For almost two decades now, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) have identified the need for the AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning and Control) aircraft( or AWACs if you like the older American term) to bolster the country’s air defence.
The lack of funds has always been the reason for the Govt to deny the request. AEW aircraft do not come cheap and a decade ago we cannot afford the E-3 Sentry (only the US and Saudis could afford them, even the European countries purchased these aircraft collectively through NATO).
The other AEWC is the US Navy’s Hawkeye, which was purchased by the Singaporeans. Even now Northrop Grumman is still pushing the Hawkeye albeit its latest version the Hawkeye 2000 to fulfil our AEWC needs
Recently, I was told that an allocation of some RM3 billion (about USD$900 million) has been allocated for the AEW project in the current Ninth Malaysian Plan (the total budget is about RM17 billion for which funding is spread in the next five years)
The funding reflects the latest trend in AEW aircraft which include the entries from Sweden and Brazil (both used the same radar, the Erricson Erieye long range pulse Doppler radar but different aircraft, The Saab 340 B turbo-prop and the Embraer ERJ-45 twin jet) and of course the Boeing AEWC (Aussie name Wedgetail) outfitted on board the 737-700/800, the latest generation of the twin-engine airliner.
What is the best way to utilise the RM3 billion for the AEW project? As I have blogged earlier, the Boeing entry should be obvious choice.
Why? Malaysia Airlines is looking to replace its 30-odd 737-500/600s with newer planes.
As all of the planes are currently owned by PMB, the govt entity which leased back the planes to MAS, the answer is elementary
The Mindef only need to work together with PMB and MAS to ensure that they buy the 737-700/800 and piggy-back on the deal to buy the AEW aircraft.
If we could buy about 30 of the latest 737, MAS could use about 20 of them to replace earlier generation airliner. The other 10 could revert to the Air Force.
As a single 737 could be purchase around USD100 million (depending on the configuration), with a 30 plane order we could bargain for a lower price (around USD$80 million each).
To save money further, there is no need for the MINDEF to purchase these 10 aircraft altogether, PMB could lease them cheaply.
So the RM3 billion could be used to purchase the radar and the systems.
Five examples could be used for AEW, three for MRTTT (multi-role, transport, tanker and training) and the last two for maritime patrol (its supposed to be budgeted under the 9MP also
There is no need to use the AEW budget for the other five non-AEW aircraft, it could be made available from the other projects in the 9MP or the next Malaysian Plan (it has been done before)
Why choose the Boeing plane in the first place? We already have a lot of engineers and technicians certified for the aircraft as well as pilots. The Aussies had the same idea, Qantas have been given the maintenance contract for the Wedgetail.
Our air force do need to hassle of handling a totally new aircraft (like the Brazilian ERJ-45 and Swedish S340B), the AEWC system is daunting enough.
Its aircrew and technicians could get training locally, long term maintenance would be cheaper (again we are working together with MAS)
As they like to say: WIN-WIN situation. Who would think that MAS troubles somehow in turn could be a salvation for the RMAF?

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About Marhalim Abas 2227 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. could malaysia be the undisclosed country who just bought one Saab s-2000 aew&c? apart from the obvious air force requirement, it will be more to MKN solution for illegal fishing, PATI and piracy issue.

    Marhalim: I wanted to speculate yesterday but reliable sources says its most probably a Middle Eastern country…

  2. Su-35 detection ranges of over 400 km/ 240 miles have been reported for airborne targets, which are the easiest like B-52s or AWACS.
    we need more MRCA no AWACS!

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