BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Defence tabled a $597.67 million budget for the 2022/23 fiscal year to support the modernisation of and restructuring of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.

The allocation is a two percent increase from the previous fiscal year.

Second Defence Minister, YB Pehin Dato Hj Halbi Hj Mohammad Yussof, said that a review of the RBAF’s capabilities is currently being carried out through Force 2035 and the Force Structure Review, two documents intended to assess the military’s medium to long-term capacity.

Any restructuring will be in line with the objectives outlined in the Defence White Paper 2021 and Wawasan 2035, he added.

“Based on the priorities outlined in the Defence White Paper 2021, this comprehensive plan is intended to increase the effectiveness of the RBAF through the introduction of new paths and competence,” YB Pehin Dato Hj Halbi said during a session of the Legislative Council on Sunday.

“It will place an emphasis on filling in gaps in capabilities, jointry methods, capacity building based on Defence Lines of Developments, while utilising technology and modern innovation that not only covers conventional domains (such as land, air and maritime) but to include the cyber domain and space.”

The minister cited the introduction of RBAF’s new drone project as a recent innovation in Brunei’s military capabilities.

The unmanned aerial system is currently used for surveillance and intelligence gathering, and in the near future will be  employed in humanitarian and disaster relief, search operations, fighting forest fires, border control and law enforcement operations.

During his budget speech, YB Pehin Dato Hj Halbi also highlighted the major role the RBAF played in supporting Brunei’s COVID-19 response.

More than 3,000 military personnel and 100 MinDef staff were deployed across the country to help frontliners and volunteers in logistics, isolation centres, vaccination clinics and laboratory testing.

The RBAF also heads the COVID-19 National Coordination Centre, where it directs non-clinical operations alongside several other government agencies.

“As a whole, the contributions of the RBAF have been significant in emergency or crisis containment such as COVID-19,” the minister said. “It is a large return on investment for the government in cultivating military-civil cooperation.”

YB Pehin Dato Hj Halbi added that since the onset of the pandemic authorities have identified an increase in cross-border drug smuggling, and the RBAF has expanded security patrols along land and maritime borders.