include other agencies, Asean members". The Star. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  38. ^ a b Pike, John. "Malaysia Intensifies Border Security Following US Warnings". Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  39. ^ Kent, Jonathan (28 April 2004). "Malaysia ups Thai border security". BBC News. Retrieved 18 September 2010.

Further reading