Hogging The Headlines Again

Leonardo M346FA. Leonardo

SHAH ALAM: Hogging the headlines. A few years back we were informed that the RMAF was looking to purchase Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as part of its recapitalization programme at a conference overseas. Earlier this year we were informed that the LCA programme has been approved by the government though funding was expected only in RMK12 starting in 2021.

At the Berlin International Fighter Conference 2019 on Thursday, the RMAF representative – as a rule the speakers are not identified – gave a speech on the LCA programme. Jane’s journalist Gareth Jennings posted this on his Twitter account.

Gareth Jennings Twitter post.

His post stated that RMAF wanted 36 LCA plus 26 options. Apart from the numbers, what is interesting is that the presentation revealed that the Saab Gripen is being considered for the LCA programme. It replaced the Boeing T-X which was listed among the eight LCAs in the parliamentary reply which I reported here. Saab had said LIMA 19 that it had responded to the RFI for the LCA. Personally, I would just buy 62 Gripens – the 54 Es and 8 Fs for LIFT or FLIT – and be done with it.

Gripen E

Anyhow, I am told that the numbers of LCA to be funded by the government is indeed 36 – to be bought under three batches, 12 likely the LCA and six FLIT or LIFT in RMK12 with another 18 in RMK13. I believed the RMAF would prefer the same aircraft to be bought for the LCA and FLIT but with the decision to buy them in batches, things might change, of course.
Leonardo M346FA. Leonardo

As whether or not we are going to exercise the option to buy another 26 LCA, please check back in 2030, as I am told that is the current plan, buying 36 LCA in the next decade. And for those worried that we might end up buying a 4th generation MRCA, rest assured that I was told that the next multi-role fighter for RMAF will indeed be a fifth or sixth generation fighter. It is likely I will be retired or had passed on, by then, however.
Yakovlev Yak-130 Mitten performing a display at LIMA 2019. Zaq Sayuti.

The recapitalisation plan is of course guided by RMAF’s very own CAP 55.

-Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

72 Comments

  1. 36 is a good number but i’m worried about budget. can the govt give the good amount of money even in 2 batch of procurement??our govt track record of followed procurement was bad…

    imo the best among those is gripen even if we get C/D ver…and better if its an E/F. plus maybe can get couple with MPA program. but again,do govt willing to pay that much money??

  2. “Hogging The Headlines Again” is indeed an apt headline. The subject of fighter aircraft never fails to generate a lot of buzz over the smallest or most tentative of steps being taken.

  3. Firdaus,

    Maybe but what the RMAF wants and what the government approves of can differ. As always political considerations will play a determining factor.. We may end up with something not really ideal simply because the company is willing to accept a certain amount of palm oil or because of an offset package.

    On the Yak-130 unless things have changed; the RMAF – if given a choice – will for a variety of reasons not want anything Russian.

  4. Well this is quite a good news, as more details of the LCA/LIFT programme is being released.

    IMO 36 + 26 options is more than what I expected. That numbers could really equip 3 fighter squadrons plus 1 LIFT squadron.

    As for how to buy them, I would prefer the 36 to be bought in 1 batch, the options (if we have the extra money) to be bought in the 2nd batch. A batch of 36 LCA/LIFT like the FA/TA-50 Golden Eagle can be had for around USD1.2 billion, that amount is not something we cannot afford to fund in just 1 rancangan malaysia.

    Something we need to take into account for the LCA/LIFT is the requirement to shoulder some of the capability of the MiG-29N. The LCA/LIFT should be capable to undertake peacetime QRA missions.

    Another thing that we need to take into account is how our neighborhood would look like in 2030. Indonesia to replace their hawks with F-16V by 2025. Philippines would have their own Multi-Role Fighter by then too. More AWACs, MPAs, EW, ISR aircraft will be bought by our neighbours too. Our airforce could be the least capable among the asean countries by 2030 if we indeed need the whole decade just to buy 36 LCA/LIFT.

    I believe what i wrote here before can still be implemented, and will create an airforce with a more wholesome capabilities, with fighters, AEW, MPA, electronic warfare aircrafts.
    http://www.malaysiandefence.com/another-view-on-tudm-cap-55/

  5. If the lca is not gripen n only 18 airframe going 2 b funded in rmk 12 is there a chance for something else AWACS for example Mr marhalim?

    Reply
    No AWACs until we get MRCA, as reported before apart from LCA it will be the UAV, likely one system, and four MPAs

  6. $ $ $… We dun have enemy this is the major factor. For much capability option will be Gripen, JF-17 else choose between Yak-130 or m-346.

  7. It is better for RMAF to choose FA-50 for LCA/LIFT. Indonesia, Thai, Philippine, are already users. The FA-50 spesifications are more than enough for RMAF.

    IMO, RMAF need to buy 18 units of T-50 (for lift) and 36 units of FA-50 to replace hawks to save the budget. No need buying all the golden eagle in FA configuration.

    Also no need buying jet that has MRCA configuration such as gripen. Gripen was designed as 4+ generation. Even further development will not put these jet as 5 gen fighter. It is the shape that hinder it become 5 gen fighter.

    After all T/FA 50 are delivered, then it is the time to procure 5 gen MRCA such as F-35 or at least KFX. Since T/FA 50 is korea/US made then buying F-35/KFX for MRCA is logically accepted.

  8. 36 LCA and 6 more MKM as part of mig trade in is a good news. Hoping the AF could expand labuan AB so it could permanently house at least one squadron of LCA and MKM/F/A-18 in rotation

    Reply
    There is no space to do anything at Labuan unless they take over the Army camp next to the airbase and even that is a small one

  9. If the purchase is for Gripen and some trainer, then I think it will be considered to fulfill the MRCA

    Which in my opinion is more realistic, for our country’s economy and budget

    BTW why do we have 18-ship squadrons? Is it 4 flights of 4 and 2 spare, or 3 flights of 4 and 6 spare?

    Reply
    On the Gripens, its just my personal opinion. I was told the air force has own its favourite for the LCA/LIFT but at the end of the day it will be the government which decides so it might not be the same ones

  10. The gripen E/F cost as much as a super hornet. Gripen E/F is not quite a LCA and definately not a LIFT platform.

    BTW KAI is desperate to get new customers for the FA-50 since it lost T-X contract. As we are buying quite a number of the LCA/LIFT, probably we could ask for some significant consessions from them.

    IMO getting awacs after MRCAs is a bad planning. MRCAs are like at least 10 years away. I think the priority for TUDM should be like this:
    1. additional hornets (RMK12)
    2. MPA/ISR (RMK12)
    3. LCA/FLIT (RMK12)
    4. AEW&C/EW (RMK13)
    5. 5th gen MRCA (RMK14)

    BTW any news on the MPA? This should also be done in RMK12 right?

    Reply
    Of course MPA is in RMK12…

  11. For stop gap I hope we can get Omani Hawk 203…if the offer still on.

    Reply
    If they get the funds for LCA by 2025 the Hawks will be slowly retired…no need for further Hawks

  12. For stop gap I hope we can get Omani Hawk 203…if the offer still on.

    Reply
    The offer was made as part of the upgrade package of the Hawks, to boost the number of airframes. As the Hawk upgrade is dead in the water, the Omani Hawk deal is also a dead end.

  13. If the mpa n uav is going 2be funded using d Air Force budget does this mean d navy is going 2 get more money in rmk 12.

    Reply
    Not really, the navy still got the LCS and MRSS on their plans

  14. Thank you for the info.

    Agreed with admin. Just go with gripen e for lca and gripen f for lift. Maybe just buy 56 gripen e as we can have 4x squadrons of 14x gripen e each.

  15. Chua,

    If Saab gets the contract it will be ironic. Its been pushing the Gripen as far back as 10 years ago and despite the later arrival of Rafale and Typhoon on the scene Saab was always optimistic of its chances.

    Back then I always felt that Thailand’s selection of the Gripen had killed its chances of flying in RMAF colours. Similarly I feel that Thailand and the Philippines already being F/A-50 operators will play a part – not to KAI’s favour. I could be wrong however and maybe our long policy of not operating a combat ryir operates by our neighbours (if it can be avoided) has or will change.

    Some will point out that buying F/A-50 makes sense given it’s already operated regionally but such considerations do not factor much in overall planning; especially given that regional countries still harbour sone level of mistrust (despite the talk about cooperation) towards each other, have very different defence policies and there is no defence pact to bind them together.

    On the 18 plane squadron it’s probably just for operational and administrative reasons. Not because some aircraft in the squadron are designated as reserves/spares. Whether squadrons are divided into “flights” or “sections” is an interesting question.

  16. Capability wise, Gripen, with Gripen E/F we could afford to delay our MRCA project to 2035 where the 5th gen already mature, well, could even purchase 6th gen fighter to replace MKM and F18. Nevertheless my bet is between FA-50 (RMAF choice) and YAK (political choice).

  17. Putting into perpective:
    1. L-15 per unit cost USD 15mil
    2. YAK-130 per unit cost USD 15mil
    3. M-346 per unit cost USD 20mil
    4. JF-17 per unit cost USD 25mil
    5. Tejas per unit cost USD 28mil
    6. FA-50 per unit cost USD 30mil
    7. Gripen C per unit cost USD 85mil
    8. Gripen E per unit cost USD 120mil

    FYI F-35 per unit cost USD 100mil

    Anyone still thinking we could get the same amount of Gripens for the same amount money as the others?

  18. …, – “MO getting awacs after MRCAs is a bad planning”

    It’s not a question of “bad planning” but funding and a decision to address other areas first – the price tag has been a major put off for the pen pushers/bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance.

    Ideally a AEW should have been bought during the the same period we got the MKMs to enable us to maximise the potential offered by the Flankers and Hornets and to enable the RMAF’s transition from a platform centric air arm to a systems one. Of course one can also say we should have got an AEW during the period we got the Hornets and Fulcrums.

    Water under the bridge but had the RMAF got its way AEWs would have been ordered as far back as the 1980’s when the RMAF first publicly announced the requirement

    Nihd – “Maybe just buy 56 gripen e as we can have 4x squadrons of 14x gripen e each”

    Before we get carried away lets see whether the first 12 are indeed ordered within the specified time period and after that; whether we stay the course by going for a follow 12 …. Nice to have paper plans but implementing those plans can be profoundly different especially given the political scene, state of finances and geo-politics in the coming years.

  19. @Azlan
    Re: regional aircraft
    That is indeed a very cogent operational point – look at the British experiences in the Falklands – but frankly I would say to TUDM and Mindef, beggars can’t be choosers.

    Re: organisation
    There has to be some form of planning basis, even purely nominal. It would seriously shock me if they expect not to fly in wing pairs at the very, very least.

    @…
    Almost any new-production Western combat aircraft is going to cost us, functionally, at least $100 million per.

    Yes there is the European premium for the Gripen, but if one is not buying American and thus not benefiting from the American economies of scale, well there you go.

  20. Gripen E/F does not cost anything near the rest of LCA/LIFT contender. One Gripen E/F cost can buy 2 Su-30MKM! How could you justify to the government your lightweight fighter and training jet (LIFT, for those who doesnt know that stands for Lead-In Fighter Trainer) is twice the cost of your most capable fighter in your fleet?

  21. @…
    “How could you justify”

    Well, Gripen is more a medium fighter than a light fighter or LIFT. So this would be assuming, as I said earlier, that the Gripen replaces MRCA and another aircraft is obtained for LIFT.

    Yes, it is more expensive than the alternative of buying Russian or Chinese. I was discussing it in terms of Western options. One needs to differentiate the sources since there are significant operational and political considerations both.

  22. On FA-50 used regionally.
    Out of the current 3 golden eagle users in asean, only 1 actually using it as a LCA. Other 2 is using them as LIFT. Indonesia will be replacing its hawk 200 with F-16V in the 2020-2024 timeframe.

    @ Chua

    On western fighter prices.
    Gripen C/D costs aroubd USD 60 million mark. But lets not forget the main objective of the LCA/LIFT. A common platform/type for both a light fighter and a lead-in fighter trainer.

  23. @Azlan

    Haha just stating my wish. What you said is true. All we can do is onlt wait and see on the sidelines while praying for the best.

    @joe

    The thing with all the publised cost of fighter aircraft programs is that some are based on just flyaway cost while some included with support cost. Some countries only opt for 10 years some straight for 30 years. Not including the armaments, modifications and tot cost. So i dont think us civilians will know the true amount of money spent on what, just estimates.

    In my opinion, even with future mrca programs, we have to forego with using 2 engines aircraft. If we really want to have a credible air force, we only need 2x kinds of single engine multirole fighter.

    Lets say by 2025 we will buy 2 squadrons of gripen e as 4.5 gen aircraft as replacement of hawk and mig. Then in 2035 or 2040 we have to buy another 2 squadrons of 5th or 6th gen aircraft as replacement for sukhoi and f18.

    And for the lift. Maybe we can buy the boeing/saab tx as it will be used by the usaf. Maintenance and logistic will be easy as the usaf will buy a huge number. I guess.

    Just my sekupang. Lets hope for the best for our military.

  24. thar RMAF fella doesn’t exactly said about gripen E/F in his/her slideshow tho. For all we know it might be a zero-timed A/B variant from swedish air force stocks upgraded to C/D variant

  25. 62 planes could really equip 3 fighter squadrons plus 1 LIFT squadron. It needs expansion of ground support crew&infrastructure. Assuming a plane USD100mil, for 62 it is USD6200mil,throw in peculiar-to-MY kits,munition,after sales support,transfer of tech, etc maybe USD500mil,add new ground infrastructure&manpower maybe USD500mil, total USD7200mil, spread over maybe 5years(?) USD1440mil/year…MYR6048mil/year. My calculation have exceed the yearly MY defence budget.

  26. @ chua

    Gripen to be our MRCA? Seriously? If we buy gripen for our MRCA, say we get them by 2025, we would be without any 5th gen fighters up till probably 2045 when it is time to replace the Su-30MKM. Also are you comfortable flying gripens up to 2055 (by then the gripens would just be 30 years old) as your main fighter fleet?

    Then there is the cost. From 2014 cancelled swiss buy, 22 Gripen E/F would cost USD3.5 billion.
    http://www.intelligent-aerospace.com/military/article/16541610/switzerland-halts-saab-gripen-e-aircraft-procurement-35-billion-in-2013-orders

    Brazils buy of 36 gripen E and 8 Gripen F costs USD 4.16 billion.
    http://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2019/05/24/gripen-e-testing-ahead-of-schedule-vendor-claims/

    Is it prudent to spend that amount of money for a 4.5gen fighter in the 2020s? Would it be better if we get other capabilities like AWACs and EW instead?

    Let me picture the regional scenarios for you. The philippines are going for F-16V for their MRCA. Singapore by 2030 is going to field F-35s. Indonesia is replacing its hawks with F-16V by 2025, and would be fielding KFX/IFX by around 2030. Thailand will retain its big fleet of F-5 to around 2030, this will surely be replaced by 5th gen fighters by then. Not to mention china, by then would have numerous aircraft carriers with 5th gen fighters on board.

    Anyway.

    I would love to see your plan up till 2055 with the gripens as our MRCA.

  27. I wonder what is d rmaf favorite lca n what is d mpa that going 2 b selected. If it’s 4 air frame than there no way it’s going 2 be d Poseidon. R d navy still going 2 get 8 lms 1 kedah n 1 mrss like d original plan in rmk12 Mr marhalim?

    Reply
    MRSS is given the rest is up in the air

  28. @ alex
    That is correct. The actual picture in the slide is actually a south african airforce Gripen D. BTW almost all A/B airframes has been canibalized to build C/D aircrafts. In the near future there will be quite a number of surplus C/D variants as Sweeden will be replacing them with E/F variants.

    @ nimitz
    Your calculations is correct. IMO for LCA/LIFT the affordable price range for us is around USD20-35 million per aircraft. Our development budget per year is less than USD 1 billion. Next year development budget is just RM 3.1 billion, or just around USD 740 million.
    http://www.malaysiandefence.com/2020-budget-defence-and-internal-security-sub-sectors/

    Sharing among 3 other services, the 5 year rancangan malaysia allocation for the air force is not much to start with. That is one of the main thing to take into account when planning our future defence acquisition.

  29. Could anybody please explain what does RMK12 and RMK13 stand for?

    Reply
    Rancangan Malaysia Ke 12 and 13

  30. @ thousandfaces

    To further explain on what marhalim has said. Rancangan malaysia is the malaysian government 5 year budgetary plan. Although the budget is rolled out to the parliment annually, the planning is actually done in 5 year blocks.

    Rancangan Malaysia ke 12 (RMK12) will be run from 2021 to 2025

    Rancangan Malaysia ke 13 (RMK13) will be run from 2026 to 2030

    For the defence sector, the development budget, which is the money allocated to buy new things, usually hovers around USD4 billion for the 5 year Rancangan Malaysia period. That is the amount for the whole of armed forces – army, navy and the air force.

    Unless the budget would be substantially increased (unlikely with the current government financial strain), for RMK12 and RMK13, we should plan to what budget that was given to the armed forces in the current and past rancangan malaysia.

    As we are a maritime nation, predictably the main priority for future budgets would be for the navy. What little that is left would be divided between the army and the air force. Why IMO mentioning about Gripen E/F for LCA/LIFT requirement is not basing on the real world reality.

  31. Plenty of lessons that can be taken from the article below:

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1794344/

    In the context of malaysia.
    Thailand was able to introduce the capabilities of the Gripen C/D into their old F-5E/F. Capabilities of say gripen E/F could also be introduced to our current fighter type, say the F/A-18 hornet. AESA radar, datalink etc can be retrofitted to the hornet. Upgraded hornets could be used up to around 2030+. Beyond that date even compared to say a 5 year old Gripen E/F, they cannot be upgraded to compensate the lack of low RCS (stealth) features of both the hornet and the gripen E/F. By 2035, we would be ideally replacing of our hornets with 5th gen fighters.

  32. @Nihd
    Yes, its never an apple-to-apple direct comparison but estimates are typically not too far off. There is no way any variant of Gripen could come down close enough to compete with the other contenders and getting E/F variant just doesn’t make sense as 5th gen F-35 cost about the same.

    @…
    The TUDM should be careful in pushing the Gripens (if that’s their choice), as the price is certainly way up for LCA/LIFT plane, and if the bean counters have the wrong idea that it could be an MRCA, then TUDM’s aspiration in getting a proper MRCA will go up in smoke. (I would classify Gripen as medium-weight 4.5 gen MRCA, but what needed is something that will compete with 5th/6th gen planes).

  33. Perhaps Leonardo can supply both the M 346 and ATR 72 MPA at the same time? I Ike the master because it’s an affordable twin engine and already gas AAR probe.

  34. @nimitz
    Interesting point. But what does that mean? Replacing Hawks with Gripen C/Ds (light fighter) and e.g. T-50/M-346 (trainer)?! 1 platform > 2 platforms?!

    @…
    Well, it is an option worth considering.

    Basically, there are four key decisions:
    – which nation to buy from (USA, NATO, Russian, or Chinese)
    – single or twin engine
    – 4th gen or 5th gen
    – trainer-based or purpose-built combat aircraft

    Based on the above four decisions, the Gripen option would be the best option if you decide you
    – don’t want US, Russian or Chinese
    – can’t afford Eurofighter or Rafale
    – don’t want a trainer-based aircraft

    A note on the last point: TUDM have an option here to go for two kinds of force structure; firstly, they can operate dedicated trainers, a light combat aircraft, and a frontline combat aircraft; secondly, they can operate a trainer and trainer-based light combat aircraft, and a frontline combat aircraft.

    So far we’ve discussed a lot about the second option, which is how TUDM have been operating with the Hawk fleet. TUDM picks this option because they believe that means they can save money on the LCA, and they can operate in addition a heavy twin-engine frontline combat aircraft. The same that the other regional air forces do.

    But it doesn’t have to be. In fact IMO it’s not realistic given our size and budget. We could just operate one dedicated trainer fleet and one single-engine multirole combat aircraft fleet. There would also be cost and efficiency savings from down-sizing the training stream, maintenance, support infrastructure, etc.

    BTW, operating any 5th gen aircraft will necessitate significant background investment in our infrastructure as well. We have never operated any kind of stealth aircraft before, and our airbases are notoriously… low-tech.

    @joe
    >”5th gen F-35 cost about the same”

    LOTS of things will cost less or better capability for “about the same”, if we just make up our ******** minds to be client states of US or Russia, pick whichever.

    However there’s a price to pay for nominal “independence”.

    >”compete with 5th/6th gen planes”

    To be blunt: jangan mimpi.

    Friend … is pushing for 5th gen. Which in practice means either F-35 or J-31. (I don’t really have that much hopes for KFX.) But again, that means picking and sticking with a client. How realistic that is… well…

  35. @ tom tom

    Read the comment of the attached Gareth Jennings Twitter post. “…as they look to replace Hawks, Aermacchis and MiGs.”

    There is a big clue in there somewhere on why M346FA would be under-specced for the LCA role.

    As for MPA, there should be no issue if leonardo to supply its MPA systems but fitted into our CN-235. They have fitted their MPA hardware and software in plenty of other different aircraft before.

  36. Nihd – “the publised cost of fighter aircraft programs is that some are based on just flyaway cost”

    Exactly, paper prices are just that; paper prices. Factors such as training, spares, integration, part or full local assembly, ToTs, inflation, etc, can and do drive prices up.

  37. @ chua

    ” But it doesn’t have to be. In fact IMO it’s not realistic given our size and budget. We could just operate one dedicated trainer fleet and one single-engine multirole combat aircraft fleet. There would also be cost and efficiency savings from down-sizing the training stream, maintenance, support infrastructure, etc ”

    So basically you want TUDM to fly just a pure jet trainer (with little combat value) and a 4.5gen fighter that costs as much as F-35 from around 2022 up till 2055? Does that sound like a prudent decision to you? By 2030 almost all nations of asean will be fielding 5th gen fighters.

    Anyway i dont think that would happen. The LCA/LIFT is clearly a different program than the MRCA, and its requirement is clearly a single platform for light fighter and trainer, not purely a jet trainer. Also to be very clear there is no mention or display at all about Gripen E/F by TUDM at the said conference (the slide picture is of a SAAF Gripen D). It would be better for our LIFT aircraft is the same platform as the LCA to do QRA and CAP, so basically all of our jet fighters are supersonic combat capable. A small airforce like us cannot afford to have jets that can only do training with no combat functions.

    And why are you discounting KF-X for MRCA? As they are build by the koreans, you know that failure or even delay is not an option. Just because part of its R&D is paid by the indonesians does not mean that we cannot buy them.

    ” our airbases are notoriously… low-tech ”
    You probably has never seen the inside of Gong Kedak or Subang.

    Still I would love to see your plan up till 2055 with the gripens as our MRCA. Also imagine how lovely it would be to fly Gripen E in say 2035 while the neighbours would be flying 5th gen fighters. There is no use of advanced AESA or long range missiles if you cannot detect a stealth fighter.

  38. @Chua
    “to be client states of US or Russia”
    That really depends which wind was blowing from US back then. Now with the change in government as they had pushed, the favourable winds are blowing back in. Now if only their favourite PM-wannabe is finally taking over, then…. we might just get F-35s at the cheapest price for a friendly-client state.

    “To be blunt: jangan mimpi.”
    If MRCA were to be realised in 2035-2045, this is achievable as many more 5th gen plane designs materialises. Notwithstanding US, Russian, & Chinese, not just KFX but Japan ATD-X, Turk TF-X, and the EU might be coming out their own to replace early tranches of Typhoons, and there is Dassault in the mix. Realistically, 5th gen is no longer a big secret so bonafide plane makers would certainly get into the 5th gen game.

  39. I agree with Joe. The Gripen E is far too expensive it seems and it’s closer to an MRCA than LCA. Let’s be practical, it’s better to go for something that’s a sure thing than to mimpi mimpi. It’s good if we can afford Gripen, but in the Master can do training, strike and air policing at a much lower price, why not, I am sure they can discount ATR 72 if we get M346. As for ATR 72, I personally like the ‘hotel mode’ from crew comfort.

  40. Additional information from Gareth Jennings :

    Speaking under the Chatham House Rule on 14 November, an official said that the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF’s) plan to procure up to 36 LCAs with options for 26 more had been cleared at service level, and that governmental approval is now expected in the first quarter of 2020.

    A briefing slide presented by the official showed eight candidate airframes to replace the RMAF’s fleet of BAE Systems Hawk, MiG-29, and Aermacchi MB339 platforms, and to augment the current Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Sukhoi Su-30 before those are eventually replaced by a different type also.

    In terms of the LCA requirement, the official noted that the selected platform must be able to conduct air-to-air and air-to-ground missions effectively, with a future maritime strike capability; that it must be able to conduct counterinsurgency operations; that it be “economically viable”; and that enough be bought to be able to conduct operations in two theatres simultaneously, and at very short notice

    @ melayu ketinggalan
    I stand corrected.
    You are correct, Brazil bought 36 Gripen E/F, divided into 28 Gripen E and 8 Gripen F for USD4.16 billion.

  41. @…
    “In terms of the LCA requirement.. air-to-air and air-to-ground effectively.. maritime strike capability.. counterinsurgency operations.. economically viable”
    Wow. Talk about a one leg kick all silver bullet. Even the US that is pushing the F-35 platform to do all that still failed at the last requirement: economically viable. And it has to come in 3 different configs!

  42. I think Gareth Jennings is confused. The MRCA is a a long delayed plan but LIFT/trainer is a recent plan. Both are seperated. There is no jet exist today can perform as LIFT and MRCA. Both jets are designed with differ requirements.

    The MRCA program is too long delayed, what ever decision has been taken back then is not relevant today as the world also change. RMAF is a small AF with can only afford to keep 3 sq of combat jets which consist of LCA, MRCA and Heavy fighter. Maybe 1 sq of LCA and 2 sq of heavy fighters.

    In 15 years, 5th gen fighters will fill many AF in the region. What will be bought today will affect for 30 years. All 4/4.5 jets will fill as 2nd line of fighters in 15 years.

    Unless malaysia can provide big defence budget such as SG/indonesia who has many sq of fighters on their plan and has a need of MMRCA then buying any MRCA jets exist today is waste of money

  43. @ romeo

    Gareth Jennings is not confused. That is the TUDM requirement for its LCA. So while the platform has to be a LIFT, it must also do all the listed requirement to be a LCA too. Think it is too high a requirement? There is already in the shortlist a type that can do all that (both as LIFT and LCA) and has been doing so operationally in many air force fleets.

  44. If the LCA is replace hawk mb339 a then we choose among yak130,mb346 or the Korean F50 but if Mig29 is part of replacement. We shall look for Gripen or Tejas. We might not go for Gripen E or F but go for C or D is enough for us.

  45. In summary.

    The LCA/LIFT needs to be all of the points below:
    – not a MRCA
    – 1 type/family
    – replacement for Hawk, mb339 and MiG-29N tasks
    – be a lead-in fighter trainer
    – be a light fighter
    – capable to conduct air-to-air and air-to-ground missions effectively
    – must be economically viable.

    On the contenders
    – FA-50 pros: designed as LIFT and already used as a supersonic LCA, common engine with hornet. cons: many asian countries use it?

    – Tejas pros: looks like a capable LCA, common engine with hornet. cons: not designed as LIFT, doubtful design qualities.

    – M346 pros: proven LIFT, LCA in design stage. cons: not supersonic, so cannot replace QRA tasks that was done by MiG-29.

    – L-39NG pros: low cost. cons: it is a basic jet trainer with performamce a bit better than the PC-21 advanced turboprop trainer, not able to be a good LCA.

    – L-15A/B pros: designed as LIFT, supersonic capable. cons: not a tested design.

    – JF-17 pros: very capable LCA, BVR capable, anti-ship missile integrated and tested, future upgrades with AESA radar etc, large numbers built, low cost, same engine as MiG-29. cons: not a LIFT (even pakistan is looking at other platforms for its LIFT requirements)

    – Gripen C/D pros: very2 capable LCA, BVR capability, same engine as hornet. cons: not a LIFT, the most expensive of the contenders.

    – Yak-130 its basically the original M346. Italy renegaded its JV promise to russia and built its own version of Yak-130 as the M346. So mainly same pros and cons with M346

  46. Michael

    FA-50 could launch standoff munutions and even cruise missile (assuming that taurus missile integration goes smoothly) and sniper pod integration is also underway with full certification slated for next year. Even as it is it could carry AGM-65 which gave it some degree of anti ship capability (of which our Migs has none). Imagine what it could do with few more years of technological maturity.

    Granted the migs is better at dogfighting but FA-50 could perform much wider mission selection and could alleviate the pressure on our Hornet as our go to maritime strike aircraft

  47. Romeo – “LIFT/trainer is a recent plan”

    It’s not; like the MPA requirement the LIFT requirement was originally intended to be fulfilled following the MKM buy. As part of its original plans MPAs were intended as far back as the late 1990’s (due to inadequacies with the Beechcrafts) and later plans (for the first decade of the 2000’s) called for MRCAs (MKMs), basic trainers (PC-7s), helis (Cougars), LIFTs and MPAs. All these requirements were approved of – in principle – by the government.

    Backtracking, reluctance to commit the needed funds and changing priorities on the part of the government resulted in MBB-339CMs ordered (not a dedicated LIFT – at that period Hawks were still the favourite) and the requirement for MPAs unfulfilled; leading to the situation we have today.

  48. Based on the requirements preset by the air force, seems like the FA-50 fits the bill the most. No matter it is being used by many other airforces around the region, we cant let our preference to be unique from the others to deny ourselves the best option available, that is economically viable and capable to perform all of our requirement of LIFT and LCA, with supersonic advantage.
    Uniqeness can be attained when we set ourselves apart in the sensors and equipment of the aircraft, just like what we do with the sukhois.

  49. Lalok- “like what we do with the suhkois”

    That would be a very silly thing to do and something unlikely to happen as it would drive overall prices up given the needed integration and certification.

    Also unlike buying Russian buying the F/A-50 requires no major integration work to suit our requirements. We need functionality and cost effectiveness; not “uniqueness …

  50. @…
    I strongly doubt Malaysia is going to field a 5th-gen aircraft in the next 15 years.

    Good summary of the various pros and cons, however you have left out the attendant politics which is a very important deciding factor.

    IMO, the more important issue with the FA-50 is that it currently doesn’t have a non-Israeli radar.

  51. @ chua

    It does have a non-israeli radar option, the APG-67. Anyway for the FA-50, the Elta EL/M-2032 is manufactured locally by LIG Nex1. The Tejas BTW also uses the the same EL/M-2032 radar. There was also previous studies to fit AESA radar to the FA-50 from raytheon and leonardo.

    We already use a few israeli origin systems in our hornet, such as the JHMCS (rockwellcollins-elbit systems) and ADM-141 TALD

  52. @Chua
    By the next 15-20 years, any new top-of-the-line fighter plane coming out is going to be 5th/6th gen. Move on with the times. If the Government by then decides to get a high end plane for MRCA, its going to be at least 5th gen. Choosing 4.5 gen then would make even less sense than buying it now. Politics will only be determinant which platform we would go for (US, EU, Russian, others ie Japan, Turk, Korean).

  53. APG-67… well…

    But you’re right, it’s probable that TUDM will turn a blind eye to the “Lig1 radar”

    @Joe
    Yes and I question if we can afford a top of the line fighter then.

  54. @ chua

    ” Yes and I question if we can afford a top of the line fighter then ”

    If you think that it is affordable to buy the gripen e/f in 2021, then we can afford to buy something like the KF-X or FC-31 (which is so far the most likely affordable 5th gen fighter available) come 2031. FC-31 is officially said to cost around USD70 million each, probably KF-X will be at that price range too, as it is designed as a fighter to slot beneath the F-35 in capability. F-35 is around USD120 for the land version. TF-X is designed to be more closer to F-22/F-15 in size and capability, so i would think it would cost more than F-35. Su-57 would be something around Su-35 in cost, so something around USD90-100 million each. Nothing solid from the europeans yet, so wait and see.

    Anyway some countries like brazil, with only F-5E operational, has to buy a MRCA now. We still have 20 year old hornets and 10 year old MKMs, we have the luxury to wait it out for another 12 years time.

  55. Brazil operated Mirage 2000 previously and it can perform land and maritime strike just as well. It was retired prematurely (and sold to to some private company) due to its prohibitively expensive maintenance costs, something that even Taiwan complained about their 2000-5s.

    The fact that they retire their mirages and opt to upgrade their F-5 speaks volume about how versatile (and robust) the F-5 is.

  56. Must we purchase outright? With the limited budget, can we just lease instead? I am hoping for the Gripen C/D too and lots of countries are already leasing them, so it is a proven and tested route for the particular aircraft. Recall that Saab is producing 14 extra C/Ds white tails that are still unspoken for. If we play our cards right and perhaps by bundling it with our MPA requirements, we can get the best LCA solution without breaking the bank. Of course, this is assuming that no middleman comes into the picture to mess it all up.

    Reply
    Leasing is not something the ministry and the air force think as possible for military stuff. That was the main reason the original offer from Saab was rejected outright during the early days of MRCA. They later offered 18 Gripens with four Saab 340 Erieye AWACs, also not accepted in the end.

  57. @…
    F-35A flyaway cost is about 90m now. However the operating cost is quite high.

    TFX and KFX are both pie in the sky, I will believe in their existence when it actually flies. And it’s anyone’s guess what their real RCS will be, probably closer to 4.5 gen than true 5 gen. They would also likely be expensive considering the low production numbers

    As I said, most any capable fighter will be around 100m at least. If not in flyaway cost, then the FMS cost to us.

    And once more, there is the politics. Consider the possible uses of such key peer warfare assets.

  58. My opinions to get the 12nos. TA-50 as LIFT training and 24 F/A-50 (Maybe Block 2) for the LCA as I see the model suit most RMAF requirement.

  59. @ chua

    The program timeline for KF-X

    2016 – Program launch with KAI
    2018 – Preliminary design completed
    2018 – 1st airframe bulkhead machined
    2019 – Critical design completed
    2019 – 1st mockup shown to public
    2021 – 1st prototype launch
    2022 – 1st flight
    2022-26 – test flight with 6 prototypes
    2026-32 1st production batch of 120 aircraft for ROKAF.

    So far what we know about KF-X
    – uses 2x F414 engine (same engine on the super hornet and related to hornet and FA-50 F404 engine)
    – AESA radar with 110km range (MKM Bars radar 400km range)
    – IRST
    – max takeoff weight of 25.6 tonnes and 7.7 tonnes payload (Su-30MKM max takeoff weight is 38.8 tonnes)
    – combat range of 2,900km (Su-30MKM combat range is 3,000km with full load)

    For TF-X. No idea of the current timeline, but as the design is for an aircraft the size of F-22/F-15/Su-30MKM i dont think it would be affordable.

  60. Our PM, Dr. M is currently in KAI factory in Sacheon as one of his itenary for ASEAN – south korea summit. There is a T-50TH bound for thailand in the background during his factory tour. Hopefully he will be briefed on the FA-50 and the KF-X.

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