BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei is set to deploy drone technology to improve its intelligence and surveillance in tackling maritime security threats.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah announced in a titah on Monday that an unmanned aerial system (UAS) will be introduced in the “near future”.

Speaking during the Royal Brunei Armed Forces’ (RBAF) Diamond Jubilee parade, he said technological approaches will boost defence capabilities.

“Apart from strengthening the country’s defence, such capabilities can also enhance RBAF personnel’s technology skills,” said the sultan, who is also the supreme commander of RBAF.

While no further details of the drone technology were given, the United States embassy in Brunei posted on social media that His Majesty attended the unveiling of Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc’s unmanned aerial system on Monday.

The embassy said Brunei’s Ministry of Defence awarded Insitu a contract to supply the US-made drones, which will help improve maritime domain awareness to maintain peace and security in the region.

US manufacturer Insitu has also provided drones to other ASEAN member states, including Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

His Majesty during the launch of RBAF’s unmanned aerial system. Photo: Infofoto

With rising tensions in the South China Sea, Brunei said in its new Defence White Paper 2021 that it will be necessary for nations to build more effective and integrated maritime security capabilities.

Welcoming the launch of the new Defence White Paper, His Majesty said the strategic blueprint will facilitate the development of RBAF in a “more focused manner”.

The Defence White Paper, which was revised 10 years after the third edition, sets out policies and strategies to improve RBAF’s ability in addressing security challenges.

The sultan reminded RBAF to stay on top of current developments in defence, including cyber security threats.

He hoped that the establishment of the Cyber Defence Unit will be able to deal with online attacks.

Promoting defence diplomacy to strengthen regional security

His Majesty further said he was pleased to see the defence ministry and RBAF maintaining defence diplomacy and regional cooperation at a time when Brunei is chairing ASEAN this year.

Brunei sees the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting and ASEAN Chief of Defence Forces Meeting (ACDFM) as playing an important role in facilitating dialogue to counter shared security challenges.

We also hope that the ASEAN Military Exercise (AMX) initiative that was agreed during the ACDFM [in March] can be implemented in the near future,” the monarch continued.

The AMX aims to support the militaries of ASEAN member states in enhancing regional security through cooperation.

On the occasion of RBAF’s 60th anniversary, the sultan expressed his pride in RBAF’s continued involvement in international peacekeeping missions, including the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao.

RBAF personnel have also been assigned to Singapore’s International Fusion Centre — a maritime security centre that aims to promote information-sharing — and the new Counter-Terrorism Information Facility in the city-state.

The Counter-Terrorism Information Facility gathers other countries to share intelligence and provide early warning, monitoring and analysis capabilities.

RBAF puts on a grand parade

His Majesty also paid tribute to former and current military personnel who have contributed to the defence institution’s achievements over the past 60 years.

The RBAF Diamond Jubilee celebrations saw 1,060 soldiers staging a march-past at Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien.

His Royal Highness Major Prince ‘Abdul Mateen, a helicopter pilot with the Royal Brunei Air Force, led a group of six aircraft in the flypast to conclude the hour-long parade.

Six helicopters take part in a flypast to conclude the hour-long parade marking the RBAF’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Photo: Infofoto
Photo: Infofoto
Paratroopers jump from an aircraft as part of an aerial display over Taman SOAS. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

The government had earlier announced that the parade would be closed to the public as part of COVID-19 safety measures, but a small crowd gathered to witness the celebrations.

RBAF cancelled the parade last year to comply with social distancing rules.

The RBAF anniversary marks the establishment of the Brunei Malay Regiment on May 31, 1961. The regiment was renamed to Royal Brunei Armed Forces upon Brunei’s independence in 1984.