FLIT Overseas, Updated

SHAH ALAM: FLIT overseas. It appears that a small number RMAF personnel are being trained to become fighter pilots in Ontario, Canada. This is a departure from the normal Fighter Lead In Training (FLIT) programme conducted at Pulatibang 3 at the Kuantan airbase. The training at the International Test Pilots School (ITPS), London, Ontario was reported by the CBC on May 22.

If you’ve seen fighter jets over the city recently, it’s because a London company is training fighter pilots for the Malaysian Air Force and they’re practicing everything from combat to tactical manoeuvring.

And while they’re not taking up any more airspace than they normally do, the lack of commercial flights and recent renovations on a London International Airport runway have made the loud fighter jets more noticeable than ever.

“They’re practicing aircraft-to-aircraft combat, aircraft-to-ground combat, and aerobatics,” said Giorgio Clementi, the owner of ITPS Canada, which he established here in London in 2009.

“Top Gun is a couple of notches above what we do, but eventually these pilots will go back to their home countries and become the top guns for their air forces.

The second part of the business trains fighter pilots. The London company gets contracts from foreign governments and eventually gets them flying on five jet trainers. The model is an Aero L39 Albatros.

“It’s one of the most popular jet trainers in the world,” said Clementi. “We basically take pilots who can fly a propeller airplane train them to be fighter pilots. We give them all the fundamentals that they need.”

An Aero L-39C aircraft at IPTS Canada. Note the Malaysian flag. IPTS Facebook.

I had delayed writing about the post as I had been trying to get more details about the programme but unfortunately it remained sketchy. The number of trainee pilots being trained with ITPS Canada – International Test Pilots School – is likely around four to six. RMAF FLIT programme consisted of two parts – Basic Jet and Advanced Jet training – usually takes in four to six trainee pilots per year.

One of the MB-339CM getting ready for a test flight in 2008 prior to delivery to RMAF.

Those who passed both parts – around 12 months for each course – will be assigned to the four fighter squadrons – namely No. 12 Squadron at Gong Kedak; No 18 and No. 15 squadrons at Butterworth and No. 6 at Labuan for conversion training and operational qualifications. RMAF dont have a squadron for operational conversion training as it has small number of fighter types compared to the other air forces like the UK and US.

RMAF MB-339CM M34-20 in a picture taken at the Cope Taufan in 2014 at Butterworth.

As Malaysian Defence had reported previously the FLIT programme had come under pressure during the last decade as the MB-339CM trainer at Pulatibang 3 did not aged gracefully, resulting in delays in qualifying new pilots for the fighter squadrons.

An MB-339CM and a MIG-29N Fulcrum demonstrates the interception at the NCO demonstration ceremony at Kuantan airbase in May, 2016. This was the last time Malaysian Defence saw a Fulcrum flying.

The training in Canada, I was told, was an extension of an existing contract between local firm, Inisiatif Hati Sdn Bhd and RMAF to conduct pilot training – mostly for experience pilots – with ITPS. AFAIK this was the second time FLIT was conducted overseas, the first was with Pakistan Air Force around 2006, prior to the delivery of the CMs. I was told that colloboration (G-to-G) was stopped after one intake as I was told that the RMAF felt that the pilots who graduated from there did not meet expectations.

Two RMAF Hawks flying over Penang at the recent 25th Silver Jubilee. TUDM

The first batch of RMAF trainees, 10, started training at ITPS in January this year with the second batch later this year. It is likely that the second batch training will be postponed until the travel restrictions imposed by coronavirus pandemic are eased.

-Malaysian Defence

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