Hawks, F-5s, MRCA and More

SHAH ALAM: At least four Hawk Mk 208s have now been deployed to the Labuan Air Base as part of the measures to boost the security of Sabah and Sarawak.

RMAF chief Jen Datuk Seri Roslan Saad said they hoped to have at least eight Hawks at the airbase within a year. The deployment of the Hawks to Labuan marked the revival of the 9th Sqdn which had been stationed at the airbase in the late 90s to mid-2000s.

He said the aircraft deployed to Labuan were from the 15th and 6th squadrons – Butterworth and Kuantan, respectively. However, only the 208s will be deployed as the remaining 108s will continue to serve as trainers together with the MB339CMs. Asked whether RMAF is looking for new jet trainers, Roslan replied in the negative.

As for the retirement of the F-5Es as announced in Parliament recently, Roslan seemed to imply that the announcement was premature. He said they would refer to the Cabinet papers before making further announcement on the issue.

Roslan was speaking to the media after witnessing the handing over ceremony for the Air Operations and Air Support commanders Lt Jen Datuk Che Akmar Mohd Nor handed over the position of Air Support commander to Lt Jen Datuk Sabri Adam. Che Akmar assumed the post of deputy RMAF chief on Oct 30.

Lt Jen Datuk Seri Affendi Buang took over as the Air Operations commander from Lt Jen Datuk Seri Ackbal Abdul Samad, who assumed Affendi’s former post, as the Joint Force commander.

On the MRCA programme, Roslan said it will be the government who will decide which off the four short-listed fighter jets (Super Hornets, Rafale, Typhoon and Gripen) will be chosen. He said the programme – a long term priority of the service- is expected to be included in the 11th Malaysian Plan (RMK 11) wish-list which is expected to be finalised by the first quarter of next year.

Asked whether the AEW will be a priority in the wish-list, Roslan admitted that it was priority in the RMK 10 but he cannot confirmed whether it will be listed as such in the next plan.

On the Hercules and Nuri upgrades, Roslan said the Hercules upgrade is expected to start soon while the Nuri project is expected to start after the contract was finalised. The first prototype of the Nuri upgrade has been completed, according to Roslan.

For both projects, RMAF had selected the avionics and other equipment with Airod Sdn Bhd as the main integrator.

On the future of Butterworth air base, Roslan said the air force had not been informed of the final decision on the redevelopment of the land.

“I like to clarify that the air force was asked to conduct a feasibility study to move to another location. We will of course abide by whatever decision of the government,” he said adding that if the redevelopment was carried, the units at the airbase will only be relocated once the new facilities were completed similar to what was agreed upon for the Sungai Besi Airbase.

Meawhile, Roslan said the air force expects to receive the first of four A400M airlifter in the first quarter of next year while 5 PC-7 Mk II turbo-prop trainers are expected be delivered in early 2016.

— Malaysian Defence

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