• The drills were carried out as part of the exercise ‘Taming Sari 20/21'
  • Vessels KD Lekir and KD Kasturi fired Exocet MM40 Block II missiles 
  • Submarine KD Tun Razak also launched an Exocet SM39 Block II anti-ship missile 

Amid territorial tensions with China, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has displayed its anti-surface capabilities by test-firing three Exocet missiles in the South China Sea.

The demonstrations were carried out on Aug. 12 as part of the exercise ‘Taming Sari 20/21.' The drills involved the first known launch of an anti-ship missile from the Kasturi (Type FS 1500)-class corvette KD Lekir, reported Janes.

The report added that KD Lekir and its sister ship, KD Kasturi, each fired an Exocet MM40 Block II missile against a surface target. Besides, the Perdana Menteri (Scorpene)-class submarine KD Tun Razak also launched an Exocet SM39 Block II anti-ship missile while being submerged.

"The successful test firings of these missiles, which were all on target, is a clear demonstration of the navy's professionalism, ability, and readiness to deploy our assets and defend the country," said the RMN in a statement published via an official social media channel Sunday.

Vessels and aircraft from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency also took part in the six-day exercise. Over 1,080 personnel from the RMN, the MMEA and Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) took part in the military exercise.

This comes months after Malaysia reported a breach by PLA in its territory on the South China Sea. In June, 16 Chinese warplanes breached Malaysian airspace, flying to the vicinity of the shoals administered by Malaysia on the South China Sea. That had prompted the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) to scramble its fighter jets.

The intrusion has angered Malaysia, after which it summoned the Chinese ambassador, describing the PLA's actions as "a serious threat to national sovereignty and flight safety."

A statement by RMAF had then said the planes, comprising Ilyushin il-76 and Xian Y-20 strategic transporters, flew within 60 nautical miles of Sarawak state of Malaysian Borneo. The planes had traveled in an "in-trail" tactical formation at between 23,000 and 27,000 feet.

Three weeks after this incident, the country decided to step up its air capabilities by floating a tender to acquire new light combat aircraft and advanced fighter trainers. The RMAF plan was to acquire an initial 18 aircraft to replace its aging fleet under its 'Capability 55' Plan launched in 2018.

China's bid to exert its monopoly over the South China Sea had often led to conflicts between the neighbors. Last year, an oil exploration vessel contracted by Malaysian state energy company Petronas was involved in a standoff with a Chinese survey vessel in the South China Sea. The vessel had to leave the waters after the Chinese vessels began harassing it.

While China has the world's largest Navy with approximately 350 vessels, the majority of which are missile patrol boats, corvettes, frigates, and destroyers distributed across northern, eastern, and southern theaters along the coast of China, RMN is not in a position to challenge the PLA Navy. Plagued by the obsolescence of its warships, RMA recently decided to step up its capabilities through the 15-to-5 Transformation Program.

Malaysia scrambled fighter jets to intercept the Chinese air force transport planes that appeared off Borneo
File picture of a Malaysian fighter jet intercepting Chinese air force transport planes that appeared off Borneo. Royal Malaysian Air Force / Handout