Another View of RMAF 2020

A Guest Post by …

SHAH ALAM: Another View. Last year in January, Malaysian Defence had an interesting topic on “RMAF 2020”. Most of us discussed the idea without considering the timeline needed for such changes to happen, considering the constraints of budget, time and manpower. Now with more information, like the recently approved budget for the MPA in the 2018 Budget, I think it would be a good idea if we revisit the topic.

Taking cues of the actual planning of TLDM’s 15 to 5 plan (which is the only long term planning of malaysian armed force available for the public to view), it is impossible to fit everything in a plan just up to 2020. Instead this plan is devised up till Rancangan Malaysia ke 14 in 2035. Actual allocated budget that the Malaysian Government can afford also needs to be considered.

Royal Saudi Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon. Internet.

I based this on USD2 billion per RMK, which is what TLDM 15 to 5 plan plans around too. I don’t think the government can afford anything more than USD2 billion per RMK for an individual service. So after a lot of deliberation, this is what my plan for TUDM looks like. Probably not what the fanboys want to read, but it is the best I can think of, considering the condition and constraints that we have.

A400M M54-04 landing at Labuan airport on Nov. 17, 2017.

RMK11 2016-2020 USD1.6bil
A400M payment $400mil part payment (assumption)
6 MPA aircraft $650mil 6 New MPA aircraft
36 F/A-18C/D(used) Kuwait $400mil
16 F/A-18C, 16(8+8) F/A-18D, 12 F/A-18C spare. 18Skn + 12Skn. Upgrades with AESA radar.
12 Sagem Patroller UAV $120mil 4 systems with 3 uav per system
5 Pilatus PC-7MkII $25mil additional 5 to the current 21 PC-7 Mk2

RMK12 2021-2025 USD2.0bil
10 EC-225LP(used) $100mil
40 TA/FA-50M $1300mil
16 TA-50, 24 FA-50. Hawk/MB-339CM replacement
3+2 G6000 Erieye ER AEW&C $600mil
3 AEW&C, 2 VIP/training to replace Global Express
-3+1 C-130H 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 2026-2030 USD2.0bil
10 EC-225LP(used) $100mil
2 A400M $300mil partly used spain/UK/Germany allocation
8 Pilatus PC-24 $80mil multi-engine training, Medivac, utility, VIP
SU-30MKM upgrade $400mil
MLU. cockpit, radar, targetting pod, EW equipments, SATCOM, datalink, missiles.
FC-31 $1000mil MRCA F/A-18 replacement 1/3rd payment

RMK14 2031-2035 USD2.0bil
32 FC-31 $2000mil MRCA 2/3rd payment

Priority list
1. MPA/ISR
2. additional hornets
3. LCA/LIFT
4. AEW&C
5. 5th gen MRCA

So in the timeline
– 2018 current fighter fleet – 18 Su-30MKM, 8 F/A-18D, 10 MiG-29N, 12 Hawk 208, 5 Hawk 108, 7 MB-339CM (5 types – 60 aircraft, minus 14 crashed 6 stored)
– 2025 milestone fighter fleet – 18 Su-30MKM, 32 F/A-18C/D, 40 TA/FA-50M (3 types – 90 aircraft)
– 2035 milestone fighter fleet – 18 Su-30MKM, 32 FC-31, 40 TA/FA-50M (3 types – 90 aircraft)

Phaseout timeline
– Hawk 108/208 2023-2025
– Aermacchi MB339CM 2023-2025
– F/A-18 2031-2033
– C-130H 2038-2040
– SU-30MKM 2045-2047

TUDM 2035 Orbat
1 Skn 7x CN-235-220 – Kuching
2 Skn 1x Airbus A319CJ, 1x Airbus A320CJ, 2x Global 6000 – Subang
3 Skn 8x EC225LP – Butterworth
5 Skn 4x EC725, 4x EC225LP – Labuan
6 Skn 12x FA-50, 2x TA-50 – Labuan
7 Skn 4x EC725, 4x EC225LP – Kuching
8 Skn 8x PC-24 – Subang (utility, multi engine training, medevac, VIP)
9 Skn 3x Global 6000 Erieye AEW&C – Gong Kedak
10 Skn 4x EC725, 4x EC225LP – Kuantan
11 Skn 18x SU-30MKM – Gong Kedak (4 aircraft QRA Labuan rotation)
12 Skn 16x FC-31 – Butterworth
14 Skn 6x C-130H – Labuan
15 Skn 12x TA-50 (3FTC) – Kuantan
16 Skn 6x MPA aircraft – Subang
17 Skn 12x FA-50, 2x TA-50 – Kuantan (smokey bandits display team)
18 Skn 16x FC-31 – Butterworth
19 Skn 12x Sagem Patroller UAV – Labuan
20 Skn 6x C-130H-30 – Subang
21 Skn 2x S-61A-4 Nuri, 2x AS-61A-4 VIP(ex saudi FOC), 2x AS-61N-1 Silver, 2x VIP Blackhawk – Subang
22 Skn 6x A400M – Subang
1 FTC 26x PC-7 MkII – Alor Setar (21+5=26)
2 FTC 6x EC120

Transfer
24x S-61A-4 with army PUTD
3x B200T MPA with MMEA

RMAF Beechcraft B200T of the 16th Squadron.

Some explanations of the points above

– Why not MRCA in 2020? Why not Typhoon or Rafale? Why do we need F/A-18 as stopgap measure?
My opinion is that it is very expensive (probably around USD2 to 2.5 billion) for a paltry 8 new Rafale or Typhoon MRCA, and that is not the most prudent use of the rakyat’s money. I’d rather have big quantity of new LCA/LIFT (restoring the original quantity and reducing operational cost of 2 different light fighter the Hawk and Aermacchi) plus having a new capability in the form of Global 6000 ErieyeER AEW&C first. That would give a more meaningful effect to the defence of Malaysia instead of a paltry number of new MRCAs.

Hornet M45-01 flying over the range dropping flares.

F/A-18s as stopgap is a viable option as we are a current Hornet operator, the abiliy to upgrade the Hornet with AESA radar (1 hour plug and play swap) and various new weapons, and the availability of low houred Hornets from a friendly country. The availability of retired airframes that we could harvest for spareparts would also lower our maintenance costs of the hornet.

Patroller-S is a safe and high-performance system developed to fulfill all types of homeland security missions for police forces, customs, border control, civil or environmental protection, etc. This the cilivian version of the Patroller – Safran

Another issue with the rafale and typhoon as MRCA is time. It would be acceptable if the MRCA is to enter service in 2015, but with our current condition, if we order them in 2020 it would be about 2024 the earliest for any of them to even arrive in Malaysia. If we buy them in 2020, we will be stuck with the “new” Rafale and Typhoons up till at least 20-30 more years in the future, and that would probably mean no money for hawk and hornet replacement up till past 2030. So is it okay for Malaysia to just have a few MKM,Hormet,Rafale/Typhoon, Hawk and Aermacchi rojak in 2030? This is how it would look like if we buy the Typhoon or Rafale by 2030.

– 2030 fighter fleet – 18 Su-30MKM, 8 F/A-18D (to be retired), 8 Rafale or Typhoon, 12 Hawk 208 (to be retired), 5 Hawk 108 (to be retired), 7 Aermacchi MB-339CM (5 types, 58 aircraft, 25 to be retired)

Another point is that either replace the Hawk/Aermachi in 2020 or 2030, the potential replacements would still be the same aircraft, which in most probability the FA-50. There is possibly no other new light fighter/LIFT types in 2030 that we could buy if we defer the Hawk/Aermacchi replacement. So better buy it earlier rather than later.

– TA/FA-50M
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.

One of the two RTAF T-50 at Kuantan airbase today. via @KaptRahmat

– MPA aircraft
The budget (as reported by Malaysian Defence) is RM2.6 billion for 4 aircraft. IMO 4 is too small a number to cover the whole of Malaysia, and something like 6 is a more acceptable number, The remaining 3 B200T MPA to be handed over to MMEA. As for platforms, CN-235, C-295, ATR-72 or even the Challenger 650 (offered to korea as KP-X) are capable platforms for the MPA task. Top of the range in our budget would be the Saab Swordfish, based on the Global 6000 aircraft.

Leonardo ATR 72 MP. Leonardo

– 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)

RMAF M30-14 Hercules hold short at the runway on 2016 Merdeka Day as a Firefly ATR-72 lands at Subang.

– Buying used Eurocopter EC225LP
Almost all civilian EC225LP has no jobs in the oil and gas sector due to its bad reputation of gearbox problem. A lot is now being sold for as low as USD4.5 million each, just to cut off their owner’s losses. So a budget of USD10 million per helicopter will buy you a used EC225LP plus lots of extra to add military radios etc. Compare that to more than USD30 million for a brand new EC225M.

MHS Aviation EC225

– Bombardier Global 6000 ERIEYE ER AEW&C
I am in for a Global 6000 based AEW&C. But i really think that the complicated Globaleye system like the one bought by UAE is over the top and more than what we need for an AEW&C aircraft. I would suggest that we keep the platform and the ERIEYE ER radar only. That would reduce the overall cost of the system. I predict the cost to be around USD160 million per aircraft (USD60 million for the airplane, USD100 million for the ERIEYE ER radar system).
So total cost of USD600 million; USD300 million for 5 Global 6000 aircraft (plus 2 for VIP) and USD300 million for the Erieye ER system.

Saab GlobalEye

– FC-31?
Why not? As 2026 is still far away, anything can happen, technical and political wise. Probably by 2025 we can decide if the aircraft is mature enough to be considered as a worthy MRCA for Malaysia. Its suggested price of around USD70 million (as announced by AVIC in 2017 Paris Air Show) is affordable enough for Malaysia to buy them in meaningful numbers. If that is not okay, and if we are approved to buy the F-35 instead, yes we can go in that that direction too (with a much reduced aircraft quantity of course).

FC-31. Internet

– Off topic. PTM?
Yes there are those who wants Malaysia to design and build its own jet fighters with own engines, own avionics, own AESA Radar. My take? Dreaming is easy. Reality needs money, time and plenty of resources. Okay, now just take korean KF-X for example. Korea has the experience in designing and building the T-50. For the KF-X it is said that korea has 60% of the technology to design it, it is not going to develop its own engines for this, and trying its best to get technology transfer of stealth technology and AESA radar from overseas. As ToT part of the F-35 buy, Lockheed is transferring “300 man years worth of engineering expertise” for KF-X development. The approved budget for KF-X development by korean government is USD7.9171 Billion. The project timeline starts from 2010 with 1st flight targetted in 2023. For the R&D spent, the korean air force is planning to buy 250 KF-X. Compare that cost to what Korea is spending for 40 F-35A stealth fighters from USA, that is bought for USD7.06 billion. The R&D cost for KF-X is projected to cost more than what Korea spends to buy 40 F-35A outright from USA.

Do we have the current knowledge and expertise to build a stealth fighter? No. Can we set aside at least USD8 billion from our defence budget just to do R&D? No. Are anyone willing to transfer jet engine, stealth and AESA technology and manufacturing know how to Malaysia? No. Will TUDM buy 250 stealth fighters to recoup the massive R&D costs? No. How many years of trial and error do we need to get to find out something that Lockheed had known for ages (and transfering that knowledge to KF-X team)? No idea. How many more billions to spend to create all the manufacturing capability of all components in Malaysia? No idea. So as it is, it is something that we cannot even plan to achieve in reality. Patriotism is good, I applaud that, but please channel it to better purposes. You cannot build every single system in a fighter jet, as you cannot find all the expertise and manufacturing capability. And the cost of designing and building everything from scratch is huge. Take for example a car. Even a car manufacturer don’t design and build its own gearbox, own brake system, own steering rack, own suspension and absorbers, own lighting system, own airbag system, own seatbelts, own seats, own multimedia systems, own tires, own engine control units, own batteries or even something as simple as own air filter. Building aircrafts is multiple times more complicated and technologically advanced than building a car.

A photo on RTAF FB page celebrating the delivery of the two T-50THs on Jan. 25.

-Conclusion
I welcome any other alternative plans from anyone here. Just plan around the budget of USD2 billion per RMK would be something realistic. I would also love to see a plan fitting the Typhoon or the Rafale into a long term planning, how it would affect other projects like Hawk/MB339 replacement, additional helicopters, AEW&Cs. Hopefully in the near future we could see the actual plans from TUDM top brass itself, something like the TLDM’s 15 to 5 plan for all of us to see. In the end the target is the same, to have a strong capable defence for Malaysia.

* The views expressed in the article are solely of the author and does not reflect the opinion of Malaysian Defence.

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