The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) is no longer seeking a multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) and is evaluating light combat aircraft (LCA) instead. In another change of policy, the service has grounded its remaining airworthy MiG-29s instead of upgrading them, although the government has not made a final decision about their future. The RMAF is also now seeking four-to-six new maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).
Over the past few years, the makers of fourth-generation combat aircraft such as Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Dassault (Rafale), Eurofighter (Typhoon) and Saab (Gripen) have all devoted considerable efforts to wooing the southeast Asian country. But an RMAF official said that Malaysia would defer further evaluation of an MRCA until at least 2025, because of budget constraints. Instead, it now wants to acquire “one or two squadrons” of a light, single-engine jet that would have some air-to-air performance, including supersonic speed, but that would mainly offer air-to-ground capability.
The Korean Aircraft Industries KA-50 would seem to be the frontrunner, since it has already been chosen by neighboring countries Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Moreover, it is powered by a GE F404—the same engine as found on the RMAF’s small fleet of eight Boeing F-18D Hornets. However, the official said that rival aircraft would be closely evaluated.
The RMAF is now seeking to expand its F-18 squadron by acquiring some second-hand F-18C/Ds. The RMAF official also confirmed that the service would retain, and seek to upgrade, its two squadrons of Sukhoi Su-30MKMs.
On the MPA front, the official said that the RMAF had set a three-year timescale for acquisition of a converted medium-size twin-turboprop such as the Airbus C295, ATR-72 MP or Bombardier Q400. As an interim measure, the RMAF would retire the four Beechcraft Super King Airs that serve as maritime surveillance aircraft; remove their radars and mission systems; and have them re-installed in some of the RMAF’s CN-235 transports. Thales is a candidate to perform this work, since it provided the radar and mission system for the King Airs. However, PTDI of Indonesia is another candidate, since it provided the CN-235s and has done similar integration work for the Indonesian air force.
My comments : The last time Malaya and North Borneo (Sabah, Sarawak) were attacked by enemy aircraft was in 1941. The Japanese invasion of Malaya is now 76 years old.
In 1963 – 1965 Indonesia launched an attack on Malaysia aka the Konfrontasi. They airdropped some Indonesian infiltrators by parachute into Johor and Sarawak. There was no bombing of Malaysia even though the Indonesians had Russian made bombers.
Looking at the next FIVE years (or 10 years) it is unlikely that Malaysia will be attacked by air by any enemy within jet fighter flying distance of here (Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei. Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia?? China, Myanmar, India and Bangladesh are a tad too far.)
The USA is more unpredictable (or predictable??) but also not likely.
We are a peaceful nation.
I am positive we can extract extra mileage from our existing fleet of aircraft for a few more years. We just have to pay careful attention to maintaining our planes in good airworthy and combat readiness fashion.
Our most immediate need now is to defend the eastern Sabah sea boundaries against incursion from the southern Philippines. Our country has lost billions of Ringgit already since the barter trade between Sabah, Philippines and Indonesia has almost completely stopped since the Sulu incursion FOUR years ago in 2013.
Its all connected folks. Please sit up and pay attention ok. Each Ringgit we lose in trade means the Malaysian Ringgit will be worth that much less. If we lose a billion Ringgit in trade every year, our Ringgit will be definitely worth a billion Ringgit less.
There is an urgent need for more maritime patrol aircraft. I hear talk that the next big ripoff defense contract will be for MPA or maritime patrol aircraft.
Long endurance MPAs will help secure the maritime boundaries in Sabah.
Some folks are suggesting a twin engined crop duster type plane but at Hercules C130 prices OR MORE. PLEASE DO NOT DO THAT OK.
If we are going to pay Rolls Royce prices, then make sure we get a shine new Rolls Royce.
If we are going to pay Perodua prices, then make sure we get a shiny a new Perodua.
Please do not pay Rolls Royce prices and then get a Proton. THAT HAS TO STOP. It is also time we adopted long endurance UAVs (drones or unmanned aerial vehicles). Malaysia manufactures drones but tey are small and have a low flight endurance.
There are a number of countries in our neighborhood like India, China and Singapore who manufacture long endurance surveillance (and attack) drones. Drones can be a huge savings in costs.
We can also further develop the use of attack helicopters (light or heavy) for counter insurgency operations.
The most likely enemy we are looking at are RPG armed Abu Sayyaf and other Moro militants. Maybe some psycho ISIS jihadis as well.
IT IS UNLIKELY THAT THEY WILL HAVE SHOULDER LAUNCHED ANTI AIRCRAFT MISSILES.
Counter insurgency and ground infiltration will need ground support and ground attack aircraft. That may be more practical over the next few years than high tech jet fighters.
The Russians make excellent ground support and ground attack aircraft like the SU25 Frogfoot Flying Tank which has proven itself par excellence taking out the ISIS in Syria.
SU25 Frogfoot Ground Support and Ground Attack jetfighter. Thats a
full sized 30mm cannon tucked under the nose cone (a bit to the right)
This plane is armed with air to ground missiles, rockets, bombs, cannon and (get this) machine guns (meaning it can fly low and slow).
And here is the best part : this “one plane fits all your air to ground operations requirements” has a price tag of US11 million per piece !! Less than RM55 million each. If we get 10 of these SU25s it will be about RM550 million (plus minus).
Given our local threat scenarios, the other options for ground attack aircraft will be propeller driven aircraft.
Here is the Brazilian Embraer 314 Super Tucano
Price Tag : US9.0 million to US14 million each (RM38m – RM58m each).
Here is the cute Italian Marchetti SF 260 trainer, aerobatics and also ground attack aircraft :
Price tag : US2.0 Million (under RM9 million each).
You can read a US Airforce colonel arguing why the US Airforce needs propeller driven light attack aircraft here : Back To The Future: Why The U.S. Needs A Light Turboprop Attack Aircraft
Colonel Michael Pietrucha says “Faced with increasing airpower demand in Iraq and Afghanistan, the existing fighters were being wrung out. For the kind of air support we were providing for U.S. ground forces, the existing F-16, F-15E and Navy / Marine F-18 were a ridiculous overmatch. Meeting airpower demand with expensive, high end aircraft was the only option we had, and we were flying their wings off. We still are. “
Meaning using F18 Hornets to drop 500lb bombs on Abu Sayyaf in Lahad Datu was effective but a wee bit overkill.
This is our money folks. As I said, the next big ripoff defense contract is going to be those MPAs or maritime patrol aircraft. Lets keep our eyes and ears open.