A Change Is Gonna Come, Sort Off

Konstructka Defence EVA truck 155mm turreted truck mounted SPH. Used for illustration only. Konstructka

SHAH ALAM: IT appears that the talk of changes in the military procurement by PMX within the last few months is slowly gaining traction in the Defence Ministry.

However, the changes are being held back as the government has yet to appoint a secretary-general or KSU to the ministry. The KSU is instrumental in putting in place the changes in the military procurement, amongst other things in his or her brief. The KSU heads the public service of the ministry.

The last KSU retired in June and that after one year extension, so they had plenty (around six months for the PMX administration) of time to find a new one.

I am not sure whether the delay in appointing the new KSU is due to the lack of suitable candidates for the post (there are many). Or the delay is due to the interference of invisible hands to ensure the changes delayed due to the lack of the KSU (with our political situation as it is.)

I was told that one of the changes to the military procurement is that it will be done directly – a tender process – with the OEMs. I was told about the two programmes already selected to be conducted through the new process – you can guess which ones – but will not name it here for reasons. Both have been written and commented on Malaysian Defence and others as well.

Despite the impending the changes to the military procurement, I am still not convinced that it will change the end-result. Yes, we might get away from local agents from the initial procurement, but the industrial collaboration programme ((ICP) will get in the way. The ICP could be implemented for procurement above RM50 million from original equipment manufacturer and RM100 million for major local companies.

One example is the FLIT/LCA programme. Even though we bought the FA-50 trainer/attack jets directly from Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) due to the offset requirements, we are now talking about local assembly/transfer of technology, and an MRO centre as part of the ICP.

As had been shown in the past, such things always faltered and repeating the process after changes to the procurement process, negates the changes sought by PMX in the first place. Of course, as the PMX is also the Finance Minister will have the powers to over-rule the ICP requirements. Will the change come then?

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2191 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. For LCA

    Hopefully there is still time to change the offset programme. I am against the local assembly of those FA-50MY. I am for malaysian companies to manufacture parts for the FA-50 and KF-21 project. Would like to see some additional offset in the shape of excess korean defence articles, such as KIFV, Blackhawk helicopters etc.

    on the SPH.

    i agree on open tender. But for open tender to work, i would also want to see that the army really know 100% what they want, in the shape of a very detailed (and logical) tender specification. No use of an open tender when the user itself is not sure of what it really wants.

    What is the other one for open tender? LMS Batch 2? or armored 4×4?

  2. Marhalim sir, when will you be making another keeping up with the Joneses? I’d like to hear your thoughts about Indonesia’s recent announcement of procuring 24 F-15 jets. Seeing as how the Kuwaitis are keeping their hornets, effectively killing the ISF program, seems as if RMAF only has one option, buy more FA50, but is this really a good idea? Are there any other possible sources from where the air force could procure 2nd hand multirole jets until the 2030-40 MRCA timeline? I’m quite skeptical that the Flankers could fly for very long, let alone survive till then.

  3. The best option for now is proceed with second batch of FA50 after we receive the first batch. And for the MRCA we should get fifth gen fighter. I still don’t understand why TNI AU need 3 version of fighter jets

  4. Getting more FA-50 would definitely justify building an assembly plant in malaysia. Besides the plane is supposed to replace 4 planes in RMAF and in 2019 the plans called for up to 50 LCAs in service

  5. Wonder if offloading our su-30mkm to Ukraine and getting some gula2 from US in terms of f-18 hornet or super hornet would be feasible

  6. Imitating KAI,TAI & IAI are a well travel path by many countries before us thus there’s nothing wrong with such a policy in my books.

    Buying directly overseas is never a popular choice by any gov becomes why pay with hard earn foreign currencies when you can just pay with money printed out of thin air.

  7. Based on what I seen so far I will leave this quote; plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  8. Let our neighbours have their ways..Our way forward should be affordable,feasible and not pretentious be it for navy,army or airforce..And yeah no for that fa50 local assembly thing but yes for fa50 local parts..As MRCA yes just go with Fifth gens..pretty sure the airforce already have their candidates in mind,now they just waiting to get the money..Fa50s maybe a lil light to complement mkms and hornets but they will need to shoulder on until 2030s or maybe beyond..

  9. “thus there’s nothing wrong with such a policy in my books.”
    There is nothing wrong if the goal is to force industrialisation and job creation & boosting the area local economy. But if they start spouting things like savings in money due to making it locally, TOT for us to create more locally, or defence self sufficiency, then that’s all nonsense. All these do is create inefficiencies with money, as we’d have to pay extras for the localisation, TOT, setting up factories or in BNS case upgrade current ones, none of which goes into the value chain of the product itself. So if we cannot factor in extra budget for them, lets not kid ourselves that things will go smoothly or else whatever ventured will suffer the same fate as LCS; grossly underbudgeted compared to its real world figures that became its Achilles heel.

    Buying big ticket items direct is often hard to justify to all parties as it meant money gone out and nothing in return, and in this challenging economy the Govt cannot be seen to be spending money without it generating money. Its political suicide in these unstable times.

  10. The FA50 block 20, i can confidently say is on similar level (give or take) to the SAAB Gripen C/D; with an advantage of a very advanced AESA radar in the shape of the PhantomStrike.

    Many other countries has started their 5th Gen MRCA purchase now, with deliveries to start post 2030. We need to decide in around 2027-2028, to get our hands on 5th Gen MRCA starting 2030. If the decision is only done after 2030, then the earliest we can get is probably around 2034. So in a way, looking at anything intrim now for MRCA is too late to matter much actually. So it is better for us to look at new MRCA early, rather than to late to find an intrim MRCA.

    Also need to realize, even if the value of budget in RM increases, the actual value in USD did not change much due to the drop in exchange rate.

    CAPEX for defence for the past 2 decades did not change much. Hovering around USD5 billion every 5 years.

    Usually broken down to:
    USD2 billion for RMN
    USD1.6 billion for RMAF
    USD1.3 billion for Army
    USD0.1 billion for joint forces

    So for example : RMAF for 2021-2025 has already bought
    USD0.95 for 18 FA-50MY
    USD0.171 for 2 ATR-72 MPA
    USD0.091 for 3 ANKA MPA
    USD0.04 for 1 GM400 Alpha – Ground Radar

    That is already around USD1.2 billion spent.

    So what do you all think RMAF should spend in 2026-2030 on USD1.6 billion budget? RMAF wants 12 new helicopter in 2026-2030. RMAF spent USD657 million to buy 12 EC725 before. To compare, the Philippines recently paid USD624 million to buy 32 Blackhawks.

  11. That is why the plan for the FA-5O ICP is for local assembly and followed by MRO. Since we already pay for the hangar and other buildings for the local assembly once the work is completed it had to be converted into the MRO facility

  12. @ Haiqal

    Mission :-

    ground based – medium range air defense

    Which organisation in Malaysia that is already set up to handle this?


    Rejimen Artileri DiRaja, Grup Artileri Pertahanan Udara.

    As it is Grup Artilleri Pertahanan Udara consists of :
    31st Royal Artillery Regiment (GAPU) Oerlikon GDF-005 35mm AAG
    32nd Royal Artillery Regiment (GAPU) Starstreak
    33rd Royal Artillery Regiment (GAPU) Igla
    34th Royal Artillery Regiment (GAPU) Rapier Jernas

    Rapier Jernas is obsolete and in need of replacement. Getting Jernas replacement with the VL MICA NG, as a common medium range missile for both MERAD and Frigate air defence is a logical thing to do.

    We could consolidate all ground-based air defence units under the Army. Even the Navy has disbanded their air defence unit, and now put the naval base air defence task under GAPU.

    As it is, we need to raise up more air defence units, to have some units in sabah and sarawak. Need to get more anti-aircraft gun systems, to anticipate the risk of drones and loitering munitions. The igla missile is getting old, and in need of replacement.

    for anti-aircraft gun system, probably can get used M167 VADS systems from South Korea or Japan (and the self propelled K263 version on KIFV), which have thousands of these guns. Cheap, and not need big budget to get hold of. Might not be useful against fighter jets anymore, but is still a potent weapon against drones, loitering missiles and helicopters.

    The Igla could be replaced by Chiron, which has similar twin launcher system as the Igla.
    @ Marhalim,

    We had local MRO for SU-30MKM, EC-725, Hawk, C-130 etc. without the need to do local assembly. Plenty of existing hangars (for example the current ATSC Mig-29 MRO hangar in Kuantan) can be repurposed for FA-50 MRO.

  13. Haiqal:
    “And for the MRCA we should get fifth gen fighter”
    We don’t even have networking enviroment so 5th gen can operator at its best.

    “I still don’t understand why TNI AU need 3 version of fighter jets”

    Politics and user need must meet at some point.

    “As MRCA yes just go with Fifth gens..pretty sure the airforce already have their candidates..”

    Many nations are already show their interest in 5th gen but all rejected except for the Allies. They all go to 4.5th gen.
    Are they wasting the money or they know it is impossible to get 5th in the next 20 years?
    Can RMAF wait for another 20 years?

    “Many other countries has started their 5th Gen MRCA purchase now,”

    With zero result.

    “We need to decide in around 2027-2028, to get our hands on 5th Gen MRCA starting 2030…”

    No need to talk about 5th gen at this point. Many factors are need to be answered before getting 5th gen.
    If you want to get 5th gen then you must have 4.5th gen first. Today 4.5th gen is a 5th gen without LO feature and 5th gen also don’t have all 4.5th capability.

  14. Other than the F-35, of which currently only approved for Australia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan in our area, next possible 5th Gen fighter is the KF-21, starting with Block-2 version.

    Currently KF-21 development is for Block-1, which is not fully 5th Gen due to lack of internal weapons bay, which is purposely blanked for Block-1 to simplify testing and development process.

    Starting 2026, KAI will start to develop the Block-2 version of KF-21, with internal weapons bay. It is planned to be completed by 2030. Poland has publicly announced their interest in joining the KF-21 Project starting with Block-2 development. It would also be a good move for Malaysia, to combine FA-50MY Batch 2 buy, with a Mou to join the KF-21 project starting with Block-2, similar to Poland

  15. We already have a 4.5gen fighter in the form of FA50. There’s no point in going around trying to buy another type of 4.5gen fighters.

  16. Hulubalang:
    “It is not written in stone that you need to have 4.5th gen first before getting 5th gen”

    Czech and Romania are NATO member, but Malaysia is not. “Attacking one NATO member is attacking the whole NATO”.
    There are plenty of 4.5th fighter in NATO, so both of them don’t need 4.5 gen or network enviroment because the others NATO member can provide it.

  17. Zaft:

    We already have a 4.5gen fighter in the form of FA50″

    I don’t know if you are joking or being sarcastic.

  18. To add, A 5th gen is just a marketing term invented by LM And what qualifies as 1 depends entirely on one own definition of what 5th gen is.

    If people exclude VLO & sensor fusion then Plenty of jet would make it into a 5th gen definition but if people insist on VLO & Sensors fusion as a defining requirements then only F35 is the only 5th gen jet currently on the planet.

    Most fighters nowdays are multirole in nature but the difference design does make some fighter better at doing something then the other which would give the operator a qualitative advantage. FA50 & A10 would be better at doing CAS then a F35s for example or F15 would be better at performing air supremacy task then equally impressive FA18. The desired for a qualitative advantage is some very specific scenarios is why some AF would wanted multiple platforms or at least a high low mixs of platforms despite most jet nowdays are multirole capable.

    OZ,SG,JP AF would eventually run a high low mix with the F35s being a multirole first platforms as the low and either NGAD or GBAD as their high end air supremacy ‘first’ fighter.

    For us the FA50 would fill the low in our high low mix. So despite the current misdemeanor of MRCA, it’s unlikely we are looking for a multirole ‘first’ platforms with some air supremacy capabilities but rather like OZ,SG & JP we would likely seek a high end air supremacy ‘first’ fighters with some multirole capabilities.

    Unfortunately neither the KFX nor TFX is a air supremacy ‘first’ platforms like the GBAD or NGAD. As for Poland,turkeye & SK, their potential security risk opponents aren’t exactly known for technological advantage. So a TFx or KFX is more then potent for them but for us bringing in KFX or TFX is the equivalent of bringing a knive to a tank fight.

  19. What 5th gen fighters available for purchase? There is only one Malaysia would buy, the F35. The alternarives are China and Russia jets. Can Malaysia afford the F35 in 2023, or 2030? Not based on less than 1% GDP defense budgets. Its near impossible for a small budget air force to have the F35 as the backbone. The more cost effective way is wide coverage layered anti air defenses, and crazy strong electronic warfare. Fighters past, present and the future, stealth or otherwise, do not like dense air defenses and intense jamming.

  20. @ darthzaft

    GBAD fighter? LoL! Do you know what GBAD means?

    For Malaysia Hi-Lo combination would be
    Hi : New MRCA + Su-30MKM
    Lo : FA-50MY
    No way we could afford anything like NGAD aka F22 replacement or the FCAS.

    @ Kel

    The most likely 5th Gen fighter we could buy is the KF-21 Block-2. I don’t think that there will be any other 5th Gen available in 2030 other than the F-35 and KF-21 Block-2.

    TUDM CAPEX budget for 2031-2040 would probably be USD 3.2-3.5 billion. Latest F-35 approval for Czech, for 24 aircraft is about USD 5.6 billion.

    KF-21 target price is around USD 80 million each.

  21. @Zaft
    “We already have a 4.5gen fighter in the form of FA50”
    FA50 doesn’t have some of the key enablers & performance to be termed as 4.5gen. As it is, its not even a frontline fighter.

    “VLO & Sensors fusion as a defining requirements then only F35 is the only 5th gen”
    There is the F-22, the PAKFA, the J-20 & J-31. Safe to say the key characteristics for all of them is stealth, vs the more conventional planeform of 4.5 gens.

    KF21 is cheap for a reason, the same as why FA50 is cheaper than a F16. There will be performance limitations vs other 5th gens, whether can we accept such inferiority or not. Or rather we pay more and slowly build our F35 fleet as what SG is doing. Mind you, the Czech order came with all the bells & whistles; pletora of weapons & munitions, support equipment, enough spare engines for the whole fleet. Even if lets say we pay the same, we could start with a fleet of 12 planes for a doable cost of USD $2.8Bil, and next RMK pad it up to a full force of 18 planes for extra USD 1.4Bil. And if USA willing to trade in our legacy Hornets, we could save even more money.

  22. Lookheed Martin also trying to reduce F-35 price to usd 80 million or lower. Maybe by the time we going to choose next MRCA, F-35 price are more lower then now

  23. @Haiqal
    In USD value it will be lower, but in RM terms perhaps it might be higher thanks to our ringgit getting shittier day by day and nothing seems will change that.

  24. TFX is actually designed from the start as an Air Dominance platform, unlike KF-21 which is designed as a MRCA.

    TFX uses 2x F-16 engine, with overall size bigger than the F-15.

    KF-21 is about the size of a Super Hornet.
    @ joe
    There are 3 things that limits us from having F-35.
    1. US approval. We are fencesitters, non-aligned. We cannot even speak the truth about who shot down MH17. If a declared USA “ally” like Thailand is barred from getting the F-35, we cannot expect to be different.
    2. Cost to buy. Even buying just a dozen will gobble up 10 years worth of TUDM CAPEX. Buying 18? That would mean nothing else for TUDM until 2045.
    3. Cost to sustain. F-35 needs massive infrastructure to support it. It needs special robots to spray its radar absorbing paint. It helmets are custom built for each pilot and cost millions. Can we afford to fly it?

    Trade-in legacy hornets? Those things will be junk post 2030, nobody will want them. The will be zero legacy hornet users then, unlike F-16 that will still be flown till 2050-2060.

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