Another View on TUDM CAP 55

SHAH ALAM: Another view on TUDM Cap 55. A guest post by …It has been 10 months since I had written a piece on TUDM plans here In that short period of time we have seen a historical change of government, and the launch of a very generalistic plan from TUDM in the shape of CAP55.

RMAF Cap 55 plan

A glaring omission from the CAP55 document is the resemblance of any form of timelines. The most important item in a plan is the program timeline. How can we plan without set times? In contrast the TLDM 15 to 5 plan is so comprehensive, a document that shows a very deep planning of what operational outcomes that is required from TLDM, and what resources that they need to accomplish that.

RMAF Sukhoi Su-30MKM seemed to hang in the air at the Singapore Airshow 2018

After studying more in depth about our budget allocation for defence, it is clear that my previous assumption of USD2 billion per Rancangan Malaysia for each Service cannot be afforded by the government.

Instead I have put an even lower target of USD1.6 billion per 5 year Rancangan Malaysia for the air force. With lower realistic budget comes very hard decisions to be made. As stated in the very simple 9 pages long CAP55 PDF, basic planning (asas perancangan) needs to consider:

1. Kemampuan (affordability)
2. Tepat pada masa (timeliness)
3. Efektif (effective)
4. Realistik (realistic)

A lot of the targets need to be set to more realistic (ie lower) levels. All of the items laid out in the CAP55 plan also needs to be taken into account.

The most important thing in my opinion is for the plan to have a clear focus of operational outcome. For example
1. Fighters – To have 24h QRA capabilities. Clear CAS, Strike and Air Superiority goals.
2. C4ISR air – Information superiority and sharing from air of the air, marine and ground domain. Ability to jam and degrade enemy radar and communication ability. MPA/UAV capability able to reach any part of malaysian waters. Able to find and locate any boats or ships in malaysian waters in 24 hours.
3. C4ISR ground – clear 24hr information picture of malaysian airspace
4. Helicopter – CSAR and SOF capability. Most transport duties and VIP passed to Army PUTD.
5. Transport – strong airbridge between east and west Malaysia, ability to support deployment and sustainment of PARA forces.

RMAF CN235 M44-05. TUDM picture.

From the CAP55, it is clear that some of the tasks to be passed on to other services. General helicopter transport duties to be borne by Army PUTD as the helicopter squadrons to be halved from 4 to just 2. Similarly PUTD could require some small fixed wing aircrafts like the Twin otter or the M28 Skytruck as a partial replacement of CN-235 capabilites. APMM on the other hand would need to shoulder some of the maritime patrol duties, especially those basic surface surveillance done by the Beechcraft B200T King Airs. Actually I would prefer the 3 remaining King Airs to be passed on to APMM.

Below is the revised plan taking into account of just USD1.6 billion for each 5 year Rancangan Malaysia’s

RMK11 16-20 1.1bil
A400M payment 600mil last 1/3rd payment of the USD 1.8 billion contract
28 F/A-18A/B(used Aussie) 100mil 12 F/A-18A, 8 F/A-18B, 8 F/A-18D, 8 F/A-18A spare. 18Skn + 12Skn.
12 EC-225LP(used) 120mil
SU-30MKM overhaul 150mil
12 Ecarys ES15 UAV 120mil 4 systems with 3 uav per system

RMK12 21-25 1.6bil
40 TA/FA-50M 1300mil 16 TA-50, 24 FA-50. Hawk/MB-339CM replacement 2 operational Sqn, 1 FLIT Sqn
6 CN-235 MPA conversion 140mil
1 GroundMaster GM403 radar 30mil
SU-30MKM overhaul 130mil
-3+1 C-130H Avionics Upgrade 0mil Sell of 3 long fuselage Hercules to fund the Hercules upgrade. Buy 1 short fuselage Hercules (the one in AIROD) and convert to special forces support aircraft with air refuelling, FLIR, DIRCM, ESM system, SATCOM, armour and extra fuel tanks.

RMK13 26-30 1.6bil
2 A400M 320mil partly used spain/UK/Germany allocation
8 PC-24 80mil multi-engine training, Medevec, utility, VIP
2 A319CJ 100mil Used aircraft to replace leased A319/20CJ
C-130H-30 upgrade 100mil 8-blade propeller, engine, SATCOM upgrade for rest of the fleet.
3 G6000 Erieye ER AEW&C 600mil
1 G6000 HAVASOJ EW 150mil 1 EW jammer,
2 G6000 (used) 50mil 2 VIP/training (used) to replace Global Express

IMO the best time to have the LCA/FLIT is in RMK12 2021-2025. Right now our remaining quantity of Hawks (13 single and 5 dual seat) and MB-339CM (7 dual seat) is not enough to fill up 2 operational and 1 FLIT squadrons. If we delay this further, then we will have to spend money to replace the Hawk, MB-339 and Hornets all at the same time, something we surely don’t have the budget to do so. How do I get the USD1.3 billion? I based it on around USD420 million cost of 12 FA-50 for the Philippines and USD400 million cost for 16 T-50 for Indonesia.

RMAF Hercules M30-05. File picture

C-130H upgrade
I suggest we sell some of our long fuselage C-130H-30 aircafts to fund the upgrade for our C-130 fleet. We have 14 C-130H (9 long fuselage, 5 short fuselage). We could sell 3 of the older long fuselage Hercules, and buy 1 short fuselage Hercules for special forces/CSAR support (something similar in capability to the MC-130H combat talon). The sale of 3 long fuselage Hercules could get at least USD50 million, with the Avionics modification (based on rockwell collins cost for Pakistan upgrade) on malaysian Hercules fleet to cost around USD24 million (USD2 million per aircraft). That leaves a budget of USD26 million to buy a used short fuselage C-130 Hercules (the one stored in AIROD probably), and upgrade it with FLIR turret, floor armour, SATCOM link, DIRCM, Chaff and flare launchers, In-flight refuelling probes, extra internal fuel tanks. That would leave us with 6 long fuselage Hercules, and 6 short fuselage Hercules (1 normal, 4 tanker, 1 special forces/CSAR). Another round of upgrades, this time for the 8-bladed propellers, engine upgrades, and SATCOM for the rest of the fleet to be done in RMK13

Saab GlobalEye AEW platform. This is the second aircraft undergoing its flight test. Saab

AEW&C and EW capability
The plan is to have Erieye NG radar on Bombardier Global 6000 airframe, basically a “Globaleye Lite” with only the Erieye ER radar system. It would have datalink capability to communicate with fighters, ships and land units seamlessly. One Global 6000 would also be equipped with the Aselsan HavaSOJ Electronic warfare and jamming system. This along with ground and naval based Ew systems, also with MKM’s Knirti SAP-518 systems would provide a comprehensive EW warfare capability that could be a big game changer in future conflicts.

RMAF EC725 flying at the opening ceremony of LIMA 17.

Reduction to only 2 helicopter Skuadrons from the current 4 means that some of the tasks that is borne by TUDM will need to be taken up by Army’s PUTD. This would also mean that VIP helicopter tasks would also be passed on to PUTD. An all blackhawk PUTD transport unit of around 18 units (including former TUDM VIP whitehawks) would be an adequate support to the 24 EC735/EC225LP fleet of TUDM. Plenty of sources of used Blackhawks (Brunei, Australia, USA, Jordan to name a few) is a low cost solution to finally replace all the Nuris in Malaysian service.

Ground Radars
A move to increase the quantity of ground-based radars from the current 6 to 9 radars is a good move in my opinion. Probably a move to an all GM403 radar system would be a good way to reduce the cost of many different types of radar we operate now.

Thales Raytheon GM 403 radar. TUDM

5th Gen fighters
We would need to induct new 5th gen fighters as our MRCA in around 2032-2035 to replace our Hornets. By that time, probably there would be more than a few types of in-service 5th gen fighters that we could choose from. As of buying from China, they are an emerging power of asia and the world, therefore we just cannot engage china with hostility. We need to peacefully co-exist with China. There is an increasing number of interesting military hardwares coming out of china and we should not dismiss the possibility of using some of them.

One of the two USMC F-35Bs at the Singapore Airshow 2018.

Hard times needs tough decisions. Firstly TUDM cannot continue to plan and demand things that is beyond what the government can clearly afford (like the previous request for Typhoons and Rafales), and needs start to prioritise things that will give big contribution to the operational outcome in defence of Malaysia. Secondly the government needs to give a clear indication of what is the budget amount for TUDM. But IMO it falls to TUDM to first show the plan to the government, like what TLDM did. If the request is valid and affordable then surely the government will allocate the budget to the service. I am hoping that TUDM can come out of a more comprehensive plan better than what I as a person can think of. Asia Pacific is fast becoming the new hot sport of the world and we cannot let TUDM of the future be just a shadow of its past. Of course we cannot predict what would actually happen in 30 years time but we can plan with the best of our ability to prepare for most eventualities.

* The thoughts expressed here are solely of the author, and does not reflect the views of Malaysian Defence.

–Malaysian Defence

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