BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) has established a new squadron of drones to enhance the military’s maritime defence capabilities.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah commissioned Squadron 39 Unmanned Aerial System during an event to mark the 61st anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces on Tuesday.

The drones are currently being used for surveillance and intelligence gathering, and will soon be employed for humanitarian and disaster relief, search operations, fighting forest fires, border control and law enforcement operations, the Ministry of Defence said previously.

To address potential security challenges, Brunei has upped its investment in maritime domain security by establishing the drone squadron and announcing plans for a net-centric coastal surveillance system.

The sultanate is one of the several claimants in the disputed South China Sea, a resource-rich area which has become increasingly militarised in the past decade.

The RBAF has announced a new squadron of unmanned aircraft for maritime surveillance. US manufacturer Insitu has a contract to supply the drones to the RBAF. Photo: Information Department

In his speech, the monarch said the RBAF is drafting a strategic plan based on the Defence White Paper 2021, which will be integrated with Force 2035 and the Force Structure Review, two documents intended to assess the military’s medium to long-term capacity.

It is necessary to have a clear defence posture in line with RBAF’s capabilities, while strengthening a holistic approach to defence, he said.

“In other words, the RBAF must continue to work with relevant government agencies in jointly defending the nation’s sovereignty, especially its land borders, maritime areas and airspace.”

He added that thorough planning is required to close any existing gaps in defence capabilities, and then announced the establishment of two new entities to bolster defence forces – the Combat Boat Squadron and Intelligence Troop under the Royal Brunei Land Forces.

Soldiers march in a parade to mark the 61st anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces on May 31, 2022. Photo: Information Department

The sultan also highlighted the importance of Brunei’s continuing commitment to peacekeeping missions such as the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL),  International Decommissioning Body Verification and Monitoring Assistance Teams (IDB-VMAT) in the Philippines, and CounterTerrorism Information Facility in Singapore.

“I am confident that with the existence of a safe region, then our country will also be safe where the development plan and the progress of the country will be able to be implemented smoothly and effectively,” he said.