Fourth A400M in January

M54-03 landing at Subang on Aug 8, 2016.

SHAH ALAM: IN my previous post on RMAF A400Ms, I stated that the additional capabilities for the three already delivered air-lifters could be done locally. It appears that I wrote erroneously as the work needed are only available overseas.

Fernando Alonso, Head of Military Aircraft, Airbus Defence and Space says that the upgrading work need to be done at the A400M final assembly line in Seville, Spain. He said the work on the third aircraft delivered to RMAF – M54-03 – will be shorter than 01 and 02 as it has been delivered with more features compared to the first two.

However, the upgrading will likely be needed after 2018 as only by that time, the final configuration of the A400M will be certified.

Alonso says that the fourth A400M for RMAF will be fitted with the latest tactical configuration. However, due to the much publicized technical issues which affected the delivery schedule of the airlifter, it will probably be ready for delivery only in next January or February.

Alonso was speaking to the media yesterday on the second day of his visit to Malaysia. This was his first visit Malaysia after taking over at Airbus Defence and Space two years ago. He said he could not come sooner as he was consumed by efforts to revive the troubled A400M programme.

The fourth aircraft will be delivered with defensive aid sub-system (DASS), air-to-air refueling (receiving and providing fuel) and the ability to deliver up to 25 tonnes of cargo as reported previously.

M54-03 on finals at Subang airport.
M54-03 on finals at Subang airport.

Alonso confirmed that RMAF was also affected by the engine problems though only one engine from the 16 installed on the three A400Ms already delivered need to be replaced. However, like the other A400Ms, RMAF had to curtail the flight hours of its aircraft as engineers had to check the engines manually. Initially the checks were conducted for every 40 hours of flight before it was raised to 100 hours recently.

Alonso said as temporary fix had been certified, the interval for the engine checks have been increased to 600 hours. A permanent solution to the problem is still being worked out though Alonso was confident that it will be resolved soon.

Maanwhile, Alonso said Airbus is eyeing the region as potential market for its military transport aircraft. He says that this strategic region is a natural market for Airbus’ military aircraft across the board from light to medium aircraft such as the C295 and the technologically advanced airlifter A400M.

A C295 undergoing checks at Airbus DS facility at Seville, Spain
A C295 undergoing checks at Airbus DS facility at Seville, Spain

Alonso said: “Our military aircraft are able to fill a real gap in the market responding to today’s regional challenges. Governments in the region are aware of the need to replace ageing equipment based on old designs and technologies. New assets will bring long-term cost savings while meeting the region’s unique requirements.”

“We are extremely proud that Malaysia is the first export customer for the airlifter. It is very important for us to ensure that RMAF’s A400M experience meets expectations as the Malaysian Air Force serves as our ambassador for the region,” said Alonso.

— Malaysian Defence

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

Share
About Marhalim Abas 1629 Articles
Shah Alam

19 Comments

  1. Nobody wants to buy armour from us. We simply don’t bring any technology, experience or savings to the equation- not even a track record. We know it, the Germans and Turks know it, customers know it. If anything, our company is there to satisfy the Malaysian requirement for a local partner.

    If we do get a handful of Altays, I’m not excited about Malaysia being one of the launch customers again.

    Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

    I can’t say much for BMC either. The most they have done for the military is build civilian trucks and MRAPs.

  2. Theoretically, the A400M can transport the Gempita right? Meaning the 25T transportable cargo will gradually increase to around 30T I suppose?

    Reply
    Yes it supposed to be able to transport though it had not been tested yet. They tested with a truck recently but only ground test . The 25 tonnes are for parachute drop

  3. The Altay is a promising design and has a lot going for it. It has greater growth potential over the T-72/PT-91, has better baseline protection levels, has better ergonomics, has a better hunter killer capability, unlike the PT-91 it has a commander’s HMG that can be fired remotely and doesn’t have a carousel auto loader that makes the tank vulnerable in the event of a hit in the fighting compartment. By the time it’s ready for export, any teething issues would have been sorted out; after all, the Turks have ordered a lot. Before anyone mentions the Armata : it hasn’t even completed development and we have zero indication as to whether it will live up to its hype and when the Russian will be able to export it.

  4. The a400 is called as a strategic airlifter..if i may ask, what does it mean actually?

    Reply
    That it can carry stuff, men and equipment, over long distances.

  5. While the Altay has more potential than our PT-91 will ever have, that’s not a very high bar. The PT-91 is a growth of a 1960s design that has long reached its limits.

    As no one has seen Turks build and field their own MBT before, because this is the first time they will, we don’t know whether “by the time it’s ready for export, any teething issues would have been sorted out.”

    It is possible that the tank will be fielded before it is ready. What if fixes or capabilities that every tank should have are labelled “improvements” and pushed into later production blocks?

    Why can’t we just go for an established, off the shelf design that is just as capable as the Altay. I’ve not seen any claims, even from the manufacturer, that the Altay sets out to be better than other tanks on the market.

  6. AM – ”While the Altay has more potential than our PT-91 will ever have, that’s not a very high bar.”

    Ok. Let’s try another angle : compared to a Leo 2A6; does the Altay come off badly? If viewed objectively, the Altay compares quite favourably against even current gen Western designs. The PT-91 has little growth potential due to the age of the design but it’s still a pretty decent tank – the problem is we didn’t do all the stuff to it that we should have because of funding.

    AM – ”Why can’t we just go for an established, off the shelf design that is just as capable as the Altay.”

    What design do you have in mind? Assuming we buy a new tank within the next 5-6 years; what alternatives are there to Altay? This premise is based on us not wanting to buy Chinese, Russian, Ukranian or surplus Leos [which are getting lesser anyway]. The only near term possibility I can see – apart from Altay – is buying South Korean but we would still be a launch customer.

    AM – ”It is possible that the tank will be fielded before it is ready. What if fixes or capabilities that every tank should have are labelled “improvements” and pushed into later production blocks?”

    Off course it’s possible; in the form of trials vehicles which are intended to solve any teething issues. Any improvements made to the design or any modifications can easily be added to export variants as we’re not talking about major improvements or modifications that would require something major as the redesigning of the hull or realigning the engine. It won’t be the first time that improvements or modifications have been performed on export vehicles or aircraft before they were performed on ones operated by the home nation.

    AM – ”I’ve not seen any claims, even from the manufacturer, that the Altay sets out to be better than other tanks on the market.”

    So? That’s no indication of anything.

    AM – ”As no one has seen Turks build and field their own MBT before”

    They’re not on their own. There is significant South Korean involvement and the South Koreans have quite a bit of experience toying around with their own designs. A lot of the stuff on Altay is actually from the K-2 by virtue of Hyundai’s participation.

  7. AM,

    maybe it because it the reduced bell and whistle version of the K9 Black Panther with own Turkey designed turret. I would rather we go for a more complete product like the K9. Though not yet fully field in ROK army but it a more or less completed product instead of a prototype.

    Plus, K9 used the same autoloader mechanism as the lecrac although the korean refuse to admit it instead of the T-series corousel autoloader

  8. “Assuming we buy a new tank within the next 5-6 years; what alternatives are there to Altay? This premise is based on us not wanting to buy Chinese, Russian, Ukranian or surplus Leos”

    The Leopard 2 and Abrams are available new or second hand, upgraded if we want, with both options being marketed internationally. Why should we rule them out?

    These are mature designs with large user bases and clear upgrade paths. The Altay, even though it uses mature components, is not.

    “AM – ”I’ve not seen any claims, even from the manufacturer, that the Altay sets out to be better than other tanks on the market.”

    I’ll put it another way. Even if the Altay has features that other tanks don’t, we should only consider it if these features benefit our specific situation.

    For example, someone mentioned he would prefer we get the K-2 as a “more complete product .” While the K-2 does have an autoloader, it is not essential that our chosen tank has one. It is costly to buy and operate, and for us the 4th crewman’s payroll savings are not as great as for other users.

  9. AM,

    Anything is possible when it comes to Malaysian defence procurement but do you really realistically see us buying Leopards or M-1s? As for pre-owned Leopards; as I mentioned, they’re are drying up. The Bundeswehr has reactivated a number of stored ones recently [due to concerns with Russia] and Dutch stocks are low due to foreign transfers.

    In this day and age, very few current gen MBTs actually have major features that are not present in competing designs. The main feature we should really be concerned about is survivability, mobility, etc. If you go on ”Tanknet” quite a few industry and former tank people actually say the Altay is a decent tank. If the Altay was really ”indigenous” then I would have concerns but it’s not indigenous; benefits from considerable South Korean input. I’m no expert but as far as auto loaders go; I’m old school. I prefer loading done manually and I prefer having an extra crewman as he can also assist in maintenance/recovery.

  10. “Anything is possible when it comes to Malaysian defence procurement but do you really realistically see us buying Leopards or M-1s? As for pre-owned Leopards; as I mentioned, they’re are drying up. ”

    Based on our record, I don’t. But I have no idea as to the reasons we often choose developmental or “exotic” platforms.

    Going by the argument that we don’t buy second hand equipment, both Abrams and Leopard are available new.

    Going by the argument that we don’t purchase equipment in service with our neighbours, that leaves the Abrams open to us.

    Going by the argument that we haven’t bought major platforms from Germany and the USA recently- yes it seems to rule out both the Leopard and Abrams. But why?

    Why do you believe we will limit our choice to

    “Anything is possible when it comes to Malaysian defence procurement but do you really realistically see us buying Leopards or M-1s? As for pre-owned Leopards; as I mentioned, they’re are drying up. ”

    Based on our record, I don’t. But I have no idea as to the reasons we often choose developmental or “exotic” platforms.

    Going by the argument that we don’t buy second hand equipment, both Abrams and Leopard are available new.

    Going by the argument that we don’t purchase equipment in service with our neighbours, that leaves the Abrams open to us.

    Going by the argument that we haven’t bought major platforms from Germany and the USA recently- yes it seems to rule out both the Leopard and Abrams. But why?

    Why do you believe we will limit our choice to Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese (which none of us want) and Turkish options?

    Even so, there are the Challenger 2, K-2 and Leclerc. What do you think of our chances with these?

  11. AM – ”Going by the argument that we don’t buy second hand equipment, both Abrams and Leopard are available new.”

    I’m not sure if the M-1 production run is still open but if if were; I doubt we\’d be willing to pay the price M-1s go for. If we get surplus ones, fine and good but the Yanks will not allow us to have DU. So like the Australians we’d have to settle for M-1s with composite armour. Fine but how does this compare with other, newer, designs?

    AM – ”Even so, there are the Challenger 2, K-2 and Leclerc. What do you think of our chances with these?”

    Is the Challenger production run still open? I’m not sure. Lerclec is pricey : good reason why only the UAE has bought it, apart from France. Also, are we basing our assumptions that new M-1,Lerclec and Leopard will be offer capabilities not available in Altay? If fitted with the right sensors, the right ammo and the right sub-systems I fail to see how Altay will be in any way inferior to the likes of an M-1, Leopard. Lerclec or Challenger. I have no issues with the K-2 but it’s obvious that at the moment; Turkey is more important than South Korea, as far as we’re concerned, as has more influence. On a separate issue, I’m not sure how interested we were in the K-1 back in the late 1990’s but U.S. export approval for the FCS put a damper on things.

    AM – ”Why do you believe we will limit our choice to Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese (which none of us want) and Turkish options?” The price tag of new Western designs makes them prohibitive for us. If we go for pre-used; we’d also have to factor in that the tanks [whether M-1s or anything] will be older [I’m guessing we\’re years away from actually committing] and we\’d have to spend on doing them up. Note that I’m not suggesting that Altay is the best cash can buy; merely that its a very promising design and one we should look into.

    AM – ”Based on our record, I don’t. But I have no idea as to the reasons we often choose developmental or exotic platforms”

    I’m not sure we can use the word ”often” in this context. As far as I\’m aware the only thing we bought that was still on the drawing board when we ordered it are the A400Ms. We were the first and only customer for the armed Terbuan variant but that proved a success. Sure, the decision to get Rahmat backfired big time as she spent most of her time in dry dock. The Altay; by the time its available for export, it will have been in operation with the Turks for a while and any modifications needed would have been added to export variants by then.

    It’s all based on national interests , unfortunately but to be fair, all major deals globally are based on politics but over here we’ve taken things to a new level. I would like to hear Dr.M’s answer if someone asks him what was the reason behind forcing the RMN to get the Laksamanas. We received bids from Daewoo and Patria but we went for the Adnan. A friend who was in DEFTECH assures me that the Turks offered the best deal but I don\’t fully believe him :] Same goes with the turrets; Oto Melara tried to get in but Helio had better local push : which would have been the better choice is open to debate. As expected Turkey being a Muslim country played a big part in the Adnan being selected, as did the potential for follow on non-military trade and offset deals between both countries.

  12. Azlan – “I’m not sure if the M-1 production run is still open but if if were; I doubt we\’d be willing to pay the price M-1s go for… Lerclec is pricey”

    The M-1 is still in production for the US Army. The components are being manufactured brand new but the hull is pulled from storage and given a deep reset. Leopard is in production, Challenger stopped a few years ago.

    The M-1 and Leclerc are pricey, the K-2 being the most pricey. But we have often overpaid for our equipment.

    I’m sure the Altay, once it matures, will be fine. And being a western design with western components, I’m glad it will limit the extent that we will want to customise it for ourselves.

    “As far as I\’m aware the only thing we bought that was still on the drawing board when we ordered it are the A400Ms.”

    Of course, we paid to develop the MKM. We also partially “westernised” the PT-91M although this was much lower risk. And by “exotic” I mean in service with single or few users.

    “I’m guessing we\’re years away from actually committing”

    I can’t say. When it came to the AH-6s and the M-109s, the requirements had been outstanding for years. But from first mention to approval, the deals went through in a matter of months.

  13. Azlan “Anything is possible when it comes to Malaysian defence procurement but do you really realistically see us buying Leopards or M-1s? ”

    “It’s all based on national interests , unfortunately but to be fair, all major deals globally are based on politics but over here we’ve taken things to a new level.”

    Maybe I should ask the question differently. Why are Malaysia’s national interests aligned towards French, Russian, Polish or Turkish suppliers?

    Why do our national interests not find the Germans or Americans suitable, or why do the Germans or Americans not find our national interests suitable? Are German or American laws particularly severe on the transactions of their citizens outside the country? Or because FMS puts the process under the control of US services?

  14. AM,

    The best person to ask would be Dr. M himself. Under him, all major deals were not based on logic, practicality or stuff like that but how it would benefit the country in terms of offsets and transfers of technology. Take the Laksamanas. The RMN recommended against buying them but were overruled. It has less to do with American laws than with our own policies. Had it not been for the 1997 Asian Economic Crisis, we might have placed an order for F-18Cs [we issued a RFI and the OEM responded] and had Boeing been able to offer us a better offset deal [i.e. getting NASA to send a Malaysian to space]; who knows, we might have ordered Super Hornets.

    The irony is that although we haven’t made any major purchases from the U.S. in recent years; it is with the U.S. that we have the closest defence relationship we have with any foreign country and it was the U.S. who was the largest FDI here. Under Najib it’s obvious that the Russians have lost any political pull they had under Dr. M [he ordered the Fulcrums because it was intended to the start of a new economic relationship with the Russian Federation]. If Najib gets to stabilise things on the home front and is able to focus more on defence; we might see some deals being awarded to the U.S. in the future.

  15. AM, Germany. I think its mainly because Germany might not have the needed stuff on sale to the same extent that other countries have. But if we look back Germany did secure some major orders – 2 frigates; construction and design of a naval base; the setting up of an assembly line for assault rifles, a large order for APCs, 6 FACs build to a German design, the construction of a mine de-gaussing centre, 2 multi role supply ships build to a German design [1 was constructed in Germany], large orders for chemicals and other stuff needed to produce ammo, etc.

    Reply
    Nowdays we will be lucky to get anything from Germany. Even the APMM order for a small batch of HK weapons are stuck as Germany refused to issue the export license. This is mainly due HK’s own legal troubles but also to some extent the human rights lobby.

  16. My personal opinion on the matter that we will not see too many purchases of weaponries from US due to FMS, which will not benefit local brokers/agents. If i am not mistaken, any contract purchase above RM50 million must have some local elements to it but not sure how that is being calculated.

    The MH170 compounded various issues faced with Russian arms, but I am not surprise that 2-3 years down Russia may be again among our top source for arms (next to France off course)due to the 1MDB investigations initiated in several western countries that may make it extremely difficult to get any export clearance and weak currency exchage that would make the Made in Russia deemed attractive (purchase price, not including life cycle cost)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*