Malaysia Military - 2023


Military and security forces

Malaysian Armed Forces (Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, ATM): Malaysian Army (Tentera Darat Malaysia), Royal Malaysian Navy (Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia, TLDM), Royal Malaysian Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia, TUDM) (2023)

note 1: the Royal Malaysian Police (PRMD) are under the Ministry of Home Affairs; the PRMD includes the General Operations Force, a paramilitary force with a variety of roles, including patrolling borders, counter-terrorism, maritime security, and counterinsurgency; the Ministry of Home Affairs also includes the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA; aka Malaysian Coast Guard)

note 2:
Malaysia created a National Special Operations Force in 2016 for combating terrorism threats; the force is comprised of personnel from the ATM, the PRMD, and the MMEA

Military expenditures

1% of GDP (2022 est.)

1% of GDP (2021)

1.1% of GDP (2020)

1% of GDP (2019)

1% of GDP (2018)

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 115,000 active duty troops (80,000 Army; 18,000 Navy; 17,000 Air Force) (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the military fields a diverse mix of older and more modern imported weapons systems from a wide variety of suppliers across Europe, Asia, and the US; in recent years it has received military equipment from approximately 20 countries with South Korea as one of the leading suppliers (2023)

Military service age and obligation

17 years 6 months of age for voluntary military service for men and women (younger with parental consent and proof of age); maximum age of 27 to enlist; mandatory retirement age 60; no conscription (2023)

note - in 2020, the military announced a goal of having 10% of the active force comprised of women

Military deployments

830 Lebanon (UNIFIL) (May 2022)

Military - note

the MAF is a professional force primarily focused on internal and maritime security and responding to natural disasters; maritime security has received increased emphasis in recent years, particularly anti-piracy operations in the Strait of Malacca and countering Chinese incursions in Malaysia’s Economic Exclusion Zone, as well as addressing identified shortfalls in maritime capabilities; as such, Malaysia has undertaken efforts to procure more modern ships, improve air and maritime surveillance, expand the Navy’s support infrastructure (particularly bases/ports) and domestic ship-building capacities, restructure naval command and control, and increase naval cooperation with regional and international partners; as of 2023, for example, the Navy had 5 frigates on order (due in 2026), which would increase the number of operational frigates from 2 to 7, and complement its small inventory of littoral combat ships (comparable to light frigates in capabilities) and offshore patrol vessels, as well as its 2 attack-type submarines; in addition, the Navy conducts air and naval patrols with Indonesia and the Philippines; it also cooperates with the US military, including on maritime surveillance and training; the Army’s force structure reflects its traditional focus on counterinsurgency operations and terrorist threats; its 4 divisional commands are comprised largely of infantry brigades; it also has 2 security brigades, an airborne brigade that serves as a rapid-reaction force, and a special operations brigade; Malaysia does not have a marine corps, but places considerable emphasis on amphibious capabilities for some of its Army ground units; the Air Force has a mix of about 50 combat aircraft and helicopters 

Malaysia is a member of the Five Powers Defense Arrangements (FPDA), a series of mutual assistance agreements reached in 1971 embracing Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK; the FPDA commits the members to consult with one another in the event or threat of an armed attack on any of the members and to mutually decide what measures should be taken, jointly or separately; there is no specific obligation to intervene militarily (2023)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau reported four attacks in the territorial and offshore waters of Malaysia in 2022; the South China Sea remains a high risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; numerous commercial vessels have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; hijacked vessels are often disguised and cargo diverted to ports in East Asia; crews have been murdered or cast adrift; the Singapore Straits saw 38 attacks against commercial vessels in 2022, a slight increase over 2021 and the highest number of incidents reported since 1992; vessels were boarded in all of the 38 attacks while underway, four crew were taken hostage during these incidents

NOTE: The information regarding Malaysia on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Malaysia 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Malaysia 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 10 Nov 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.