Malaysia is a country home to a diverse population of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. In addition to the Malay Peninsula, Malaysia incorporates the states of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo. These two states are approximately 400 miles from the mainland of Malaysia. Sabah is interesting from the point of view of special ops forces, as tribesmen from Sarawak are renowned as trackers and have been used by the British SAS (Special Air Service). Malaysia is rich in natural resources and has a booming economy, which makes it an appealing target for terrorists and other aggressors.
The principal special ops unit of the Malaysian Army is 21 Grup Gerak Khas (GGK), a brigade-sized formation that controls Special Forces battalions. The GGK is the administrative and command element while the three Special Forces battalions (sometimes designated regiments) are the “teeth” units. The 11th Regiment Gerak Khas functions as the special forces regiment and is organized into four saber squadrons assigned hostage rescue, counter-revolutionary warfare, direct action, and so on. Before attempting selection for the 11th Regiment, personnel must have eight years of service in one of the kommando regiments. The other two regiments (battalions) are 21 and 22 Kommando regiments that are trained for long-range recon, sabotage, covert ops, airborne assault, and amphibious assault. Although each of the special forces battalions is trained for an array of special ops missions including guerilla and counter-guerilla warfare, escape and evasion, subversion and sabotage, and counterterrorism; the unit is especially renowned for its jungle warfare expertise and special ops units around the world send personnel to train with the GGK in jungle warfare.
GGK operators go through PULPAK, the Malaysian Special Warfare Training Center. They’re taught an array of basic and advanced skills including parachute training, HALO/HAHO (high altitude, low opening/high altitude, high opening), sniping, combat diving, mountaineering, etc. Malaysian GGK operators train a great deal with Indonesian special forces and also with the British, Australian, and New Zealand SAS, the US 1st Special Forces Group, and the USMC Recons.
Since Malaya has an extensive coastline and a portion of the country is located across an expanse of sea, the Pasukan Khas Laut (PASKAL), the Malaysian Navy’s special ops unit, is very important. Malaysia enforces a 200-mile EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) off its shores, and one of the jobs of PASKAL is to carry out combat boardings of suspicious ships in the EEZ.
Much of the initial training for the PASKAL operator takes place at the Special Warfare Training Center and is similar to that of the GGK Kommandos. However, as PASKAL trainees enter their advanced phase they receive more intensive training in HALO/HAHO, combat diving, small boat operations, CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue), combat tracking, urban warfare, unconventional warfare, sabotage and explosives, CQC, tactical cliff climbing, sniping, intelligence, and languages. As with other Malaysian special ops units, the PASKAL are very skilled at jungle operations, especially after insertion onto a coastline via small boats. PASKAL would carry out beach recon missions prior to amphibious assaults and operations against enemy ships. The PASKAL study Tae Kwon Do as their unarmed combat discipline.
PASKAL has especially close relations with Indonesia’s KOPASKA, British SBS, and US Navy SEALs. It should be noted that all three of these units are particularly skilled in operations involving oil platforms and refineries, a skill PASKAL has reportedly mastered, since more than 30 oil companies have offshore assets in Malaysian waters. Many foreign special ops units that trained with the Malaysians consider PASKAL as the best unit in the Malaysian armed forces.
Pasukan Khas Udara (PASKAU) is the special operations unit of the Malaysian Air Force. As with USAF Special Tactics units, PASKAU has the missions of CSAR and Target Designation, but it also has a fully trained hostage rescue unit and all operators are Kommando qualified and can carry out ambushes or other counter-infiltration missions around Malaysian air bases. The hostage rescue team specializes in aircraft assaults and would be charged with rescuing hostages on a hijacked Malaysian airliner. Other members of the SST (Tactical Assault Squadron) specialize in Kommando raids against enemy air assets. There is also a Force Protection Squadron, which provides security for high value targets such as radar sites, though normal base security is carried out by the RMAF Regiment. Some members of the PASKAU act as Forward Air Controllers and Pathfinders much as do the USAF CCTs (Combat Control Team). Members of PASKAU are HALO/HAHO and Kommando qualified.
Among forces with which PASKAU has trained are USAF Special Tactics, Indonesian Det Bravo (Indonesian Air Force CT Unit), and British, Australian, and New Zealand SAS.
Within the Royal Malaysian Police there is a special ops/anti-terrorist unit that is the Pasukan Gerakan Khas (PGK). The PGK received substantial training from the SAS and has missions that include VIP protection of senior officials and diplomats, anti-terrorism operations within Malaysian territory in conjunction with military special ops units, high risk law enforcement operations against heavily armed criminals, and intelligence gathering inside and outside of Malaysia. An elite within PGK, VAT69, conducts recon and other jungle missions as well as direct action and counter-terrorism ops. UTK is another specialized unit that operates in plainclothes against dangerous criminals and terrorists.
PGK operators train extensively in CQC (close quarter combat). There are also many trained as snipers or EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) specialists. Members of PGK receive an array of special ops training including HALO/HAHO, fast roping and rappelling, combat diving, and so on. PGK includes some highly trained K9 units and HAZMAT specialists. Members of the unit also train in ship, bus, train, and aircraft assaults as well as all types of building assault and combat in urban terrain. Reportedly PGK operators, especially those in VAT69 and UTK, are very skilled martial artists who train extensively with blades. PGK also has several female operators in their rank.
Malaysian special ops units can be distinguished by their berets. GGK wears green, PASKA wears crimson, PASKAU wears blue, PGK wears maroon, and VAT69 wears sand.
Weapons & Gear
Malaysian special ops units use a wide array of weapons. Principal handguns include the Browning Hi-Power, SIG SAUER P226 and P228, Glock 17 and 19 (PASKAU also has G34s), and Heckler & Koch Mk23 (PGK has used HK USPs) among others. Submachineguns are the usual array of HK MP5s, including the MP5K, and the FNH P90. The PASKAU seem to use the MP5SD equipped with an EOTech as their primary SMG.
Assault rifles and carbines include versions of the M16 and M4, the Steyr AUG, and HK G36. The PASKAU have SIG SAUER 552s as well. Many PGK M4s are equipped with the SOPMOD kit. Among the sniper rifles used are the Accuracy International PM and AW, Barrett M82, HK SG-1, and HK PSG-1. Barrett M95 anti-material rifles are available to GGK and possibility other units. PGK has some Remington 700 tactical rifles.
Various shotguns are used including the Mossberg 500, Remington 870 and 1100 and the Franchi SPAS12. The FNH Minimi is the primary light machinegun. The M60 and RPK 74 are also in the inventory of GGK.
Although Malaysia is a very ethnically diverse country, traditionally the armed forces, especially the special ops units, have drawn heavily on those of Malay extraction. The reputation of the Malaysian special ops units as formidable jungle fighters has already been mentioned, but the various units also have a very sound reputation in other aspects of special warfare. PASKAL constantly hones their MAT (Maritime Anti-Terrorism) skills, for example, stimulated by the large number of offshore oilrigs. The other units remain sharp and motivated as well.