Exercise Bersama Lima 16

RMAF Hawks at Changi West airbase as part of exchanges during Bersama Lima 16. RSAF photo

SHAH ALAM: This year’s Exercise Bersama Lima 16 ended on Friday (Oct. 21) with the closing ceremony conducted in Singapore, the host of this year’s event. The fact that Singapore hosted the exercise was the reason given that there was no chance to cover the activities conducted by the RMN and RMAF during Bersama Lima 16.

That said its normal that the coverage for Bersama Lima is limited to the opening and closing ceremonies even when Malaysia is hosting the exercise. And the favour is returned when its Singapore’s turn. Its like a tradition that even media-savvy Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) realised it. Unlike its own exercise for example Pitch Black which they even organised a Public Day – for Bersama Lima series – RAAF and RAN – simply up-load the photographs of its activities on its website and social media pages for every one to see.

"Highway to the danger zone". Three Royal Australian Air Force 77 Squadron F/A-18A Hornets taxi towards the take off area at Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth during Exercise Bersama Lima 16. CA
“Highway to the danger zone”. Three Royal Australian Air Force 77 Squadron F/A-18A Hornets taxi towards the take off area at Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth during Exercise Bersama Lima 16. CA

A press release outlining its participation was also issued to the media. There was no such announcement from Malaysia apart from the Facebook posting of the opening (and closing) ceremony on the Joint Force Facebook page.

One of two RMAF Hawk Mk208s which landed at Changi West airbase as part of the exchanges for Bersama Lima 16. RSAF photo.
One of two RMAF Hawk Mk208s which landed at Changi West airbase as part of the exchanges for Bersama Lima 16. RSAF photo.

For the Royal Air Force (RAF) the media black-out is probably something incomprehensible. After spending millions to send its contingent and planes some 10,800km for almost three weeks, the least the host can do is to arrange a media tour. That did not happened for the last two Bersama Lima (2010 and 2012). So this time around, the RAF made sure that its contingent for Bersama Lima 16 based at the Butterworth airbase got some media coverage. They were already active in the social media but probably felt it was necessary to engage the local media directly like they did everywhere else.

Typhoons from 1(Fighter) Sqn arriving back at RMAF Butterworth during Ex Bersama Lima 16.
Typhoons from 1(Fighter) Sqn arriving back at RMAF Butterworth during Ex Bersama Lima 16.

It was for this reason, I joined two other reporters from the mainstream media for a visit to the RAF contingent at Butterworth last week. On hand to speak to us were the commanders of the unit involved in the exercise, No 1 (F) Squadron based at the RAF Lossiemouth station, Scotland.

Wing Commander Mike Sutton being interviewed at Butterworth airbase.
Wing Commander Mike Sutton being interviewed at Butterworth airbase.

The CO of 1 Squadron Wing Commander Mike Sutton, a command pilot, was full of praise for the training afforded during Bersama Lima. He also briefed us the capabilities of the Eurofighter Typhoon (FGA4 in RAF parlance) and its future enhancements.

According to him the six Typhoons deployed to Bersama Lima were the Tranche 1 version. Sutton says the aircraft were capable for swing role operations though for Bersama Lima they only conducted air-to-air operations as that was the capabilities that were called for by the exercise planners.

RAF Typhoons taking off from RMAF Butterworth. Crown Copyright
RAF Typhoons taking off from RMAF Butterworth. Crown Copyright

Prior to the start of Bersama Lima, the Typhoons and the RAAF F/A-18 Hornet (77 Squadron) conducted air-to-air drills with RMAF Sukhoi Su-30MKMs. Sutton says the Typhoons did very well and they had recordings of the sorties to confirm their success.

 Typhoons from 1(Fighter) Sqn ready to take to the Skies en-route to RMAF Butterworth in Malaysia to take part in Ex Bersama Lima 16   Typhoon Aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland are taking part in Exercise Bersama Lima 16 and with be based out of RMAF Butterworth in Malaysia during their stay. Crown Copyright
Typhoons from 1(Fighter) Sqn ready to take to the skies Ex Bersama Lima 16.Crown Copyright

Most of the encounters were in Within Visual Range (WVR) where the Typhoon’s BAE Systems Striker 1 helmet mounted sighting system (HMSS) proved to be a decisive factor in the engagements. I did not get a chance to see the recordings nor able to speak to RMAF Sukhoi’s pilots to confirm what the Typhoon squadron CO said.

It must be noted that this was first time the Typhoons and RAAF classic Hornets had the opportunity to engage RMAF Fankers in air-to-air engagements at Bersama Lima. For the record, it must be noted that both the Hornets and Flankers are also equipped with helmet mounted sight, the JHMICS and Sura M , respectively.

RSAF F-16D+ fighter at Kuantan airbase as part of the exchanges during Bersama Lima 16. RSAF photo.
RSAF F-16D+ fighter at Kuantan airbase as part of the exchanges during Bersama Lima 16. RSAF photo.

The Typhoons also tangled with Republic of Singapore Air Force F16s and F15s during Bersama Lima and Sutton said that his squadrons did very well in the engagements. Like the RAAF Hornets, both the RSAF’s planes are also equipped with JHMICS.

Asked whether they encountered RMAF Mig-29 Fulcrums during the exercise, Sutton said they did not see them at all.

A combo of picture from KD Kedah social media feed on Bersama Lima 16.
A combo of picture from KD Kedah social media feed on Bersama Lima 16.

The Typhoons also conducted mock strikes on naval ships taking part in Bersama Lima. The mock strikes are mostly to train the gunners on board the ships on how to defend against low level air attacks.

A Royal Australian Air Force 77 Squadron F/A-18A Hornet has landing gear down and is ready to land at Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth during Exercise Bersama Lima 16. CA
A Royal Australian Air Force 77 Squadron F/A-18A Hornet has landing gear down and is ready to land at Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth during Exercise Bersama Lima 16. CA

The squadron engineering officer Squadron Leader Rob South said the Typhoons had performed without a hitch during the exercise. With an availability rate of 85 per cent, the squadron launched four to six aircraft several times a day with only six ground personnel to prepare them for flights and a minimal ground support equipment.

One of the Typhoons, a twin seater, preparing to take off during the interview. Malaysian Defence photo.
One of the Typhoons, a twin seater, preparing to take off during the interview. Malaysian Defence photo.

During the interview, four Typhoons took off in quick succession for their sorties that afternoon. The time from engine start to take off was around five minutes for each of them.

RAF Typhoons operating out in the open at the Butterworth airbase for Bersama Lima 16. Crown Copyright.
RAF Typhoons operating out in the open at the Butterworth airbase for Bersama Lima 16. Crown Copyright.

“We took the decision not to use the dispersal shed though they were available to us. We were lucky in a sense that the weather had been good, not too much rain.

A hangar was also available for them to conduct routine maintenance on the Typhoons even at night as it was well lit.

Under the shed. The pilot of a Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornet conducts pre-flight checks in the cockpit moments before commencing a mission from Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth as part of Exercise Bersama Lima 16.  CA
Under the shed. The pilot of a Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornet conducts pre-flight checks in the cockpit moments before commencing a mission from Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth as part of Exercise Bersama Lima 16. CA

RAF Lossiemouth CO Group Captain Paul Godfrey, who also flies the Typhoon, said the opportunity to fly against the Flankers were a boon to the pilots, as most of them had never encountered the Russian made jet before.

Godfrey explained four of the Typhoons will be going to Japan and South Korea after Bersama Lima. From South Korea, the four will then be flown to the United States to take part in a Red Flag exercise.

Officer Commanding 1(F) Sqn, Wing Commander Mike Sutton (left) and RAF Lossiemouth's Station Commander, Group Captain Paul Godfrey (right) stood in front of a Typhoon while taking part in Ex Bersama Lima 16. Crown Copyright
Officer Commanding 1(F) Sqn, Wing Commander Mike Sutton (left) and RAF Lossiemouth’s Station Commander, Group Captain Paul Godfrey (right) stood in front of a Typhoon while taking part in Ex Bersama Lima 16. Crown Copyright

Two of the Typhoons flown during Bersama Lima will be stored at Butterworth until further orders. Godfrey said he has not been informed on the future tasking of the two Typhoons as well another pair which were left in India as the RAF contingent flew to Malaysia for Bersama Lima.

RAF Typhoons and an RAF C-17 at RMAF Butterworth, Malaysia Crown Copyright.
RAF Typhoons and an RAF C-17 at RMAF Butterworth, Malaysia Crown Copyright.

There is the possibility that two Typhoons at Butterworth will take part in Lima 17 though no official confirmation is yet to be available at the moment.

— Malaysian Defence

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4 Comments

  1. Notable is that the Typhoons are from Tranche I.

    Is there any chatter of what is the official offer for the Typhoons to Malaysia?

    As for the 2 Typhoons left in India, is that pair flown together during the flight from UK to Malaysia? Are they actually left there, or are they actually “air spares” that would be flown back to UK after certain distances?

    Reply
    They flew together but when they stopped at India, they were stored there.

  2. Most of our mig already pencen i think.a few that left only has a few sorties before they also pencen.ha3.too bad we cannot show the brits our multiculture fighter.

  3. Hahaha ” multiculture fighter” or should we use fusion mix of figthers, wether its US ,UK or RAF,they will want a taste of the shukhoi/mig tangle in the air. They know its hard to come by.

    Does it really weaken or breach any OPSEC if its were to be made public for the FPDA. Its not that the public will know the details of every mission specific that taken place.

    People will be more appreciative what FPDA did all these years, and be more concern about national defence issue, and the existance of FPDA.

  4. “People will be more appreciative what FPDA did all these years, and be more concern about national defence issue, and the existance of FPDA.” Thank you RAF, you engaged local media to share with us what BERSAMA LIMA 16 is all about.

    Media savvy is the way to go for civillian to better understand and appreciate warfighters. Look what and how RAF/RAAF/USN did in terms of public relation for example. Even some units have its “historian” and “archive section”. But our MAF is quite “shy” and “silent” in print and digital media. For me have to rely on MD as reputable source.

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