Malaysian Minister of Defence and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, center, answers questions April 13 during the 14th Defence Services Asia Exhibition & Conference at the Putra World Trade Center (PWTC) in Kuala Lumpur. (Mohd Rasfan / AFP)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — The 14th Defence Services Asia (DSA) exhibition and conference began with a media “walkabout” of the exhibition floor on April 13, led by Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Malaysia’s Defense Minister.
The 2014 DSA will run from April 14-17 at the Putra World Trade Centre. This year’s show is already breaking records for attendance with more than 1,000 companies exhibiting, beating the previous record of 850 in 2012.
A total of 28 country group pavilions, including Malaysia, have signed-up this year. This includes developed and developing countries from all corners of the world. By far the biggest foreign pavilion is from Turkey with about 50 companies participating.
Leading international defense and security companies include AM General, US; BAE Systems, UK; Bell Helicopter; Boeing, US; China Shipbuilding Trading Company, PRC; Lockheed Martin, US; Northrop Grumman, US; Poly Technologies, PRC; Raytheon, US; Rheinmetall, Germany; Rockwell Collins, US; and SAAB, Sweden.
Local defense companies participating this year are DEFTECH, Sapura Defence, Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd, MDSTP, System Consultancy Services, Weststar LDV, Zetro Aerospace, and SME Ordnance. The largest local exhibitor to date, is DEFTECH, which manufacturers armored and logistics vehicles for the military and security services.
During a press conference with the defense minister, Hussein said DSA aims to bring together defense and security personnel from around the world to tackle the defense industry’s most relevant concerns. It is also a platform to enhance bilateral relationships and promote a higher level of commitment towards global defense.
“Malaysia is very much looking forward to the honor of taking the chair of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] next year, hence the timely importance of an event like DSA,” he said. “Our prime minister [Najib Razak] recently said as chair, Malaysia will strive to ensure that the creation of a people-centered ASEAN in 2015 will see more direct involvement of all sectors of society in ASEAN’s activities.”
ASEAN will play an important role in this year’s DSA. For the first time the exhibition will feature the ASEAN Hall, which is designed for promoting ASEAN solidarity in defense cooperation, Hussein said.
Hussein said that concerns over Malaysia’s budget cuts meant there had to be creative ways to look at the defense industry. ASEAN joint marketing is one aspect of that and future joint ventures on some ASEAN contracts is the way forward.
Hussein held up Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as examples of countries that have been able to emerge as growing their defense industry presence on the world stage.
The ASEAN initiative was not just about wars, he said — non-traditional threats need to be explored together.
The ASEAN Hall combines participation from ASEAN countries in the Defence Procurement Centre, ASEAN Defence Industry Collaboration Workshop Pavilion, and Malaysian representatives from the National Blue Ocean Strategy Booth, Science and Technology Research Institute for Defence Booth, Malaysian Institute of Defence and Security (MiDAS) Pavilion and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation booth.
There are also a number of conferences of note, including the Chief of Army Roundtable Talk organized by the Malaysian Army; Chemical Biological Radiological and Explosives seminar, which will focus on unconventional threats, with presentations on smallpox, disaster management, and public health; Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief conference; Cyber Security Forum, with presentations by Suman Ziaullah, strategic pursuits director for the Middle East and Asia for BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, and Colonel Mark Patterson, chief, Cyber Strategy, Plans, Policy and Exercises Division within the Command, Control, Communications, and Cyber Directorate of Headquarters, US Pacific Command.
Of all the conferences at this year’s DSA, the Putrajaya Forum, organized by MiDAS and the Defense Ministry, is being compared by some observers as a future challenger to the Shangri-La Dialogue held each summer in Singapore.
This year’s forum will be themed “Strengthening Security and Regional Stability” and Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s defense minister, will be presenting one of the keynote speeches. Others speakers include Gen. Nicholas Houghton, chief of defense staff, UK; retired USAF Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, now the director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Hawaii; and Fernando Manalo, undersecretary for finance, munitions, installation and logistics, Department of National Defense, Philippines.
US defense officials attending the DSA this year include the commandant of the US Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos; the current commanding general of the US Army Pacific, Gen. Vincent Brooks and the commander of the US Marine Corps Forces – Pacific, Lt. Gen.eral Terry Robling, who is accompanying Amos.
Hussein said Malaysia plans on setting up its own version of the US Marine Corps and has been in discussions with the US over possible training and other issues.