Baru ke Lama?

But the picture, to me at least, encapsulates what is wrong with our defence procurement. Putting our top-of the line MRCA as a tanker when we are short of combat planes is not too bright to say the least.

SHAH ALAM,: The picture (below) courtesy of Mindef was probably taken during the recently concluded Ex Angsa 2010. Its a spectacular picture, all right, a Sukhoi Su-30MKM preparing to off-load fuel to a Hornet with two others waiting and four Hawks in the same formation probably going to top up as well.

Its certainly nice to see the Cobham air-to-air refueling rig operational on the Flankers when the deal for them was signed during Lima 2009. It is also good that our boys in the fast jet are training to top-up fuel from a jet instead from the much slower KC-130T tanker plane.

Flanker refuelling Hornets with Hawks. Pix RMAF via Dzirhan Mahadzir

Practising air-to-air refuelling from the much faster Flanker certainly will helped our fly-boys during the upcoming Exercise Bersama 2010 with our Five Power Defence Arrangement partners this Friday. Our partners operate jet-powered tankers from the KC-135, VC10s and soon-to-be A330 MRTT.

But the picture, to me at least, encapsulates what is wrong with our defence procurement. Putting our top-of the line MRCA as a tanker when we are already short of combat planes is not too bright to say the least.

Yes, I know the US Navy uses the Super Hornet as an aerial tanker but these planes are mostly used to top-up fuel of other planes near carriers and in emergencies only. For other missions, the US Navy rely on Hercules tankers from the Marine or USAF KC10s or allied tankers.

Yes, I know airborne tankers are mostly converted airliners which are quite expensive to procure. But since our former PM purchased an Airbus A319CJ for his exclusive usage, one can imagine that the government has the funds to procure an Airbus A319MRTT brand new or second hand.

And since the former PM had since retired, his CJ could be easily be converted into a MRTT or has it gone into service for another leader now?

— Malaysian Defence

If you like this post, buy me an espresso. Paypal Payment

About Marhalim Abas 2207 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Frankly speaking i don’t want to sceptic but …. waahhh… ini barulah MRCA “Multi-Role CacaMerba Aircraft”… what a waste.

    What happened to the 2 “charlie” tanker they converted back in 90’s?

    Marhalim: I believe the 2 Hercules tankers are still around but as I said its good training to refuel at higher speeds since the Flankers are around…

  2. It’s also standard Russian practice to use fighters as tankers, with the UPAZ pod. Prior to the Hornet, the USN used the A-6 as a tanker. It’s possible that there may be certain contingencies where a fighter would be more suitable as a tanker rather than a slow, lumbering dedicated tanker.

    Marhalim: The Russians are moving slowly to the Midas tankers…

  3. Maybe RMAF is trying to show of that the Cobham is functional, given all the huu haa about our can’t dive Scorpene, the RMAF might learned their lesson from RMN to make it public. It’ll be better if they show the R-77 been fired from the MKM’s in my opinion.

    Sorry, it might seem unrelated but do you know anything regarding the 2 pilots and ground crew from the RMAF are currently undergoing training in the U.S. on the Super Hornet? As posted by Dzirhan in his facebook?

    Marhalim: Nope on the second question…

  4. Its a excellent capability to have.
    Possible main tanker procurement later. Once the A400M is delivered,maybe turning a C-130 into a tanker.

    Still brilliant,good one.

    Marhalim: We have two Hercules tankers….

  5. I just don’t understand why the govt still continue with the A400 M program although the cost of the project has rises. Is all of this because of the CTRM deal with airbus? Obviously, for 1 A400M, we can get more Super Hercules!

  6. The Sukhoi pilots will not have the opportunity to use their skills in times of conflict.

    Unless they have an effective GBAD to protect their base, the survivability of the Sukhoi MRCA will be a big question mark.

    The Government need to invest on a good GBAD solution to protect the Sukhois and the Hornets too.

  7. Wow! brother, what a revelation!
    Converting ACJ 319 into tankers? What a good idea! anyway who is maintaining that ACJ and who are piloting the AC. Siapa punya peruntukan to operate the ACJ?
    Are the RMAF tankers fully mission capable or it is just like chipsmore “kadang kadang ada!…hahaha” or “hanya untuk exercise sahaja”
    You are getting cold brother into the tip of the iceberg!!! hahahaha probably you can go deeper!
    Tanya la sama itu PAT and PTU and the new 3 stars, may be you can get more stories if they are willing to story you.
    But don’t get into the rabbit hole of the Alice in the wonder land. Go and trail, who is the Don Quixote in the Armed Forces!
    Good luck for a better news in the name of national interest and hopefully they will not stop you because of national security interest.
    Salam hormat brother.
    The picture is a sampling of the Air Force Next Generation! Betul ka!

    Marhalim: Last time I check the ACJ maintainance is done by Airod.

  8. Out of topic…why are we still using the hawk 200? Though its avionics is said to be superior than MIG 29, it already crash 5, at least 1 mangsa (may be i am wrong). Mainly dropped guided bombs and dud bombs. Cant do BVR like MIG although the MIG BVR IMHO is still 70’s technology standard (R27 AA10 alamo a, dont think it has ever fire the R77 despite claims outhere).

    Cant we just retire it (and maybe together with the MIGS i sense) and get some more SU or better still SH?

  9. Marhalim, the Russians have the Midas tanker but will continue to use the UPAZ pod because it’s part of their doctrine to use fighters to refuel other fighters for long range patrols and interdiction flights. Whether it’s suitable for use remains to be seen.

    Kamal, I suspect it’s because we still have some 14 or 15 Hawks 200s. The Hawk 200s have not fared as bad as the Hawk 100s with about half, about 4 or 5 written off, off 10 delivered. 2 years ago a deal was sign with BAE Systems and Rolls Royce for a long overdue overhaul of the Adour engines and spares, so we hope to see less Hawk crashes. According to Marhalim a few months ago, the RMAF had done a feasibility study on upgrading the Hawk 200s with a Selex Vixen AESA radar.

    Marhalim: The doctrine of using combat jets to refuel other fighters is a hold-over from the Soviet erA when the air force (regiment size units) was to follow land formation at the battlefield for air dominance and interdiction duties. It was the doctrine as the Soviet units had some 200-300 fighters per air regiments! Now even the Russian are moving away from the doctrine as they also realised that cannot afford to have that much combat aircraft hence the introduction of the Midas tankers. For us to follow a doctrine which is being abandoned is to me is simply not smart (for a lack of a better work) moreover with our limited number of combat aircraft.

    I understand we cannot afford a fleet of dedicated air tankers even multi-role tanker and transport version. Thats why I suggest we convert the ACJ to become an air tanker. Conversion will be painless as the plane just need a few modifications to carry the Cobham refueling pod and an a roll-on-roll off control workstation.
    The same system is used on the German A319 MRTTs. These planes are also used for VIP transport although I am told they are less luxurious than our ACJ. The modified ACJ could then provide training for our fast jet pilot if they need to qualify for air-to-air refueling from a jet tanker, so our Flanker boys can concentrate on combat missions.
    Our fast jet pilots need to train to re-fuel from jet tankers as they are simply faster than the Hercules tankers. And since we conduct regular exercise with our partners who used jet tankers (KC-135s, VC10, KC10 and A330MRTT) we will a large pool of pilots who are qualified to top-fuel from these type of planes.

  10. Syameer,

    From the beginning I don’t think the A400M was in the wish list of the RMAF. I heard that the RMAF was taken by surprise when the A400M ‘gift’ was given to them from central budget. Not sure if the RM2.6 billion package for the 4xA400M has now become part of their 5-Year Malaysian Plan budget. The RMAF will have to find a way how to make the A400M RM 2.6 billion bill invisible to the Treasury if they want to have a chance of success with their 10th Malaysia Plan wish list!

  11. Defence planning could be improved if the needed power is given to the PAT to draw the final wish list for the MAF, rather than the present procedure of the PTD, PTL and PTU submitting their respective wish list direct to the Defence Minister.For eaxmple, if the PAT is asked which is the most urgent project to implement now? Another class OPV project for TLDM, or 8×8 Project for TD or GBAD project to protect the Sukhois and Hornet bases?I think we all know what his recommendation to the government going to be.But the big question mark, will the PM and Defence Minster going to listen to him?

  12. A dedicated tanker a real force multiplier. RMAF already operate modified C130 for this role. Yet these tanker are at the same time vulnerable in hostile air combat environment.

    Consider this. A refueling aircraft which can save a fellow friendlies whos out of fuel… and if necessary shoot back.

    I think that is a smart move by the RMAF.. I might add. in a long deep strike mission.. (for example bombing New Zealand .. LOL) a strike package that consist with one Buddy-Buddy equip sukhoi may able to Increased weapons load due to a deduction in fuel carried during take-off – thus utilizing the aircrafts maximum weapons capacity – and overcoming max. take-off limitations. which means the can bomb a lot more target and have enough fuel to return , thanks to this buddy.

    Marhalim: To have a wingman as a personal gas tanker sounds wonderful on paper but when you have a bogey at six oclock, you will want that wingman to mix in the fight and not fly a race pattern track 180km away….

  13. Haha unfortunately you are right, thats also true.

    Well that will depend on the subjective nature of combat. Nothing is certain in war, so preparing for the uncertainty is probably a good thing.

  14. Brother, ACJ is under whose inventory? RMAF or PM Department? Whose kitty actually in the double entry account?
    AIROD is doing the job or it is all about out sourcing and they just “hidup atas angin” so there goes our aviation industry for so long it is still status quo.
    For all happening like ggk said remain in the realm of uncertainty.
    Loreng said, RMAF is taken by surprise with the A400 ‘gift’ sure and it is good that brother Marhalim to have a small talk with the former PTU and present PTU as well as PAT to find out the element of surprise in the gift.A little bit of journalistic maneuver can do the trick and as you commented on the doctrine it is good that be a wonder boy and wander around what sort of doctrine the RMAF is indoctrinated with. But really what is MAF doctrine, just ask how is the employment of the subs that will be TLDM legacy!
    As to allow PAT to have the final list of the MAF wish list will be a total disaster as we can debate on this and teething issues are many and how the govt comes out with the defense spending and base on what in the absent of a clear guidelines in the defense procurement is a subject by itself. Real doubtful and lucky we are in peace time and no real threat- or Don Quixote said ” I’ll take charge”.
    Anyway, “Baru ke Lama” hehehe Baru tak lama pun bukan but very soon will be dinosaur and irrelevant.

  15. “the absent of a clear guidelines in the defense procurement is a subject by itself” really interesting comment by Eagle.My view is that do not leave it to the MOF to decide what each Service should get by the present individual list of submission system.The MOF people just look at the $ and sen, they don’t really care what the MAF should have in order to do their job.The PAT would be the best person to list the MAF’s requirement in order of priority, say Vital, Essential and Desirable Requirements.If this List exist and the Vital Requirements are met at least the everyone can sleep well because the basics to defend the Nation would be in place.Just look at the present situation.Lots of defence systems to the tune of RM billions were bought but really redundant for the purpose military deterrence.The users, meaning to say the PAT with the support of the PTD,PTL and PTU please come up with one voice on the MAF Requirement List.Enough is enough, we should put our feet down and take charge of the future of the MAF!

  16. Just a very simple point. We never do “sembahyang jenazah” everyday, but still we learn it. Its just Fardu Kifayyah. But still we learnt it. It was just because we are muslim and we might use it later. Same goes with the usage of SU-30MKM as a tanker. That is what our military did everyday. Prepare for the worse. Salam.

    Marhalim: One can sembahyang jenazah every day at Mekah and Madinah. We use the Sukhois as a tanker on as it is the only thing we have next to the two Hercules tankers. What I am suggesting that we used a capability that is already available to use ie the A319 CJ for other uses instead of just being a luxurious taxi. In emergencies we can also used it to refuel our fighters. Yes, the ACJ is attached to the PM Department but its still a Gomen plane, it shouldnt be limited to several select persons only. We are not rich enough to have this kind of luxury….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.