SHAH ALAM: All the way LCA. Plan C. It appears that the LCA has become the biggest priority for the RMAF as it seek to recapitalise its fast jet fleet in an austere environment. So much so that any deal for used aircraft will probably be left behind in the wake.
With the brand new LCA coming out of nowhere to overcome everything else it is easy to become target fixated. Back in the late 90s, the air force was looking to replace its elderly MB-339As for its LIFT program. Money was also tight forcing the air force to stretch out the service lives of the fleet as it wait for funding for the replacement.
In 2001, it appears that RMAF may have gotten the chance to replace the A-Machis as New Zealand decided to retire its fleet of 339Cs it had acquired just 10 year earlier.
New Zealand offered a number of this aircraft to Malaysia – likely for free though we probably need to pay for activating this aircraft again. Although an attractive option to replace the As, RMAF had also at that time was checking out new built C-Machis leaving the New Zealand aircraft as orphans
In 2006, Malaysia opted to buy eight newly built MB-339CMs though the money was so tight that the engines of the As were refurbished and put on the new airframes. Currently only seven CMs are in service with one crashing back in May, 2016.
So what is this got to do with the current situation you may ask?. As you are aware RMAF wants the new LCAs to replace the CMs, Hawks and the Mig-29 as well. At the same time it is looking to purchase a number of Kuwaiti Hornets as an interim measure for the stalled MRCA program.
With the LCA likely to be new-built airframes, we are back in the similar situation two decades ago when RMAF was deciding whether to buy new Machis or get them used from New Zealand. Back then we opted for newly built aircraft. It is likely this time around the same thing will happen, with the new built aircraft hogging the attention and funding, leaving the used option as an orphan.
I have already been told that RMAF must up its game if it really wanted the Kuwaiti Hornets. From history, its not looking rosy…
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