Advancing Malaysia’s defence innovation, foreign collaboration

The exhibitions serve as unique avenues for meaningful dialogues, knowledge exchange and the forging of partnerships that transcend borders 

by AUFA MARDHIAH & SHAUQI WAHAB / pic MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE Defence Services Asia (DSA) 2024 and National Security (NATSEC) Asia 2024 exhibitions are not merely gatherings of industry leaders and experts, they are catalysts for economic growth and international collaboration, generating an immediate overall economic impact of around RM700 million. 

The figure showed the significance of these events in not only advancing defence and security initiatives but also stimulating economic activity on a global scale. 

DSA Exhibition and Conferences Sdn Bhd chairman Tan Sri Asmat Kamaludin said the participation of 1,324 companies from 60 countries in this year’s DSA and NATSEC Asia exhibitions is indicative of the escalating global interest and relevance of the DSA series. 

Spanning 48,000 sq m of exhibition space, this edition marks a 30% increase compared to the previous iteration, setting the stage for unparalleled networking and business opportunities. 

“With 34 international pavilions and 588 foreign delegations, DSA and NATSEC Asia 2024 promise an unmatched global networking and business opportunity,” Asmat said during his speech at the opening ceremony. 

Indeed, the exhibitions serve as unique avenues for meaningful dialogues, knowledge exchange and the forging of partnerships that transcend borders, enhancing collective efforts to address modern defence and security landscapes. 

Asmat stressed the significance of the event in providing participants and delegates with opportunities to exchange ideas and foster partnerships through conferences, meetings and business engagements. 

Moreover, the introduction of new elements such as the DSA and NATSEC Asia Lab for start-ups and small enterprises to showcase innovations, as well as the “Future Forces” segment emphasising modern warfare solutions, highlights the commitment to embracing technological advancements. 

The presence of the uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV), drone and robotics pavilion, in collaboration with the National Aerospace Industry Corp Malaysia, further underscores the emphasis on cutting-edge technologies such as drone tech, artificial intelligence and robotics. 

By weaving together these diverse elements, DSA and NATSEC Asia 2024 emerge as the most comprehensive and impactful edition yet, serving as pivotal platforms for forging international defence and security partnerships, facilitating significant industry transactions, and promoting global dialogue and technological advancements. 

Additionally, the presence of leaders in defence and homeland security is expected to boost the development of domestic defence industries through collaborations and new investments. 

A visitor checking out the Canik Superior Firearms during the DSA and NATSEC Asia 2024 exhibition

Event Highlights 

Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim kicked off the event on May 6, encouraging local defence industry players to demonstrate their capabilities on an international level. Under the theme “Building Resilient Nations for the Next Generation”, the conference aimed to strengthen nations against a variety of threats through strategic partnerships and innovative solutions. 

He also addressed the growing necessity for countries, defence sectors and security industries to collaborate and communicate more effectively in response to shared global challenges such as cybersecurity threats and environmental issues. 

“The digital realm, our so-called second reality, faces relentless cyberattacks that threaten to compromise our most sensitive data, undermining our security and the trust upon which our societies and economies stand. 

“Environmental concerns and the scarcity of resources exacerbate these tensions. Climate change is not a distant threat but a present crisis, impacting food security, causing natural disasters and displacing communities. As societies wobble under these pressures, the spectre of crumbling economies looms large, undermining the prospects of future prosperity,” he said during his opening remark. 

In a world where these risks can affect stability, he highlighted the vitality of working together to find comprehensive solutions. He further noted that DSA and NATSEC Asia 2024 are vital platforms for facilitating the essential dialogue and partnerships needed. 

DEFTECH showcasing their AV8 Gempita at the DSA and NATSEC Asia 2024

Of the local companies exhibiting, note-worthy Malaysian companies such as DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd (DEFTECH), Weststar Group and Nadicorp Holdings Sdn Bhd participated, with DEFTECH as the largest exhibitor. 

The agreement between DEFTECH and Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) on the fourth day of the event marked a significant milestone in Malaysia’s defence and automotive sectors. 

The agreement underscores DEFTECH’s aim of deepening its research and development efforts in UAV and automotive components, leveraging UPNM’s expertise in defence technology and military strategy. 

The partnership seeks to advance unmanned system technologies and locally manufactured products, contributing to Malaysia’s aspiration for self-reliance in defence and security. 

Internationally, global giants like Airbus Group, BAE Systems and Leonardo were also present. 

Airbus, during a media briefing at the event, announced expansion plans for its helicopter simulation capabilities in Malaysia with a third full flight simulator dedicated to the H175 helicopters at its Airbus Helicopters Malaysia Simulation Centre in Subang, Selangor, set to begin operations in 2026. 

Airbus Asia-Pacific president Anand Stanley highlighted the H225M as a main feature of the event, noting its use by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) in both military and humanitarian missions. 

Airbus is a key player in Malaysia’s rotorcraft sector with a fleet of over 80 helicopters, serving various roles from military to civil applications. 

Established in 2002, Airbus Helicopters Malaysia provides comprehensive services from its Subang base including maintenance, logistics support and training with unique simulators for specific helicopter models. It is also central in the regional helicopter maintenance, repair and operations, and delivery activities for Asia-Pacific. 

Beyond helicopters, Airbus supports Malaysia’s aerospace ambitions with satellite communications and maritime security solutions, maintaining a significant presence in space and maritime surveillance sectors. 

Anwar (third from left) being informed about the functionality of some of Norinco war vehicles and tanks by its Asia Pacific department DG Lin Wei (fourth from left)

Besides that, the National Security and Good Governance Conference also took place at DSA and NATSEC Asia 2024, discussing strategies for national security. 

During the exhibition, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin officiated and delivered keynotes at both the Putrajaya Forum and the National Security International Seminar. He emphasised the importance of investing in emerging defence technologies while considering environmental, social and governance principles. 

He also highlighted the need for credible international partnerships and addressed the urgency of preparing for non-traditional threats related to environmental extremes and cross-border economic activities. The event saw substantial discussions, partnerships and financial agreements, enhancing Malaysia’s global defence stature. 

The highlight of day two was the formalisation of the collaboration between the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) personnel and veterans, alongside Global Turbine Asia Sdn Bhd (GTA), Yayasan Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (YLTAT) and Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), aimed to enhance the employability of ATM personnel and veterans by providing them with industrial training and competitive job placements. 

Under the initiative, named Jejak Bakat Anak Tentera and led by the defence minister, the collaboration will support education and skills training in various fields such as science, literature, business and engineering. 

Participants will receive industrial training and placements through the Protégé programme at GTA, which includes a sponsored monthly allowance. UniKL will offer educational programs and financial support, such as the UniKL Top Achievers Foundation Scholarship, which covers fees for Foundation programmes for eligible ATM personnel and veterans. Additionally, YLTAT will facilitate candidates for ongoing studies and training placements. This strategic partnership is part of a broader government effort to improve the education and skills training landscape or ATM personnel and veterans.

On the third day, the focus shifted to memorandum of understandings and the economic impacts of the event, which was self-funded by DSA Exhibition and Conference Sdn Bhd. 

Defence Ministry announced securing 40 contracts worth RM7.3 billion, exceeding its RM6 billion target, including major procurements for the Malaysian army and RMAF, as well as maintenance programmes for the Royal Malaysian Navy, all aimed at boosting operational readiness and national security. 

Meanwhile, the Home Affairs Ministry secured 14 contracts totalling RM2.16 billion with local firms, enhancing the domestic defence industry’s growth and capabilities, announced by its Minister Datuk Seri Saifud- din Nasution Ismail. 

On the fourth and final day, highlights were drawn towards the closing ceremony led by both the defence and home affairs ministers. 

Mohamed Khaled (right) noted that DSA has become a vital platform for sharing ideas to enhance global peace and national defence capabilities

Mohamed Khaled also noted the underway preparations for DSA 2026, set for April 20-23 at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre, aiming to foster innovation and collaboration in defence. 

During a post-closing ceremony press conference by the two ministers, Mohamed Khaled noted that DSA has become a vital platform for sharing ideas to enhance global peace and national defence capabilities. 

“It has also indirectly become a platform for everybody, especially those in the defence industry, to share ideas which promote global peace and to enhance our national defence capabilities,” he said at the press conference. 

Concurrently, Saifuddin expressed confidence that NATSEC Asia could eventually operate independently of DSA. Among the significant contracts signed for the ministry include the acquisitions for the Royal Malaysian Police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, involving transport vessels, a mothership, maritime control helicopters and a body camera system for police officers to bolster integrity and public trust. 

Addressing Cyber Security Threats

DSA and NATSEC 2024 emphasised the importance of cybersecurity threats. Speaking during a cybercrime forum at the event, Bukit Aman’s Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf discussed the significant challenges that rapid technological evolution presents to law enforcement in Malaysia. 

He highlighted that cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated and widespread, with a substantial increase in cases over the last five years. Telecommunications fraud 

recorded an 80% increase in cases, e-financial fraud recorded a 141% increase in cases, e-commerce fraud recorded a 227% increase in cases and non-existent investment scams recorded a 455% increase in cases. 

Meanwhile, non-existent loan scams recorded a decrease of 15% and love scams recorded a decrease of 39% cases. In total, cyber-related crimes in Malaysia recorded a 95% increase between 2019 to 2023. 

Ramli emphasised the need for a multi-faceted approach to combat these crimes, including the establishment of the National Scam Response Centre, public awareness campaigns and stronger legislative and international cooperation. 

He stressed the importance of collaboration among law enforcement, cybersecurity experts and policymakers to enhance cybersecurity measures and strengthen legal frameworks to effectively tackle the growing issue of cybercrime and protect Malaysia’s digital economy, and the security and privacy of its citizens. 

At the forum, Bank Negara Malaysia financial intelligence and enforcement department director Mohd Fuad Arshad also touched on the increasing challenges and opportunities presented by cyber-enabled financial crimes. 

He stressed the importance of utilising digital tools and international cooperation to address these emerging threats effectively. 

Mohd Fuad highlighted the global rise in such crimes, supported by findings from the Financial Action Task Force and Interpol, and outlined three main characteristics of the current financial crime landscape: Increased organisation, transnational reach and technological empowerment. 

He also discussed Malaysia’s National Risk Assessment, which identifies major drivers of financial crime in the country including technology and the misuse of virtual assets, underlining the need for proactive and multifaceted strategies to prevent future risks. 

Cyber threats are a disruptive new danger capable of crippling critical infrastructure and stealing sensitive data, Tüfekçi says

On an international level, Türkiye’s Deputy Defence Minister Dr Celal Sami Tüfekçi emphasised the significant risks posed by transnational crimes and cyber threats. He described cyber threats as a disruptive new danger capable of crippling critical infrastructure and stealing sensitive data. 

Highlighting the challenges in a world with porous borders and free-flowing digital information, he stressed that these threats necessitate a major shift in national security strategies. 

Tüfekçi pointed out that transnational crimes like terrorism and drug trafficking create widespread instability, and the evolving nature of cyberattacks introduces additional complexity, requiring innovative approaches to enhance traditional security frameworks. 

Protest Against Vendors 

Another significant moment worth noting during the four-day exhibition was a protest from a pro-Palestine movement outside of the venue regarding the participation of a few companies in the exhibition that are supplying military equipment to Israel. The companies include Lockheed Martin Corp and MBDA. 

The pro-Palestine movement, Sekretariat Solidarity Palestin, along with other protestors and former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has criticised the government for allowing these companies to participate in the exhibition, arguing it contradicts Malaysia’s stance of solidarity with Palestine. 

For context, Lockheed Martin has supplied a range of military equipment to Malaysia. Notably, they have provided the RMAF with aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules, which is used for various transport and logistical duties. Additionally, the firm was involved in installing a ground-based air surveillance radar system in East Malaysia. This system enhances Malay-sia’s capabilities in monitoring and defending its airspace. The company continues to be a key supplier in Malaysia’s defence sector, contributing to the modernisation and enhancement of its military capabilities. 

Meanwhile, MBDA, associated with BAE Systems, supplies missile systems to Malaysia. They have provided various advanced missile technologies, which include air-to-air, surface-to-air and anti-ship missile systems that enhance the defensive capabilities of the ATM. These systems are crucial for Malaysia’s air and naval defence strategy, enabling them to maintain a robust defensive posture in the region. 

Despite protests and calls for a boycott, the government, represented by Mohamed Khaled, upheld the participation of these companies, citing Malaysia’s commitment to free trade and non-interference in the business operations of global companies. 


This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition