Down To The Bone

SHAH ALAM: Down To The Bone. In response to the participation of 18 Sqdn in Exercise Pitch Black in Australia, reader Tom Tom asked why RMAF Su-30MKM Flankers were not involved in the exercise. I responded that the 11th Sqdn aircraft are still mostly undergoing maintenance. No numbers were mentioned.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu or Mat Sabu in Parliament today revealed that only four of the Flankers are serviceable as the rest – 14 others – are “under repair”. He also said the MIG-29s has already been grounded as the cost of maintaining them were too costly.

“Thats the problem we (the military) are facing. That is the issue we have with military equipment, for example if we buy a new thing today, within ten years it will be obsolete, if we buy (update) its life for 10 years, within 20 years it will be obsolete. It is for this reason we have to review it from time. What ever it is the Malaysian Armed Forces are ever ready to defend the country’s sovereignity.

Mat Sabu with the XO of 11th Sqdn Lt Col Jasmi Wahab who flew him on Lucky 14 on July 7.

Mat Sabu also said that the company that maintaining the Flankers, awarded by the previous government was still doing it.

Five of the six Flankers taking part in Eks Paradise 2017 at the dispersal site at Labuan airbase.

It must be noted that Mat Sabu flew on a Flanker on July 7 as part of his familiarisation tour of the Armed Forces so he must be aware of the 11th squadron’s travail.

Flanker M52-14 dropping bombs at the LKT 2018 rehersal on July 10. Lucky 14 are among the four Flankers that are serviceable.

The Star carried a story on what Mat Sabu said in Parliament today but after listening to a short recording of the proceedings I realised that the story was really misleading as it failed to report exactly what Mat Sabu said.

Sukhoi Su-30MKM M52-18 at Sukhoi Technical Centre at the Gong Kedak airbase in 2016.

Posted below is part of the transcript of Mat Sabu’s statements to Parliament yesterday especially regarding the Sukhois and Fulcrums. He spoke at length on other matters, of course. The Hansard is available here.

Isu Sukhoi misalnya, yang boleh terbang dengan baik ada empat buah, 14 buah lagi sedang di
-repair dan kita cuba syarikat tempatan. Syarikat pada zaman Kerajaan BN dahulu, kita belum tamatkan
kontrak itu dan mereka sedang repair.MIG sudah grounded,sebab masalah barang-barang mahal yang kita hadapi ini ialah masalah maintenance. Ini yang kita hadapi. Oleh sebab itulah perkara alat
-alat tentera ini, kita beli hari ini baru, 10 tahun lagi sudah lapuk. Kita beli 10 tahun lagi, 20 tahun lagi sudah lapuk. Oleh sebab itulah kita perlu kaji dari semasa ke semasa. Walau bagaimanapun, kedudukan Angkatan Tentera Malaysia siap siaga untuk menjaga keselamatan Malaysia. Don’t worry di atas kebolehan itu

Yes the maintenance cost of the fighter fleet is high, and for the Russian ones, the inefficiency of the Soviet-model is making it worse. That was the reason I wanted to get rid of the Flankers as soon as possible.

* this is an updated version of this post.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2227 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. just asking:
    is it alright to tell public about how many aircraft available at the time??isn’t that info suppose to be within mindef?

    really hope this is just a plan by our menhan to show the new govt how big RMAF ‘hole’ and push RMAF agenda(really hope)

    what about ATSC termination of contract??what will be?they said new company by our local company…..

  2. Hmm… isn’t that kinda national security to be revealing our level preparedness (or not, as in this case)?

  3. Regardless of the exact technicalities, I think this Flanker issue highlight the priority of getting sufficient quantity of adequate platforms instead of focusing on uber expensive “state-of-the-art” platforms as these could never be obtained in sufficient number to ensure all-time availability. Hope the government can expedite the LCA plan. What about the Hawks? Warming the hanger as well?

    Btw, head(s) is finally starting to row for the MH370 disaster, could some MoD/RMAF personnel be on the line next…

  4. Too bad and too late. Rice has become porridges. It was viral now netizen said how RMAF has badly manage their assets. Even our pilot got insulted just swing leg and incapable. What a shame.

  5. 4 Sukhois available and 60% of our meagre Hornet fleet in Oz? Boy, we need those LCAs, quick! It’s ludicrous to hee-haw and ho-hum twiddling our fingers and toes when our air defense down to single digits. Please, them Hawks don’t count! Please get those Kuwaiti Hornets or those flying Samsungs a.k.a. FA50s or M346 or whatever kite that can our pilots can hump around. Lease them if we can buy them.

  6. Tuan Taib we can get the wau bulan as many as possible….lol..seriously speaking as a layman we should seriously look into the latest varient of 346 F/A type. Cheaper than any mrca type n can get in great numbers with wat budget RMAF got…

  7. There is still fpda. Rsaf last time help provide air cover wit intercept from IADS butterworth

  8. Well 4 operational out of 18 is way better than Luftwaffes (German Air Force) current record of only 4 operational Typhoons out of 128 aircraft.

    That is of course not the full picture as most of the fleet is going through the Sukhoi 10 year service milestone. This is their 1st 10 year servicing so it all comes in at the same time. For the next 10 year servicing it could be staggered if we can delay some of the aircrafts servicing now, so their next servicing could come in batches while other aircrafts still servicable. Good planning and juggling of airframe hours can mitigate this availability issue in the future.

    The hornets current good servicability numbers is because all of them has recently gone through the 25X capability upgrade.

  9. Only 4 out of 18 are serviceable.
    A combine of lack of funds and the complexity of custom fighters. No surprise there.

    India is worse with their MKI.

  10. After finish awarded the contract for maintenance to any new company, then only disclose about the MKM la Abang Mat oii..

    You are already a Menhan, not opposition political actor anymore.

  11. @ZekMR
    As a tiger never looses its stripes, a clown never fails to entertain. Only this case, the entertainment can be fatal to the country!

    Menhan: “HEY WORLD! We only got 4 fighters to defend all both sides of Malaysia! COME AND GET IIITTT!!!!”

  12. Mean no more ATSC? I believe lack of quantity also cause of all jet need to maintain in a same period.

  13. The exact wordings of the transcript

    ” Isu Sukhoi misalnya,
    yang boleh terbang dengan baik ada empat buah, 14 buah lagi sedang di-repair dan kita cuba syarikat tempatan. Syarikat pada zaman Kerajaan BN dahulu, kita belum tamatkan kontrak itu dan mereka sedang repair. MIG sudah grounded, sebab masalah barang-
    barang mahal yang kita hadapi ini ialah masalah maintenance. Ini yang kita hadapi. ”

    So what he said actually was:
    – 14 MKMs currently under repair and it is done by local company
    – It is a company from the previous BN government and we have not terminated its contract. They are repairing the MKMs.

    Hopefully that would be clear.

  14. Bujot-Even our pilot got insulted just swing leg and incapable. What a shame.

    if the one insulted is the netizen,no comment. but if it was a govt official making that statement then also NO COMMENT.

    reason is,before this i sembang with one of ATM officer incharge of one of the asset. he said,the asset is his wife(partner for life). he need to know all about it even the maintenance since when shit happen(war or malfunction)its good to have full knowledge of what you have. that is why when nuri get retired or when some of it get scrap,most of its pilot feeling down(not sure the word). its the same for navy and TD.

    just because the plane is under maintenance,does not mean you can just rilex and minum teh tarik all days. that is just what i’m told by the officer.hopefully this is true. anybody know if our pilot “swing leg and incapable”?really want to know about this.

    This simply means that squadron pilots will have to share them, and not they will goyang kaki. This has always been the case. The Flanker squadron also have their simulator where most of the basic flight training could be conducted.

  15. @ marhalim

    Western fighter maintenance are not as good as what they say.

    Just look at the german typhoons.

    Their normal 400 hour inspection/maintenance now took over 14 months for each aircraft, instead of the designed 7 months. Can you imagine a fighter that unavailable for 1 year every 2 years of flight? A russian style 10 year servicing is way better than a 14 months servicing every 400 hours. And it still costs a lot.

  16. More reasons why we need FA-50

    – more available numbers (40 aircraft for USD1.3 billion, as per indonesian and philippines buy)
    – known reliable components (same engine as our F/A-18 hornets)
    – low operating costs (KAI said it is 1/3rd of Gripen C/D operating costs, which is already among the cheapest fighter to operate). This translates to more available aircraft and hours to be flown operationally.
    – able to do supersonic QRA to replace the MiG-29N mission, unlike the current Hawks.
    – comprehensive LIFT training capabilities and ground training equipments.
    – all twin seaters enabling more pilots to fly more hours. Enhancing pilot skills and experience. Rear seat can be flown empty if not needed.

  17. Let’s those who are responsible on national air space (RMAF) decide. Revealing numbers is unacceptable.

  18. Thank Marhalim,
    Yes, sounds not the best situation the RMAF is in. It may be that the Sukhoi 10 year service has taken longer than expected and it’s just poor planning or just bad luck.

    Well there are still 3 FA 18 and the 5 in Darwin, which is only 3800 km to KL. That is only a couple of hours flying time for a fighter jet in case of emergency.

    Not really

  19. To clear the mess done by the minister…just take up all sukhoi to the sky (or as many as they can) and join the Merdeka Parade this year.

    Still got 29 days to get prepare…

  20. Probably the 4 mentioned by Mohd Sabu is those that are fully operational.

    Now the MKMs are going through their 1st 10 year service, so most of them are hitting the milestone at almost the same time. Probably something like this graph below is happening, as the slots for servicing are limited. Hopefully this mass grounding will not happen for the next 10 year service milestone.

  21. Off topic

    India is getting used Jaguar fighter jets from France, Oman and UK, mostly for free to be used as spare parts. In all around 40 airframes plus spares to be received by IAF from those 3 countries.

    IMO we sould reconsider bartering our MiG-29N to india for MKM spares or even additional MKI that we could convert into MKM models.

    Not to mention that we should do the same and get aussie hornets to be used as spare parts sources for our hornets.

  22. @…
    Perhaps its because of TUDM trying to average out the usage rate on these airframes that they somehow did not forsee the mass stranding for want of servicing, or perhaps it they were counting on the F 18s to take up the slack in meanwhile but Pitch Black threw a spanner into their level readiness.

    Got nothing to do with Pitch Black as the exercise had been on the schedule since late 2016. Even funding to pay for the exercise have been reserved since 2017. Simply said this had been planned for sometime now but they didn’t count on the minister to reveal the numbers.
    The numbers will fall up and down based on the schedule and needs. Money is scarce so services planned accordingly.

  23. Agree with all comments on air force personnel commitment to air defense. Saying they will ‘goyang kaki’ is a cheap shot. However, we need to stagger maintenance around the aircraft that we have and not be in the situation we are in now. Admittedly having your MenHan announcing it to all & sundry you have x nos of planes flying gives me the jitters. Lucky our neighborhood is not as terrible as the Mid East!
    YB Sabu seems to get the ear of PM well enough. He once shared living quarters with the Finance Minister at Kamunting. Talk to both please, and see if there’s still some loose change in the national kitty.
    And plug the shortcomings with LCAs, be it the used F18s from Kuwait or JAS39, Leonardo M346, or the ‘Samsung’ FA50s.

  24. … : “IMO we sould reconsider bartering our MiG-29N to india for MKM spares or even additional MKI that we could convert into MKM models.”

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you right there.

    If we’re going to get new Flankers (MKM), we’re going to go straight to the source – Sukhoi in Russia.

    Buying Indian Su-30MKI is a no-go because they use Israeli avionics and we’d have to rip those stuffs out and replace with the French avionics we use.

    And let’s not forget those Indian MKIs were made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which has numerous production issues with their MKIs for which they tried to blame Sukhoi for. HAL has a really fracked* up production and maintainence of Indian Flankers to the point that 8 out of 250 of them crashed.

    *: Yes, I used that slang from Battlestar Galactica (2003). :V

    If you don’t sound convinced, then let’s compare India’s Su-30MKIs with the US’ F/A-18 Hornets and F/A-18E Super Hornets.

    The US has built well over 1,000 Hornets and 500+ Super Hornets. The total number of accidents, incidents, and crashes involving both of those aircraft is about ~36. A good chunk of crashes involved overworked Hornets and Super Hornets that weren’t being well maintained on account of the US budget sequestration in 2013.

    The majority of the ~250 SU-30MKI are newer than the Hornets and Super Hornets in service and have haven’t seen anywhere near the same level of usage as the Hornet and Super Hornet have.

    I’m not good with maths but 8 crashes/accidents out of 250 newer fighters (Su-30MKI) sounds a lot worse than 36 crashes/accidents out of 1500+ older fighters (Hornet+Super Hornet).

    It’s much, much simpler and easier to just go and order straight from Sukhoi. Of course, that would happen if the Malaysian government decides to drop their accusation on Russia and stop holding them responsible for the MH17 incident, which would be a political suicide. :V

    Therefore, you have two choices to get new Su-30MKMs.

    1) Get Indian Flankers, rip out haram Israeli avionics and work with the ticking time bomb that is HAL’s inept and shoddy workmanship.

    2) Back down from MH17 subject, make nice with Russia and get the new Russian Flankers.

    BTW, I’m fine if we decide to sell our MiG-29s to India. We’re short on cash after all LOL. 😛

  25. I read in Combat Aircraft(?) or something, that Ukraine got back their Crimean based Mig 29s because the Russkies thought they were non flyable junks, but then them Ukrainians are slowly bringing each one of them back to operations and they are confident to get the whole fleet flying again. The thing is, with their relationship vis-a-vis Russia, they are doing it on their own without Motherland support.

    Perhaps we can learn how they did it or even get them to do it for us.

  26. Note that in developed countries reporting on military readiness is an acceptable practice. In fact it is the only way the public can ensure the military is doing their job and not, well, “goyang kaki”.


    Malaysia is very backward in its transparency and governance. Hopefully this will herald a new era in reporting and oversight, and we never go back to the days of “you don’t need to know, trust us to manage everything, we will take care of it, jangan persoal”

  27. @Chua
    You can do that we you have hundreds or even thousands of planes like they have, not to mention their neighbours are either far more friendly than ours or located father away. The US Navy can afford to have 1 carrier constantly on long refits without compromising their level of preparedness. What is 100 planes down out of 1100? We don’t have such resources, none of the 3rd world countries does, hence estimating ready levels is akin to a poker game with neighbouring nations but Mat Sabun here just shown our hand to the world. Give a hand to this guy!

  28. To rely on Western combat aircraft totally especially US-made jets we risk not getting the best weaponry as we’re considered a ‘non-friendly’ nation; similarly to buy from Russia we’re burdened with service and repair jobs plus flow of spares which are never reliable. Perhaps the best options are to go the Indonesia, Pakistan or Turkey’s way, by being self-reliant in our defence requirement. It may take years to have a mature defence industry but it’s never too late especially to develop our aviation industry to the next level. May be it is time to produce more aircraft engineers and aviation experts by having an aerospace university. Consider joint-venture projects with Turkey, China and Pakistan or other friendly nations like South Korea. Politicians come and go, but at the end of the day the burden of looking after our country’s security still lies on the shoulders of those who serve in the armed forces.

  29. @m
    With 4 Flankers covering both sides of Malaysia, even Sulu army might consider taking a gander at us.

  30. Not just with military assets, looks other things.
    We built beautiful parks, but by few months, it turned to ghost park.
    Because our government always forget about the ‘maintenance’ part.

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