Everything Still Turns To Gold

Leonardo M346. Leonardo.

SHAH ALAM: Everything still turns to gold. A few days ago I wrote that the government had approved the funding for the RMAF LCA/FLIT project next year. RMAF chief Gen Ackbal Abdul Samad however did not revealed the number of aircraft to be funded though the service had proposed the purchase of 18 airframes for the RMK12 period.

Defence Minister DS Ismail Sabri today confirmed that the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department had approved the funding for 18 LCA/FLIT programme under the Rolling Plan 1 of the RMK12 which starts next year. He said this in his response to questions in Dewan Negara. However the amount of allocation was not mentioned, which is usually the case for defence issues.

One of the two RTAF T-50 at Kuantan airbase in Jan,. 2018. via @KaptRahmat

Bagi pertanyaan YB tentang perolehan pesawat Fighter Lead-In Trainer (FLIT) dan Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) pula, ia merupakan projek keutamaan utama dalam Rancangan Malaysia Ke-12. Permohonan bajet untuk perolehan Fasa 1 bagi 18 buah pesawat ini telah diperakukan oleh Unit Perancang Ekonomi, Jabatan Perdana Menteri, di bawah peruntukan Belanja Pembangunan (DE) untuk dilaksanakan pada Rolling Plan 1 (RP 1) RMKe-12 bagi tahun 2021.

Yakovlev Yak-130 Mitten performing a display at LIMA 2019. Zaq Sayuti.

There was also no breakdown on the LCA/FLIT to be purchase, though I am assuming if indeed 18 aircraft will be funded, it will likely be 12 LCAs and six FLIT.

M-346FA with some ordnance meant for the aircraft.

Whether or not additional funding will be allocated in next RMK13, is also beyond me. I am of the opinion that we should be buying around six airframes per year from 2021 actually. This way by 2027, RMAF will have the full complement of the LCA/FLIT fleet as envisaged by the service. The yearly payment for delivered aircraft will also be less taxing to the government instead of paying for them in one lump sum.
Nuri M23-29 flying over the Kota Belud air to ground firing range.

The minister also said it was the plan that the RMAF will be looking to a new helicopter during RMK12 to replace the Nuri which had been grounded since 2019 following an emergency landing. This will ensure the new helicopters will be in service once the contract for leased helicopters ends in 2025 or 2026. For the short-term, RMAF will leased a number of helicopters from a local company selected for the tender which closed on 17 December.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam


  1. we have never paid any big purchases in one lump sum. not the subs, not the gempita, not the a400m and certainly not the gowinds (which has the contract in ringgit Malaysia, which is one of the reasons the budget is short, as it was not paid for lump sum in the beginning)

    payment can be staggered and spread through 2 rancangan malaysia, important is for the required numbers written in the contact in the 1st place.

  2. Wah, quite a few announcements coming next year:
    KJA? Still going ahead or it is just the MALBATT MRAP?
    Hopefully LCS too.

    Nothing on the KJA at the moment

  3. What’s the difference between LCA and FLIT?

    Light Combat Aircraft and Fighter Lead In Trainer, thats the difference

  4. @ dinzy

    To save costs, we need to combine 2 functions, LCA and also FLIT into 1 type of aircraft. We need to have LCA/FLIT in the numbers so that we can allocate them for LCA tasks in both east and west malaysia, while also allocating airframes for FLIT tasks. Those LCA to be located in east malaysia will probably be our only permanent air defence in east malaysia until 2030, when the time comes to replace our Hornets, hopefully then budget then can be stretched to buy 2 squadrons of MRCA.

    So it is not simple. We need an aircraft with high enough performance and radar to do QRA and CAP, while frugal enough and with advanced enough training systems to be used as FLIT.

    If gripen can do both LCA and FLIT, thailand does not need to buy T-50TH.

    If M-346FA can do LCA, there should be many more countries using M-346FA as LCA.

    While TUDM is requesting 36 aircraft, personally i feel that the number needs to be bigger.

  5. Actually the Grippen can do FLIT especially the latest model two seat variant. But its a real high end n ecpensive affair.
    The M346 IS designed from the outset to be a trainer. Can it be a great LCA?. Really no one knows as there is no LCA model out yet. The trainer has no radar n obviously the nose must be redesigned

  6. just to check, are the Nuris withdrawn from the RMAF only or also those in Army Aviation ?

    From both

  7. The LCA part will replace both Mig-29 and Hawk 208 so we need at least 24 of them to complete a minimum of 2 squadron. If the plan to get additional hornet from Kuwait goes through then 24 LCA would be suffice. Otherwise we might need at least 8 more to even up the number to 32

    For LIFT part 12 planes would be enough for a 1 to 1 replacement for both Hawk and Mb-339 although AF would be interested in getting 18 for a full strength squadron

    Total up we might be getting between 36 (bare minimum) to 50 or even 54 of the AF want to set up 3 LCA squadron of 12 planes each. With these kind of number I’d expect KAI to throw in few gula2/dedak like free sniper pod integration, free munitions or even partnership to KFX program

  8. Also we should probably look into selling our Mig-29 to either partly fund the LCA/LIFT programme or to add to more than the initial 18 planes (to at least 24. 12 LCA and 12 LIFT)

  9. I concur that we should have sustained yearly buys as the economic impact will lessen and the Forces can have better assurance they will get the numbers requested.

    But I’m not sure if it would cost more per unit than bulk buying unless we can work out a staggered delivery/payment package that will leverage the lower cost of bulk buys, something that I had advocated we can use to buy off-the-shelf S-70is to replace the Forces various medium chopper needs.

  10. Last contract for a new procurement signed in December 2005 (A400M).

    TUDM deserve a pat on the back.. pheww..

  11. @dundun
    I can already see the government shopping in Seoul whilst asking perhaps their government to facilitate a medium-long term loan to afford us the FA50/T50s. If the South Koreans want further business, then Yes, we’ll probably have to make further concessions to them. Perhaps unlocking more free trade zones for Korean SMEs or something along those lines. 😁

  12. Guys, with all this excitement about the LCA:
    1. Don’t forget that once the LIFT/LCA becomes operational, the 339s and not just the Hawks can be retired.

    2. Original CAP 55 calls for 3 squadrons LCA/LIFT, so it has to be at least 36 units.

    3. I have now checked and yes, Gripen can do LIFT. The Swedes plan to uses the C/D as LIFT in the interim until they can find a long term solution, probably the Boeing/Saab T 7.

    Surprise, surprise, it might be 36 Gripen C/D s for RMAF!! I doubt it though…..too expensive.

  13. @ tom tom

    1. IMO nobody is forgetting that, not me especially. It is one of the main reason why we need a single platform LCA/FLIT. The mb-339cm fleet is already unflyable for quite sometime anyway, even if it is not officially retired. Which is why we are sending our trainees to canada to fly on even older L-29 jet trainers.

    2. Yes, minimum 36. but IMO it needs to be more.

    3. Gripen as interim LIFT, okay for sweden as they have a lot just lying around, and going to be replaced in the frontline by gripen E. There are reasons why Thailand as a gripen c/d user does not buy additional gripen for LIFT and bought T-50TH instead. Gripen also does not have all the various training aids, virtual reality systems, In-flight Embedded Tactical Training Simulation (ETTS) that the TA/FA-50 has as it was not designed to be a LIFT. Cost to buy Gripen C/D is nearly double of the TA/FA-50 (usd50-60 million each compared to usd35 million for FA-50). Lifecycle costs of gripen c/d is proportedly 3x of the TA/FA-50, as stated by KAI.


  14. @…

    “If gripen can do both LCA and FLIT, thailand does not need to buy T-50TH.”

    Gripen can do FLIT. Probably the reason thais dont buy Gripem for FLIT is due to higher price tag compared to other offerings.

    “Yes, minimum 36. but IMO it needs to be more.”

    Agree. Assuming 12 is dedicated for FLIT, we only have 24 remaing to replace Hawks and Mig29. To fully replace Hawks and Migs on 1 to 1 basis, we need at least 29 airframes dedicated for LCA.

    If we include the 14 F5E/F Tigers we already retired into the equation, we need a total of at least 44 for LCA and 12 for FLIT. So 50+ LCA/FLIT is the ideal number if we want to campare to older RMAF numbers. Though 36 airframes is still better than what we have currently where it will give RMAF 1 extra squadron to its current capabilities.

    IMO 36 LCA/FLIT is enough. Money not spent on buying more LCA/FLIT can be used for buying more MRCA (in quantity and capability) or more MALE UAVs but if we can squeeze 1 more extra squadron of LCA post 2030 that would be nice.

    “Free sniper pod integration”

    Not just sniper pods but also free AMRAAM, Harpoon and KEPD350 integration as well. When we will retired our Hornets circa 2030+, our Flankers is the only platform where RMAF can launch anti ship missiles.

  15. Luqman:

    The KEPD 350 can be optioned to perform anti-ship also. Therefore both FA/T 50 and the M-346 (with the Marte) can do anti-ship warfare.

  16. Luqman – “Gripen can do FLIT”

    We can reactivate the Fulcrums and utilise them as a LIFT if we really wanted to; even though they were not designed or suitable for the purpose.

    The Gripen was designed as a lightweight multi role platform. This is unlike the contenders for the RMAF requirement which from the onset were designed specifically for the LIFT role.

    Luqman – “IMO 36 LCA/FLIT is enough. Money not spent on buying more LCA/FLIT can be used for buying more MRCA (in quantity and capability”

    You have a point but it all depends on financing and the timeline. As it stands the plan is to get 36 LCAs and then proceed with a MRCA buy within the decade. The “36” is the minimum number of LCAs needed; not the optimum. If the RMAF had a free hand; I’m sure it would want more than 36 LCAs but only if it didn’t have any impact on other areas.

    There has been a lot of talk about the LCAs. For me the most pertinent question is what is the RMAF’s priority? It desires a common LCA/LIFT platform but the platform chosen will be better at one role; another platform will be better performing another role.

    We also have to bear in mind that irrespective of the technical specs: whether the thrust of the engine; turning radius with a full payload or range of its radar; the efficacy of the LCA will also depend on it being able to work alongside what few MRCAs we have and also it ability to benefit from feedback/assistance gained from other assets apart from the MRCAs. It’s not really what we buy but how we operate what we buy; in terms of integration and coordination.

  17. Used Hornets are a possibility as an interim MRCA solution but not as a LIFT or a LCA.

    Bear in mind however that as a matter of principal; the RMAF is extremely cautious/reluctant to get used, aged platforms because despite being cheap; used platforms (especially those past the 15 year mark) then to become maintenance intensive as they age further.

    No point achieving short term costs savings if in the long run we have to fork out more on maintenance/parts; as it is the RMAF is a small under resourced air at with limited resources.

  18. On paper maybe but the plan is to have a common airframe for both the LCA/LIFT role. Not to mention the fact that Gripen (even assuming we can afford it) is a full fledged MRCA and can hardly qualify as a “LCA” per see.

    If we’re going to go for Gripen we must as well do away with the “LCA” programme and revive the “MRCA” one: in parallel with the “LIFT” one. Zero chance of this happening.

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