MALAYSIA'S MARITIME ENFORCEMENT AGENCY IS HELPING TO KEEP SEAPLANE TECHNOLOGY ALIVE.
Organizational flag of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) ,
Image from the Public Domain
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) performs for Malaysia many of the same functions that the U.S. Coast Guard performs for the United States.
|Some of the men and women of the MMEA in a recent photo by USN Chief Aaron Glover|
At one time, especially in the Pacific during World War II both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard made extensive use of "sea planes." The more common term used today is "amphibious air craft". There are no more amphibious aircraft in the U.S. Coast Guard inventory. After WW II the U.S. Coast Guard developed helicopter technology for its search and rescue needs and bought long range fixed wing, land based aircraft for its ocean surveillance missions. The U.S. Coast Guard's fixed wing air craft are capable of dropping equipment to distressed mariners but are incapable of landing on the water. With large block purchases the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter fleet became more and more capable and versatile for both search and rescue and tactical law enforcement. The United States and most large Western Navies no longer buy blocks of "sea planes", the amphibious aircraft moved to "commercial off the shelf ", "one off" status. But the technology continued to improve despite the shortage of large military block purchases.
There is a niche for the amphibious plane. Helicopters will never be able to exceed the higher speeds and ranges of amphibious planes. Amphibious planes can go farther and get there faster than helicopters. They can't always land on the water, especially in rough conditions but the ability to do so has made for some fantastic rescue, and even evacuations under fire stories in global naval history. One of the continuing uses for amphibious planes today is aerial firefighting, especially forest fire fighting. Amphibious "tankers" can land on lakes or bays siphon in big tank loads of water, take off and go water bomb the fire site. Those of us here in at the AAB who have served in the U.S.Coast Guard can recall particular ship fire fights, especially collisions between ships and gasoline or aviation fuel barges where the entire ship was immediately engulfed in flames. It would have been great to have been able to water bomb such a blaze. Unfortunately the only U.S. national capacity for such air craft is in the U.S. Forest service and they have yet to be handily located to this type of ship fire. Big naval organizations looking for the economics of block purchases often have to forego the optimum technology mix in the name of economics of scale and standardization of operating procedures.
The MMEA by contrast is more able to make commercial off the shelf purchases and to experiment a bit. The MMEA operates helicopters AND fixed wing aircraft including amphibious air craft.
An MMEA helicopter lands on a U.S. War Ship
|One of the new MMEA Bombardier Amphibious Air Craft click on the link below to see this photo and more photos of the MMEA in action using one of their new aircraft as an aerial water bomber on a shipboard container fire The Malaysia Flying Herald Has the Story:|
Bombardier air craft, a Canadian company that is the second largest commercial air craft manufacturer in the world has established its South East Asia administrative headquarters in Malaysia. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency is the first coast guard service in South East Asia to begin using amphibious air craft. As we have already discussed, this aircraft type has fallen out of use in larger Western naval organizations for reasons other than their incredible utility. With China constantly threatening her neighbors with the theft of their island territories and related Exclusive Economic Zones, and the West, with the closure of the China Sea commercial shipping routes the world may yet see another allied island hopping military campaign and contest of conventional arms. Once again, over night, there will be a need for such planes. It will be to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Service that the allied and cooperative naval forces will turn for recent operating experience. This tiny service of a small but important nation has taken the lead in an important area of naval aviation operations and is helping preserve and advance a technology and operational data that is of periodic wider importance, and could be easily lost in larger naval services budget considerations. The MMEA proves daily that size and quality are not prerequisites of each other.
Our point in producing this much ink on a two plane purchase by a small regional agency? As we have mentioned before, proportionately nations like Malaysia, Singapore, Italy and India which occupy important strategic geographic positions sacrifice to maintain truly excellent naval establishments. Whether allies or non aligned, these are responsible democratic nations devoted to the rule of international law and they are providing real security in places important to the world and benefiting the free flow of world commerce at some sacrifice of national treasure. U.S. Tax payers seem well aware that some of our economically prosperous formal allies have been relying on an American defense umbrella and not shouldering their fair share of the collective security bill. But we are not alone in shouldering more than our fair share of collective security. These smaller nations, and we have not named them all in this article, just some we've recently featured; shoulder more than their fair share of the collective defense burden. They don't depend on an American defense umbrella but have proven more than competent to work in tandem with U.S. forces when necessary. If the United States can find its way out of the automatic defense budget gutting that comes with sequestration, when we resume spending on defense like we should; we need to keep in mind that we aren't shouldering the entire collective security load. We are just shouldering the same type of load that these responsible and ethical smaller nations are doing, in proportion to our own size. We are not alone in sacrificing for collective security. In looking at this use of amphibious air craft by the MMEA it is worth noting that right after the acquisition, budget considerations in the MMEA kept these air craft grounded for months. Clearly their original acquisition was a far sighted but risky stretch of the agency's budget. But as illustrated by the linked news story of a recent shipboard firefight, the nation gained an important asset. And, thanks to the foresightedness of the MMEA leadership, and the sacrifice of the Malaysian tax payer, the world is again gaining operational coast guard experience with this important but rare class of aircraft. The MMEA may be tiny but they perform all coast guard functions well and now lead the world in at least one area of naval aviation. The evolution of this agency didn't come free to the Malaysian tax payer, they should get some respect along with the MMEA. Neither the MMEA or the equally high quality Malaysian Navy serve only the Malaysian tax payers.
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