A Broken Record

Hornet M45-01 flying over the Kota Belud range dropping flares.

SHAH ALAM: A Broken record. In discussions on the FLIT-LCA and RMAF plans there were also talk on the plan to buy Kuwaiti Hornets. Most of the talk falls on the US not willing to allow us to buy them for various reasons.

Actually, its not about whether the US will allow us to buy them but whether or not our government really wants to follow RMAF decision to boost its Hornet fleet from the current eight to at least 18 aircraft or more. RMAF had even stood up No 17 Squadron again in 2021 likely for the purpose of operating the new, albeit, used Kuwaiti Hornets.

A Hornet firing its gun and flares at the Kota Belud air to ground range at Eks Ababil 2021. Mohd Adam Hj Arinin

In response to Malaysian Defence questions on the Kuwaiti Hornets, RMAF said it was still waiting for the government to move ahead with the process.. In fact, the same answers were given when the other media organisations asked the same thing ahead of the RMAF 64th anniversary celebrations on June 1. Still waiting for the government.
An F/A-18D Hornet aircraft from the Royal Malaysian Air Force takes off for the first mission of Exercise Pitch Black 18.

It was the same thing when I wrote about the plans in late 2021. In that post, I stated that the process will not start until the government asked for permission from the US. Only after the US gives it permission and the Kuwaiti ascends to it that talk on procuring the Hornets can start.
A Hornet dropping flares during a mirror flypast.

Again, the government has not started the process, even though getting the Kuwaiti Hornets are among the major initiatives for RMAF within the next 10 years. It is as important as buying the FLIT-LCA, MPA, UAS MALE and the medium range SAM.
Kuwait F/A-18 C Hornet. Flickr

If its important, why is the government sitting on its bum? I have no idea, really but as I had said before buying second-hand stuff are not exciting especially to the people selling stuff in the defence industry. Furthermore, the Defence Minister was also distracted by the Covid-stuff. And despite the talk of defence diplomacy, the minister has not shown much desire to engage with the US.
Kuwait AF F/A-18C Hornet. USAF

And will it be done then, finally? My guess is as good as yours. With our luck, it may end up like the Brunei OPV and the NZ MB-339s, we sat on our bum for too long that someone else swooped in to buy the whole lot. By the way, work on the first RMAF Hornet or the local SLEP, is expected to be completed by year end. Another Hornet or two will then undergo the same process.

— Malaysian Defence

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36 Comments

  1. Unlike some here would suggest, RMAF is actually serious with getting used Hornets.

    Politicians are not excited about this as there would not be much if any potential personal profits for themselves and their friends.

    By the way, china is paving the way to do a Donetsk and Luhansk to Malaysia in the near future. Looking at how their foreign minister bypassing the federal government in dealing with sabah. How will malaysian armed forces maintain the integrity of malaysia in regards to this development by china?

  2. I am a Sarawakian, born and bred. I’d like to share something that makes for interesting reading. The Chinese companies have invested heavily in Sabah & Sarawak. Some directly with the state governments. It all boils down the Chinese need to do business in the Borneo territories and the percentage of Federal involvement. For many politicians in Sarawak, the less strings attached to Putrajaya,the happier they are. The Chinese exploit this hardening of state positions. Putrajaya can do much more to get the Premier of Sarawak and the Sabah Chief Minister to reverse the unspoken ‘go it alone where possible’ attitude of their governments. I see little harm in Chinese businesses trying to get extra leverage in Borneo. What’s of concern is the Communist Chinese government’s attitude towards their LCS neighbors. And Security is still very much the Federal government’s area of concern. The onus is for Putrajaya to do more for the defence of Sabah and Sarawak.

  3. We have a defence minister that believe he is the greatest diplomat on earth than can solve everything with a small stick

  4. Unfortunate that all the enthusiastic people that for years staunchly promoted the kuwaiti hornet solution in malaysian defence is no longer here. even the article is gone.

    where are they now?

  5. As a Sarawakian myself, I am rather lukewarm to the increased participation of Chinese investment in Sarawak, primarily as I see these (big) Chinese companies as simply the another arm of the CCP. Left unchecked sooner or later there will be CCP influenced movements, and I hope Abg Jo and his successors would be wise enough to put some safeguards. I am hoping for better (and increased) collaboration between Sarawak and Putrajaya.

    I am a bit pessimistic about the Kuwaiti Hornets plan, with the raising costs and the rather unstable gov I don’t think the Ismail Sabri is willing to provide more ammo for the opposition to pull a coup.

  6. A couple of scenarios which I think might have led to this conundrum we are in:
    1) Govt got no money or cannot justify to buy used. My theory: unlikely since we are buying a lot more expensive stuff anyways.
    2) Govt still hoping for Saudi Father Christmas to buy these Hornets, pay for the upgrading and gift to us much like how we were told Brunei is gifting us their Blackhawks as part of Muslim brotherhood between nations. My theory: plausible as some mentioned there were backchannel discussions regarding these planes but unlikely as Saudi are not THAT best friend with us that they willing to do such thing.

  7. Vader – ” china is paving the way to do a Donetsk and Luhansk to Malaysia”

    A personal opinion or one based on actual facts? ‘Donetsk and Luhansk” are possible because a lot of ethnic Russians are there; was part of the former Soviet Union; is literally next to the border and because of shared cultural/personal/family ties….

    Vader – “How will malaysian armed forces maintain the integrity of malaysia in regards to this development by china”

    If indeed the Chinese are doing this requires a concentrated diplomatic and political approach to deal with what is a diplomatic and political challenge; the MAF taking a vital but nonetheless back seat.

    Taib – The onus is for Putrajaya to do more for the defence of Sabah and Sarawak”

    Which it has been to a large extent doing; large resources have been placed into ESSCOM; the creation of a new area command; the construction of a large naval base which is the only sub facility; a permanent detachment of Hawks; a 5th Division raised; plans for a RMAF FOB base in Bintulu; etc

    It is the onus and care of duty of the government to ensure that the armed services are adequately funded to meet the type of challenges we are likely to face; whether in East Malaysia or the Peninsular; whether in a village 3 hours drive way from Miri or a island off the Johore coast.

    As it stands what we need is not just increased focused and increased funding but a change of mindset; a review of our defence policy which is highly flawed, politically driven and self defeating and sustained funding over a certain period. We need to also ensure we get the maximum value of what we spend rather than what we’ve long been doing at great cost to the armed services and taxpayer.

  8. 3) No local middleman involvement so not interested. My theory: this is more plausible but not so much in the way readers here might expect. What I think is happening, the Govt are waiting for the outcome on local SLEP of our legacy Hornet. I suspect that in view these 2ndhand Hornets need to be upgraded in line to our own, the Govt are trying to justify this job to be done locally for this deal to go thru in order to fulfill the ICP Program, where buys must be justified with local industrial involvement. The middleman thus will be that company doing the SLEP.

  9. “a change of mindset;

    a review of our defence policy which is highly flawed, politically driven and self defeating.

    to get the maximum value of what we spend”

    What kind of mindset do we need? what kind of mindset must we remove? We must have a defence policy that puts malaysian sovereignty as a non-negotiable matter. Capability must be the utmost importance of anything that we spend for defence, not job creation.

  10. mokka – ”so why can’t the many so called defence experts in malaysia come out with a more practicle and implementable alternative to the 15/5 and CAP55? ”

    Because the government wants to spend the bare minimum and wants to drag funding for as long as possible. Offering an alternative plan; one which requires the government to commit to a higher level of spending is not what it wants a to hear.

    It’s not about ”so called defence experts” but about about policy; a policy in which defence is not a priority based on the premise that the chances of a full blown high intensity state on sate war in unlikely. The only reason the government approved the 15/5 and CAP 55 is because both are stretch over a long period and require minimal funding – anything else would not have been approved and the RMN and RMAF realise this; why do you think they came up with such an unrealistic, flawed and modest plan?
    Like the white Paper; both the 15/5 and CAP 55 are PR driven; window dressing based on the prevailing political climate.

    vader – ”Unlike some here would suggest, RMAF is actually serious with getting used Hornets.”

    It has it reservations; to be expected given it’s an air arm with tight resources and that 30 odd years old platforms [which will age] tend to get more expensive to run/sustain due to inherent issue related to age and wear/tear. If the government can make certain commitments the RMAF has no objections but it doesn’t want to be straddled with something it can’t sustain and doesn’t have the needed ordnance and ground support gear for.

    joe – ”unlikely since we are buying a lot more expensive stuff anyways.”

    Despite whatever announcements which have been made there are certain reservations about the pre used Hornets amongst the government. As it stands we ae under no illusions that anyone is going to pay for the Hornets; it’s about us making up our minds and taking a had look at where the Hornets stand in relation to other things we re doing or plan to do.

    joe – ”Saudi are not THAT best friend”

    Nothing about ”best friend” but about self interests and how hard we push certain things. The fact remains we have benefited from Gulf Arab largesse before in various ways.

    ASM – ”eft unchecked sooner or later there will be CCP influenced movements”

    A case of history repeating itself; in the past we had the NKCP and various leftist Chinese [China] influenced and dominated groups. As it stands all this talk of the CCP gaining leverage in Sarawak is premature and exaggerated; though it may be sensational to some..

  11. Do TUDM really need and asked for them though? I mean right now after all these years..Better focus on completing the LCA procurement first and save the fund for MRCA circa 2030s..

  12. stanley – ” what kind of mindset must we remove?”

    If I have to spell it out to you.. The mindset that national interests takes precedence [a country investing here or opening a university; ToTs offsets; bragging rights but no substance; etc] ; that we only spend a lot on defence when times are good; that we are unlikely to be involved in a high intensity state on state fight and the fact that the average voter [whom politicians rely on to stay in power] is indifferent and does not give a shite about defence. That chum is the ”mindset” we have; a deeply ingrained one.

    stanley – ”We must have a defence policy that puts malaysian sovereignty as a non-negotiable matter. Capability must be the utmost importance of anything that we spend for defence, not job creation.”

    Perhaps you should try to understand the context of what was written before hitting the keyboard – you are preaching to the already converted. Priority must be on ensuring the end user gets the desired capability and the taxpayer gets his/her cash value. Everything else; including the needs of the local industry’ should take a backseat and what we buy must be based on a sound appraisal which takes into account cost effectiveness; commonality; suitability and operating costs throughout the projected service life. I have been preaching this for years now and I hardly need any converting but thank you.

    stanley – ”Unfortunate that all the enthusiastic people that for years staunchly promoted the kuwaiti hornet”

  13. By the wayMarhalim or anybody,

    Is the RAAF P8 that was involved in the recent incident with the PLA jet the one based in Butterworth? The Australians are not saying much except that its part of operation Gateway. I understand they also have P8s based at Paya Lebar.

  14. Yup they asked for it as I mentioned it as one of the items prioritised for RMK12 and RMK13. It’s basically to boost the number of the Hornet fleet as RMAF get to grips with the FLIT-LCA. This will allow for at least six Hornets to be based Labuan as the Hawks are withdrawn while the LCA come into full maturity. It must be noted that RMAF is short by six fighters on a daily basis following the withdrawal of the Mig-29 which should have been replaced by 18 MRCA by now.

  15. There is no P8 based out of Butterworth or Paya Lebar actually only temporary detachment. If they are on Op Gateway they will be flying around Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean. But it does sound Oz MOD make use Op Gateway as part of their ops around SCS as well.Do note that RAAF P8s also make use Brunei airport

  16. “that we are unlikely to be involved in a high intensity state on state fight”
    From what i read from most of your writing, that is also your mindset on defence matters.

    “I have been preaching this for years now”
    I have not read about you preaching to buy or get anything specific. So only preaching textbook theories? What about real world options and solutions that is relevant to malaysia?

  17. @vader “to do a Donetsk and Luhansk”
    Like wha…? Those 2 states hardly share anything in common with China. If there ever were one that would do so, it would Penang. Mind you many state infra & private developer projects on that island is China funded/by China company. If any we should be worried it should be this.

    @Hasnan “greatest diplomat on earth”
    He relies that on Wisma Putra, whom really are a cut above other diplomats up til now. But I get your point.

    @stanley “where are they now?”
    I’m still here and still pushing for it.
    @Azlan
    “certain reservations… amongst the government”
    Well at least the BN one wasn’t too adamant about it (ie used M109) but it is the user whom decided not to, this time TUDM really do want these planes.

    “where the Hornets stand in relation to other things”
    The Hornet stands in relation to the MRCA program. The later it is decided & funded, the longer our Hornets have to soldier on support expiry be damned. If TUDM have resigned themselves to get those Kuwaitis, perhaps its indicative they felt it would not be be getting MRCAs prior to legacy Hornet retirement.

    “we have benefited from Gulf Arab largesse before”
    But perhaps not military hardware, no? Even the UAE made IAG Guardian is fully bought not donated. If there were no precedent to expect free milgear why raise our hopes up for nothing.

    “Like the white Paper are PR driven; window dressing”
    I’m surprised as I recall you were one of those proponents for DWP together with …

  18. Firdaus – ”Do TUDM really need and asked for them though?”

    It’s the job of the armed services to look at alternatives and present them to the tight fisted politicians. Just like how about a decade ago the RMAF looked at a leasing option to get around government reluctance to funding MRCAs; it looked at and raised the possibility of acquiring used Hornets as a stop gap measure and to better enable it to meet operational commitments.

    Firdaus – ”Better focus on completing the LCA procurement first ”

    There is no ”better” – all a trade off or making decisions and gambling or hoping they turn out sound. If a situation arises where the LCA is suitable then great but if we have a situation which requires us to have ‘x’ number of MRCAs then obviously the LCA will be found wanting.

  19. We don’t have enough money to buy neither new Super Hornets nor Kuwaiti Legacy Hornets. If the implementation of new 4% GST to help defence procurement, why not? Somebody@agency must be incharge to look&manage the money from GST to buy military hardware to avoid fraud@misuse.

    I’m not a fan of buying used things. Learnt from operational history of A4 Skyhawks in RMAF, used things need more money for maintenance and parts, and not enough money spent on A4 Skyhawk’s fleet leads to frequent accidents and death of pilots. Avoid buying used if possible. Buy new if you have money. Good luck to RMAF.

  20. ”this time TUDM really do want these planes.”

    Only if certain conditions/commitments are met. The RMAF does not want to be in a position where it has the planes but has to struggle with various related costs due to the government wanting to cut corners by doing things on the cheap.

    ”I’m surprised as I recall you were one of those proponents for DWP together with …”

    You recall wrongly thus you shouldn’t be surprised. Even before it came out I cautioned the need not to expect anything much from it; saying it would be mostly window dressing. People were excited but ultimately it didn’t tell us much of what we already knew; was vague on certain things and was silent on other things.

    ”But perhaps not military hardware, no?”

    I mentioned that to point out that we have benefited in the past from largesse on issues far more important to us than military gear and that whether we are ”best mates’ with Saudi should not arise as what they give also serves its interests. We are also and never were under any illusions that the Arabs would fund the Hornet purchase and associated upgrades. We haven’t moved fast simply because we are still undecided at a high political level.

    ”The Hornet stands in relation to the MRCA program.”

    Stands on more to that actually. Cash that goes into their purchase will have to be diverted from elsewhere and to avoid – another – capability gap the tight fisted politicians will have to commit to MRCA funding to replace the Hornets when they are set for retirement. Another issue is that given the LCA will take at minimum a year and a half to arrive after contract signature; we’d have to send more pilots to Canada for LIFt training. A lot of factors at play.

    morpoyos – ”I’m not a fan of buying used things.”

    Depends on what it is and the context. The RMAF is short of resources and once past the 15 year mark aircraft tend to get more maintenance intensive; equates to extra costs – those who are/were gaga about the used 30 off year old Hornets only focused on the on paper plus points rather than taking an objective and total look at things; they ignored the not so good plus points/penalties which have/had no place in their narrative.

    morpoyos – ”not enough money spent on A4 Skyhawk’s fleet leads to frequent accidents and death of pilots. ”

    6 Skyhawks were lost out of a fleet of 34/36. 2 Fulcrums were lost out of 18 and about 6 Hawk 100s and 5 Hawk 200s were lost out of a respective fleet of 10 and 18. Concerns on 2nd hand/preowned/used stuff is not on safety issues but cost issues – that is a major and traditional concern.

  21. We do not have enough combat planes. That’s the reality. We need the planes. I believe the RMAF must have done some initial ground work on those Hornets in which indicates the frames has less flying hours vs our own Hornets. That’s a good sign as that’s would be one of the big chunk of costs apart of acquiring them. With experience in operating the Hornet ourselves, having additional birds is a good thing. As mentioned the next logical step for government to make the move. If they feel the proposal made by the RMAF is unagreeable, say so rather than giving the unknown response. Anyway, it is the same in the past. But things are changing especially in this region. Unless to make preparation now, then it will be just too late. Coz you do not can a combat plane just like buying a car. Yes money plus many other things play a crucial part in the decision. Making a decision has to be based what we know and we cannot plan or do something we do not know. Agreed with morpoyos on skyhawk, that was used during Vietnam War. F18 is different. They are the front line fighters for the US Navy. They cannot be wrong by having them after F14 retires.

  22. @morpoyos
    “operational history of A4 Skyhawks in RMAF”
    In contrast with SG Skyhawks that are just as old/used as ours but they have been getting good service from these far longer in fact only retire them just a few years ago? The problem wasn’t the plane is old/used or 2ndhand but how much resources, manhours & proper usage that each put into them to keep them in operation.

    @Azlan
    “RMAF does not want to be in a position”
    They also would not want to be in a position where there is a capability gap when a period between Hornet retirement and sufficient MRCA operational. Realistically I doubt TUDM can strongarm/persuade the Govt to commit a 2035 timeline for MRCA to be coming, hence why the fallback interest in getting Kuwaiti Hornets. It is basically insurance and we can never have enough of that.

    “the Arabs would fund the Hornet purchase”
    It was a theory from me, based on the many discussions I heard and it was not without precedent as since we were led to believe about free Blackhawks from Brunei. But as I said, plausible but unlikely.

    “LCA will take at minimum a year and a half to arrive”
    Indeed. Its all about the funding. Delays in LCA will lead to delays in MRCA which leads to delays in Hornet retirement and whether Hornets are still flying by then is another issue. My bet is 2040 will still see the Hornets in operation and even if no more flying, we have a knack in keeping planes ‘operational’ past due as with MB339s.

    @Azizi
    “RMAF must have done some initial ground work”
    It is well known within the industry that these Kuwaitis are the best conditioned used legacy Hornets that are retiring. So if we’re not fast others will, nations and also private training companies too.

  23. Azizi – “We do not have enough combat planes”

    When we take into account that at any one time “x” will be on QRA; others will be undergoing squadron level maintenance and others will be used for training; no we don’t and that’s a reason why we are getting LCAs. As it stands though; if we faced a major threat and had to sustain a given number of sorties over a given period daily; even 36 fighters won’t be enough.

    Azizi – “That’s a good sign as that’s would be one of the big chunk of costs apart of acquiring them”

    Buying the platforms is the relatively easy part. The “big chunk” is the costs to sustain them. As they age further they will cost more to sustain. We also have to factor on ordance, ground support equipment and training costs – we can’t assume Kuwait will give or sell us ordnance and ground support equipment. The money will have to come from somewhere and it won’t be from Santa Claus.

    Azizi – They cannot be wrong by having them after F14 retires”

    What else did the have? Nothing. Also no comparisons should be made with the RMAF and the USN/USMC as they have the resources.

  24. Personally I think the hornet acquisition depends on what kind of LCA we would get. The budget for the LCA is $50 mil a tail. If we get the off the shelf kind of LCA then there’s bound to be around $20 mil a tail left for hornet acquisition.

    The problems with the hornet is that they are an addition rather than replacement. The jet itself is basic with some say with radar worse than our hawk. Then there’s need for more ordinances, ground support & pilot (which training could cost 1/3 a fighter jet price) and all that cost for just a jet that could fly for 10 years. I say the hornet is only worth the cost if we for national interest purposes don’t want to operate the F35 and are setting 2035 dateline for ‘options’ in the form of tempest & mitsu FX. If we do want the F35 then there’s not much reason to bothered with it. Personally I do believe that there at least 8 f35 with our names on it by 2027 as f35 seem to be offered to non programs partner when their F16 & FA18 reach 30 years old.

    Contrary to popular belief we do not need GST introduction to purchase any American products. MYR like every other internal currencies is useless for foreign purchase.

  25. @5zaft
    “the hornet is only worth the cost if we” delay further the acquisition of MRCA and as it looks this is a higher and higher possibility as each year goes by and no decision forthcoming, which is something that TUDM anticipated. 2035 is the target to get the first deliveries MRCAs but I don’t expect such is realistic as F35 has a long waiting list, inc SG ones (and perhaps followon orders) and if we still haven’t made a decision by now I have no idea how you are so confident that 8 units will be ours in 2027. Not all legacy jet users are easily offered F35 as US wants to limit exposure of their stealth tech as they did with Turk orders plus there is a huge gap in terms of maint cost and lifecycle cost between these platforms. For these countries, US are offering brand new but slightly dated designs; F16V, F15EX, SH…

    IMHO better for us to give these 4.5 gen planes a miss and shoot for 5th gen at least, if not F35 (but we need to ingratiate ourselves with US first?), similar with the question between Rafale, Typhoon or SH, it would have made sense like 5 years ago but not today and it make lesser sense as each year passes. I doubt TUDM will want untested platforms like JFX, TFX, KFX, or Tempest but F35 is very compelling and its cost is coming down & down further. That’s why we need the Kuwaiti Hornets to bide our time before we make a proper MRCA selection cuz if we buy too soon we risk obsolescence in the near future.

  26. 5zaft – “Personally I think the hornet acquisition depends on what kind of LCA we would get”

    Two different requirements… The only issue is that the 2nd follow on order for LCAs is not delayed on the grounds that the RMAF already has ex Kuwaiti Hornets. The pen pushing bureaucrats are always looking for excuses to postpone things.

    5zaft – “The jet itself is basic with some say with radar worse than our hawk”

    It’s not the platform but the “systems”… If we operate it at a systems rather than a platform level this significantly changes the overall equation. The “systems”..

  27. Single engine vs twin engine. Different jets for different purposes. LCA is not MRCA. Also F-35C is not the true successor of the F-18SH, that would be the USN NGAD. The same why the F-35A is primarily a F16 replacement. The USAF NGAD is the true twin-engine successor to the F15 and F22.

    Lastly, the F-35 is not a good plane for a cash strapped air force. The F-35 helmet cannot be shared between pilots. Each is custom fitted to the pilot and costs around US$400,000. The cost per hour of flight is double the F-18SH.

    Getting Kuwait Hornets is the only option for the RMAF to acquire additional aircraft. There isn’t even money to do a Gripen lease a few years back let along buying new aircraft. I believe the real sticking point is who pays for the refurbishment.

  28. @Kel
    Cost of flight for a high tech plane will be something we eventually have to stomach anyways, as technology advances cost will rise in tandem. We can no longer hanker on the cheapish cost to operate 4th gen planes as these will need to be replaced sooner than later. A cash strapped airforce will eventually have no airforce if they continue to stinge on operation costs.

  29. kel – ”Lastly, the F-35 is not a good plane for a cash strapped air force.”

    Nothing contemporary is good ”for a cash strapped air force”…. Prices are rising; the costs of sustaining things are rising [increased electronics/computers/automation – all need their own test/support gear and higher quality manpower] and per hourly operating costs are rising…

    kel – ” I believe the real sticking point is who pays for the refurbishment.”

    The ” the real sticking point” is the government is undecided about it [despite whatever statements made] and is focused on various other issues which it deems as more vital.

  30. Buying something new with 100-200% markup versus buying used low mileage Kuwaiti hornets that you cannot markup

    Election is near mind you

  31. Personally, LCA & MRCA in CAP55 is likely a placeholder to communicate RMAF desire of a high-low mix force structure similar to RSAF with it f16 & F15 and RAAF with it hawk & FA18.

    It’s not like we are ordering LCA in the traditional senses as In doing COIN & fire support roles only. We are ordering a LCA with BVR & maritime strike capability as well. So it would be more similar to Gripen C or F5 type of aircraft.

    While USN do not see the f35 as a capable hornet replacement other hornet user think otherwise. If we can’t afford the block 3/4 f35 then we for sure can’t afford a block 1 6th gen jet as it would likely be extremely more expensive to bought & run then f35 ever will.

    Block 1 jet too is usually un-upgradeable and would be retired within 15 to 20 years of service. A cash strapped air force can’t really afford to buy an interims solutions to buy enough time to buy a block 1 version of a jet that would retire prematurely and thus needed another purchased 15 years afterwards ain’t they?

    Thus Kuwaiti hornet is only an option if somehow f35 is politically undesirable and we would be willing to flush tons of money trying to avoid it.

  32. LCA or MRCA is just nomenclature. The F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, F-35 are Multi-Role CA. Some Lighter, some Heavier. The F-16 is a low-cost mass produced MRCA meant to augment the smaller numbers but heavier twin engine fighters (i.e. F-15, F-22). That low-cost mass produced MRCA role is what the F-35 is intended to accomplish. But as usual with any post cold war weapons program – cheap becomes expensive, small becomes big. Just like the USCG Polar Security Cutter program – its an ice breaker, yet the Navy adds so much warfighting requirements the PSC feels like a mini warship.

    As to why other countries think the F-35 is a reasonable replacement of the F-18, its likely because there is no twin-engine stealth fighter made by the Americans or Europeans available to buy. The F-22 is not for sale nor can it be produced. The NGAD won’t be ready until the 2030s. So the only stealth fighter available to replace aging fighters is the F-35. If they can wait for the NGAD, I’m sure they will.

    Japan doesn’t see the F-35 as a F-15 replacement hence their own twin engine YF-23. Koreans doesn’t see the F-35 as a F-15 or heavies replacement, hence their KF-21.
    Singapore is looking to replace their F-16 with F-35 but will retain the F-15S.
    UK has the F-35 but has plans to build their own twin-engine heavy fighter (e.g. the Tempest).
    Australia only operates one platform and since there is no western made twin-engine stealth fighter, they would have to settle for the single-engine F-35 which still beats any fighter its neighbours have.
    Similarly, China has the heavy J-20, but its the mass produced J-10 that forms the backbone of its airforce (mirroring the Americans F-22\F-15 and F-16 force structure).

    As for which block of F-35? Well its really which version of F-35. The A-Air Force version, the smallest of the 3 but the only one with a built-in gun, and the one that has the highest g-force tolerance. The B-Marine Corp S\VTOL version with the shortest range, designed to take over the AV-8 Harriers role. The C-Navy version (also operated by the USMC), is the largest with reinforced structure for carrier operations, folding wings, and a larger fuel capacity.

    Singapore bought the F-35B (i.e. USMC version) which means the RSN’s plan to acquire a “Joint Multi-Mission Support Ship” is actually a mini-aircraft carrier operated like Japan’s Izumo class. But you won’t see the F-15 being replaced by the F-35 because the F-15 is much heavier, faster, carries more armament and hits much harder than the F-35.

    This difference is why RMAF wants to get Kuwait’s F-18, twin and single engine planes have different roles to play. Also, the LCA was initially a Hawk replacement. But the cancellation of the MRCA\Mig-29 replacement meant the LCA incorporated some of the MRCA’s capabilities, just like LMS Batch 2 seem to have incorporated some of the LCS capabilities, all because of delays, delays, delays, which equals capability gap.

  33. @kel

    Replacing f16 with f35 is in itself a problems as the high maintenance cost, low availability, low tempo operations is why USAF is thinking about building a modern version of F5 to slot below that of f35.

    Our MRSS would be built around the time of JMMV. License build the MRSS based in JMMV should be affordable by then as SG already set up the supply chain for it. there then a question whether or not MAF would need to respond to the lightning carrier craze that a lot of our neighbors would be building. The F35A also require purchasing MRTT which we didn’t have and thus F35B is not that much expensive cost wise compared to F35A.

    6th gen fighter is something we could think about by 2045s when the jet reach it initial operational capability.

  34. USAF is now busy building and testing their F-22 replacement, the NGAD. No plans for a modern version of F-5. If you want a modern version of the F-5, the koreans is already building them, the FA-50.

    JMMV mission ≠ MRSS mission. We don’t need a mini aircraft carrier.

    There will be F-35A with the option of refueling probe.

    O’Bryan: “We anticipated a number of the operators would want probe-and-drogue refueling in the F-35A and we kept that space empty on the F-35A to accommodate probe and drogue refueling. We‘ve done a number of studies – funded studies, not projects – funded studies to evaluate that, paid for by the countries who want that to happen. It’s a relatively easy … doable change.”

    Canadian F-35A is expected to be the first F-35A version to have the refueling probe option.

  35. stanley – ”that is also your mindset on defence matters.”

    You assume wrongly. I have simply stated [since you have a problem fathoming this simple fact] that our defence planning [not mine per see but the defence planners] is centered on the premise that we are unlikely to be involved in a protracted high intensity state on state conflict.

    stanley – ”“I have not read about you preaching to buy or get anything specific. So only preaching textbook theories?

    Kindly show me what I’ve written are ”textbook theories”. When and where; show me and I’ll rebut your claim by showing you actual examples which drive what I say…

    stanley – ”What about real world options and solutions that is relevant to malaysia?”

    You mean ” real world options and solutions that is relevant” which you happen to agree with? Convenient and self serving .. If one happens to engage in fanciful wishful thinking not in line with reality but in line with your personal preference; then it’s not ”preaching textbook theories” and not ”textbook theories”? Or like someone else [singing the same tune as you]; are you going to sell me the proposition that you want what’s best for the country and hint that you and mainly you [of course] has got it right and can ”think out of the box”?

  36. F35B and F35A are different fighters. Its not a case of 1 is cheaper or better. Each version is meant to do different things. F35B is not just a SVTOL version. It is the slowest, least manuverable, lowest range, and meant to perform Harrier jump jet roles – which I think means the B variant is the most likely to carry external weapons as standard. Both A and B variants cannot use assisted launch systems or perform carrier landings. The version is not just whether have this or must buy that. It really depends on what the F35’s role is. The C variant’s extra range makes sense for Malaysia, if the fighters are to strike into SCS. But the A variant probably is the better fighter as an air superiority fighter – also the only one with a built in gun. In any case, 36 LCA will still be the preferred acquisition decision, vs 18 LCA + a few stealth fighters.

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