In recent years, Southeast Asia has turned towards the procurement of main battle tanks (MBT), which are a mixture of new-build vehicles (Malaysia and Thailand) and older vehicles upgraded (Indonesia and Singapore) with enhanced capabilities.
Indonesia is the latest country in the region to acquire MBTs and is now taking delivery from Germany’s Rheinmetall of 103 Leopard 2A4 MBTs, 42 Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) and 11 support vehicles.
The first four vehicles – two of each of the Leopard and Marder –were delivered to Indonesia late in 2013; additional vehicles left Germany by sea in July 2014. All will be delivered within 30 months of the contract being signed in December 2012.
Until recently, the most well-armed tracked vehicle deployed by Malaysia were the Alvis Vehicles Scorpion member of the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) family armed with a 90mm gun.
Malaysia has now taken delivery from Poland of 48 PT-91M MBTs, which are armed with a 125mm smooth-bore gun that has enabled the crew to be reduced to three, consisting of commander, gunner and driver.
A complete fleet of support vehicles has been supplied by Poland, including six WZT-91M armoured recovery vehicles (ARV), three MID-91M armoured engineer vehicles (AEV) and five PMC-91M armoured vehicle-launched bridges (AVLB) fitted with the German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Leguan horizontally launched bridge.
Malaysia has a requirement for additional MBTs, which could be placed in the future to enable a full armoured brigade to be formed.
Until recently, old French AMX-13 light tanks armed with a 75mm gun were deployed in large numbers by Singapore. These have now been replaced by the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Leopard 2 MBT armed with the 120mm L/44 smoothbore gun. A total of 96 have been delivered, of which 66 have been deployed and the remainder used as spares.
Some of these have been upgraded in a number of key areas by Singapore Technologies Kinetics, including installation of an all-electric gun control equipment, battle management system, air-conditioning system and an enhanced armour package. Support vehicles have not been neglected and the Buffel ARV has now been delivered, with AEV and AVLB on order.
The Royal Thai Army is taking delivery from Ukraine of 49 BM Oplot MBTs armed with a 125mm smooth-bore gun, computerised fire control system and an advanced armour package that includes explosive reactive armour over the frontal arc. In addition to the Oplot MBTs, Thailand has already taken delivery of more than 100 BTR-3E1 series of 8x8 amphibious armoured personnel carriers.
As well as acquiring new MBTs, an integrated logistics support package and training and heavy equipment transporters have to be in place at the time the vehicles are delivered.