Hornets Always Flying….

RMAF Hornet M45-02 armed with SUU-5003 4 rocket and bomb dispenser and inert Sidewinder. Pix from RMAF Engineering webpage.

strong>KUALA LUMPUR: Hornets Always Flying. Despite the initial higher procurement cost, RMAF Hornet fleet continues to serve with distinction and are expected to be around for another decade or so.
US Navy C/D versions have a 20-year service life (based on 100 carrier landings annually).

img src=”https://www.malaysiandefence.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/img_0699.thumbnail.JPG” alt=”RMAF F/A-18D Hornet” title=”RMAF F/A-18D Hornet” width=”128″ height=”96″ class=”aligncenter size-thumbnail wp-image-411″ />

The air force chief was quoted by the local Press in June that RMAF Hornets are scheduled to fly to the US next year (I cannot exactly recalled what exercise, most probably Red Flag).

I believed this is also part of the continuing support package that was signed when the Hornets were purchased back in 1993. The link below has the details especially the Feb 13/09 and Dec 19/08 entries.

From DID

It was for this reason MeesterT had stated before that the Hornets are the best asset (based on cost effectiveness and availability) in the air force. I totally agree with him although I would quick to add the Hercules and Nuri too! Just wish we are already flying the Super Bug already.

–Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2223 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Which is precisely the reason the RMAF should have been allowed to get Super Hornets instead of the SU-30 which remains unproven in combat and has higher operating costs. With certain quarters believed to favour the Gripen, the million dollar question is whether the Super Hornet will ever fly in RMAF markings.

    Marhalim: I do not know the precise reason for favouring the Super Hornets instead of the Flanker. One thing for sure is that the fact the Super Hornet variant meant for Malaysia meet all the requirements for the RMAF MRCA programme. Of course one can say that the requirement was written with the Super Hornets in mind, but if you ask me if one specify for an orange, one should get an orange, not a lemon or other citrus. Yes, I know the air force requirements should have been better specified but we lacked the budget to conduct a much thorough study to do that.

  2. After being very satisfied with its F/A-18Ds,I believe it would have been expected that the RMAF would have wanted the Super Hornet. Especially in light of the problems with spares and the reported low operational rates of the Fulcrum fleet. Similiarly, the Algerians are reported to be facing low operational rates with its Fulcrums. Like the Fulcrums, I believe the MKMs were forced on to the RMAF [Dzirhin would have more knowledge of this], so I dont think it was so much of a budget issue. As Dizirhan pointed out elsewhere, during Mahathir’s era, all major defence buys were meant to benefit the country in offset deals and transfers of technology, operational readiness was secondary. After the cost of integration, surely the MKM deal can hardly be described as cheap. I dont have the figures for the first Boeing offer for 12 Super Hornets, as opposed to what was paid for the 12 MKMs. Perhaps Marhalim has the figures? My preference for the Super Hornet, apart from it already being combat proven is that all integration work has or is currently being done by the USN, unlike the MKM which was a variant created specificlly for the RMAF.

    Marhalim: The price for 18 Hornets as listed in the DSCA statement to Congress was USD1.483 billion, so it will be around 500 million more than the Flankers. With integration costs of around another USD300 million, we only saved USD200 million. But one must remember with the Flanker purchase, at least 10 per cent was paid to the local agents. We would have gotten 12 Hornets for the price of the 18 Flankers, as the list price for the Super Hornet is USD95 million each.

  3. IIRC Hornet airframe life is rated minimum of 6000 flight hours under carrier operation conditions (cat launches + hard landings).
    Since RMAF dont do carriers and I dont think fly as hard as USN/USMC, we can expect our Hornets to fly for the next 30~ years.

    Anyway, Marhalim, whats going to happen to ATSC now the MiGs are going to be retired? I understand that the Sukhoi upkeep will not be “in house”. Is ATSC going to be another example of “tech transfer” offset gone to waste?

    Marhalim: Your guess is as good as mine. I am told more will be revealed during LIMA….

  4. I’m really looking forward to seeing photos of RMAF F/A-18Ds next year at Red Flag! Unlike the IAF MKIs who had to operate their Bars radar on training mode at Red Flag to prevent anyone else from picking up the frequencies, the RMAF Hornets wont have to. I think Tempur in 2007 reported in its editorial that a surveillance platform from a ‘neighbouring country’ was flying during the Merdeka fly-past in an attempt to listen in on the MKMs. Did anyone recall reading this? Lets see whether any reports emerge in the press about attempts to listen in on the Scorpene acoustics when its nears the Singapore straits on its way to Teluk Sepanggar.

    Marhalim: I did not read the Tempur editorial. There is no need for them to fly an ELINT plane to do that. They could have redo a Tour Bus and fill it with ELINT equipment and no one here will be the wiser! On the Scorpene acoustics, I think they will have the data already from the time the subs went taken on trials in Spain and France. And BTW the Govt had given the go-ahead for other friendly subs to be berth at Teluk Sepanggar on ad-hoc basis. The US had requested for it and I believed one sub had already been there early this year.

  5. The Bugs came with a complete USN standard FMS support and maintenance package. Kinda like having your Toyota serviced at UMW.

    The Superbugs were similarly set up and included weaps which the MKMs do not.

  6. Thats right, I’ve got a dirty feeling that some Alamos and Archers have been taken from the Fulcrum squadron and sent to Gong Kedak.
    Though the MKM deal included flying training by Suhkoi test pilots, the RMAF is going to have to develop a combat doctrine for its MKMs
    as the Russians cant help in the area because neither the MKM or MKI is in Russian service. Which makes me wonder how much littoral training was provided by the French for the Scorpene crews as unlike the Swedish and Germany navy, French subs operated mostly in deep waters. Years of experience gained in Cold War ASW littoral operations by the Swedes are being shared with the RSN, I dont see the French being able to provide the same for the RMN, unfortunately.

  7. I prefer 36 Grippen + 18 Su 30 MKM. Tunggu la kalau ada fullus kita beli 18 F 18 Super Hornet. Singapore will laugh because they will have 100 Stealth F22.

    Mana boleh lawan F18 dgn f22…

    Boikot US

    Marhalim: Singapore is not buying the F22. The US will not sell them the F22, only the F35s. If we buy the Gripens, we will also buying a US product, its engines are licensed from GE. The problem with the Sukhois is that the spares and support are archaic, we might end up with no fighter cover at all….

  8. Dear En Azlan,

    The Alamos and the Archers are still di rumah Fulcrum. Pondok Archer dan Alamos di Kelantan banjir. Dok leh guna. Soja AIR dok leh pitih bikin tambatan. Ground refuelling point dok leh guna besi paip melendut. Tu nok beli lori tangki.

  9. Syukur… Kah, kah, kah. Mana nak cari duit untuk 36 Gripen? Ada inferiority kompleks dengan jiran ke? Apa nak buat…jiran tu rumah kecil, tanah tak de, keluarga pun kurang, tapi giat kerja dan tak kerap rasuah. Probelm bukan jiran ler, problem di sebelah pagar diri.

    Marhalim….hey, kalah tak ape, gaya yang penting. As long as can show at LIMA and M-Day dah cukup. God help us from the fanboys and their adequacy issues as well as their strutting for street cred amongst audiences that have no intrinsic value to the nation.
    Lepas syiok sendiri, then wonder where the money went.

  10. If Singapore was to purchase the F-35 JSF, then Malaysia should also looking at bolstering its fighter force. Possibly buying Super Hornet, Gripen and Flankers. I would consider more Flankers as Malaysia has the technical knowledge to upgrade and improve the Flanker for its own use. For those say “Malaysia has not technical knowledge to upgrade” Wrong. Malaysia has enough technical skills and experts to improve the Flanker. The problem is money corruption and the tak boleh attitude. If small population like Sweden can build aircraft so can we. We are no different in human beings. (What happen to all those people that went to study abroad?)

  11. If i was Malaysia, i would do the following:
    1. Buy additional Su-30MKM Flankers, but build and develop new air to air and air to ground missles as well as developing rear guided missles. The development of smart weapons designed and built by Malaysian and not to be sold for export.
    2. Buy small quantity of Super Hornets. Let say 18.
    3. Plan to have a total of 54 Su-30MKM and 36 Su-30MK single seat fighter for air superiority fighters.
    4. Introducing top gun fighter school using latest combat fighters and tactics.
    5. The development and improvement of existing MIG-29 as well as the purchase of 54-70 MIG-35 with plans to improve its weapons systems, weapons, and incorporating stealth measures, to be developed by local talent.
    6. The development of stealth air to air missiles.
    7. The development of motion radar systems against stealth combat aircrafts like the F-35
    8. The development of Advance UAV Fighters using GPS, satelite control systems and using high technology in UAV. The UAV’s will be capable of defending Malaysian air space during times of tensions. These UAVs should be able to take off and land at the air base but in war time, its effort is to strike air targets using its missiles and finally its ramming power.

  12. Heloo En Danial, Which country you live in….
    If you are in Malaysia have you ever done any maintenance on the Flanker? Nak baca manual dia pun belum tahu boleh faham.

  13. Helo Mr Danial, it’s almost mimpi x sudah if you want Malaysian to buy a sum of 70++ MIG-29 and more than 80++ Sukhoi 30!!! With the money we can develop our own technology and can even create a Ballistic Missile facility you know and we can get the whole rakyat yang miskin dapat one unit of PPRT house for them!

  14. Greeting Sir..any possibility we’d get to see the JAS39 wt our markings on it?IMHO..we ought to learn our lesson by now..buy American and get whateva they sees fit depending on Congress’s grant and courtesy, after all we’re still the ugly duckling brother in comparison wt Uncle Sam’s other fav son in this region…Buy Rusky’s and get ready to spend..spend..spend all the way be it maintenance..spares..upgrades..am guessing Bae’s doin fine wt our Hawks so far aite?So why not go for European?After all the Gripen offer is indeed an offer we can’t refuse..so far given the circumstances rite now..what say u sir??..cheers

    Marhalim: The Gripen still contained a lot of American items for example, the engines, Sweden need to get approval before selling them to us. As I mentioned in the post, with the Flankers on board, we cannot afford to buy another type of aircraft, with different set of other things to pay for, training, personnel etc. We could have gone the European way before, but the Government in their infinite wisdom decided to play chicken with our future, so we have to pay the consequences.

    IS there a way out of the quagmire? Before buying any thing else, sell the Flankers first…..

  15. salam again..nice feedback..a point to add..if am not mistaken..for the gripen to come we have to part wt our f5’s,mig’s and hawk aite?with all their personnel and supposed spending i think it’s sufficient to cover the training and other technology transfer thingy..plus an offset program maybe,for Proton with Saab ;-)..
    as for the American parts it’s mainly regarding the engine and as far as the avionics and system goes..it’s still within the European playgrond. Is it not the main edge of the gripen is their superiority in the information and electronics battleground…?Which also the way future war will be fought. On the “we could have gone European way before…”..couldn’t agree more wt u sir..well said..cheers.

    Marhalim: Yes, if the Gripen was chosen ahead of the Flankers and Super Hornets it would have been a great choice, although we may have to pay extra for weapons integration plus a European engine. However, its must be noted even if we used all European things on board the Gripen, we still need to get approval from the US regulators, as Saab’s major shareholder is BAE Systems, which is now a recognised American company due its holding of several American defence companies.

    So we end up with an American product albeit, a distant relative. On Saab and Proton, its no go since Saab the car maker is now with GM although the Saab trucks now have merged with Scania, another Swedish company

  16. whoever says flanker isn’t a proven fighter need to check the fact back

    about future RMAF aquisition,i would prefer:
    -buying 18 F/A-18F as a replacement to MiG-29N
    -buying ex USN/USMC F/A-18D to complete existing F/A-18D squadron
    -AEW system
    and last but not least
    -replace Hawk 208 (with either Korean F-50 or gripen)

    we do have the budget and expertise to operate aircraft from different bloc so i say we should continue this trend.for better or for worse

    Marhalim: I disagreed with your assertion that we have the budget/expertise to operate east/west aircraft. If its cheaper to maintain 60 aircraft from one country, dont you think its better to have them rather than have 30 planes from different countries.
    Why should we continue with bad policies when there are better alternatives? You would not do that to your self would you?
    There are no second-hand C/D Hornets for purchase at the moment, unless Finland, Switzerland or Kuwait decide to sell their fleets. US stocks are almost worn out from the continuing operations

  17. We still can get 2seater 2nd hand F/A-18’s from Canada, as they bought 90 single seaters and 40 2seaters; and half of the 2 seaters are in storage. They dramatically scaled down their fighter operations after the cold war ended. maybe we can persuade the canadians to sell maybe 6 of them to us? With 4 modded to the same specs as our hornets and 2 for training/back up.

    And i wonder since when Denmark has any hornets?

    Other future aquisition in my preferance:

    -top up 6 more MKM to get 2 12 AC SQN’s
    -get the Oman hawk 203 (11ac’s) and 103’s (4ac’s) to reestablish the labuan hawk SQN.
    -Nuri replacements ASAP!
    -Ditch the A400M.

    Just look at the MKI air to air training records, it came out on top on most dogfights with f-15’s and to me that is enough to defend our skies. The damocales targetting pod on the MKM is so good now russian air force wants them for their own aircraft, lisence produced in russia. It is the most potent air superiority/multi role aircraft now in SEA, and i do believe it is the best for malaysia to have them (MKM’s) rather than the fat “super” hornets, whatever other people whines about the percieved bad maintainence records/ high costs.

    Marhalim: Oops my mistake, it is of course the Finns that got Hornets. Canada, as far as I know has never announced any intention of selling off its Hornets. They are most probably opting for the F-35 but with the Lightning II still not inducted into service (most probably by 2015) I think it is probably far too late for us to opt for these planes.

    As I mentioned before, I would have preferred the Super Hornet IF we have not purchased the MKMs yet. Whatever the costs of maintaining them, I believed it is much better for us to purchase more MKMs in the near future. Rather than buying more Hawks, I would use the money to buy more MKMs to consolidate RMAF air combat assets. We should only have the Flankers on line together with the Hornets and the newly arrived MB339CM.

  18. Marhalim

    Canada’s Hornets ie the ones in storage are available for sale. The only problem is that these are A/B versions. So, if we buy these we have to significanly upgrade.

    The other possible alternative to used Hornets are the Kuwaiti ones. Kuwait is looking to buy some new fighters, with Rafale said to be the fav contender. If this happens, some of their C/Ds will probably be surplus (but we might have to compete with USMC).

    As I mentioned somewhere else in your blog, personally, I think new fighters should be low in priority. Budget is going to be tight for the next few years. Use the savings from the Fulcrum retirement to get enough helicopters to replace Nuri and not just the dozen planned.

    If additional fighters are really necessary, then we should try to get surplus Hornets, perhaps 10 aircrafts. I would prefer 10 single seaters as we already have 8 two seaters.

    IMO a force of 18 Su-30MKMs and 18 Hornets, backed by the Hawk 200s, is a credible deterrent force until 2020. After 2020, start the replacement of the Hawks and Hornets with a 5th Gen fighter.

    Marhalim: Yes additional fighters should be at the bottom of our defence procurement priorities. However I believed it is better to buy additional Flankers rather than buying second hand Hornets. Id rather have more Flankers (since we are stuck with them already) they can last until 2025 or even longer. The current Hornets should be used to their maximum until 2020 before they are retired. As I mentioned before, after 2020 the only combat jets that should be in service (unless we suddenly get some cash infusion, though I doubt it) should be the Flankers (whatever the numbers) and the six newly acquired 339CM. All other jets should be retired from service already. Advanced jet training should be done overseas to reduce capital and maintainance costs.

  19. canadian hornets are upgraded to C/D standards in early 2000’s. But i am not sure the stored ones are upgraded too.

    Marhalim: I believed those stored are not upgraded….Bro, can you resend your earlier comments on the 339CM and Hawks. I had accidentally deleted it.

  20. Well i just said that we still need the hawk 200’s around as it is at least a fighter with a radar on its nose for air defence/close air support (APG-66 radar, same as the F-16). If we get the Omani hawks (they are getting new F-16’s) at least we can reactivate the labuan hawk sqn for a basic air defence of the east malaysia. The MB-229CM’s are just advanced trainers, with no radar on its nose, and we should leave it tasked as trainers/LIFT in the TUDM inventory. The hawks would still be needed to give TUDM the “low” mix of fighters, to match with the “high” end MKM’s and Hornets. Just MKM’s after 2020 won’t cover all of M’sia, and you wont use the high value MKM’s for mud moving/CAS dont you? If we compare TUDM with RTAF, RSAF, VNAF; they still got lots of fighters both “high” and “low” mix.

    I also agree fighters should not be the TUDM priority in the near future, and to me as is a totally new airlifter too… The no. 1 priority should be for new helis to replace the nuri’s, (maybe a mix of a few high cost cougars plus more numorous cheap but tough Mi171’s). As for the fighters additional top up order of the current types, new or used, should be enough.

    Marhalim: Thanks for indulging me with your repeat comments. I still however believe with our limited funds, a high-lo mix is not feasible, even for our helo fleet.

  21. Speaking of operating single type of fighters, I believe the closest we got to that concept was with the A-4 Skyhawks purchase. What actually happened? Heard there was quite a lot of crashes but I was quite young back then to understand the whole issue.

    Marhalim: Not really since the A4s were meant for attack while the F-5s were meant for air defence. Yes, the Skyhawks, ex-US Navy stocks were purchased, some 80 of them but only 40 delivered to Malaysia after undergoing some refurbishment works instead of a full SLEP. The aircraft which were used extensively by US Navy before being retired simply could not cope with the Malaysian weather plus with the resultant tear and wear. They were retired quickly but before being delegated to the aerial tanker role. The Skyhawk fiasco caused nightmares to the armed forces when it come to buying second hand planes…..

  22. Operating a single type of fighter might be cheaper but has some risks. What if the type face some problems and the whole fleet has to be grounded? You are left with no fighters. In addition, you will also be faced with the obsolence of your whole fighter force some time in the future.

    I think 2 types is a good balance.

    Marhalim: Yes operating two type may mitigate the risks, but to me, based on our lack of funds, perhaps operating a single type might be the best option…

  23. Would like to add to what Marhalim had said on A4’s. I spoke to a very experienced A4 pilot about the multiple crashes RMAF experienced with the type. He mentioned that initially his service also experienced similar troubles. However they learned that the issues were largely caused by dubious quality of spares in the supply line. As the planes were long out of production with the manufacturer, the spares were sought from various sources all over the world to keep the a/c flying. not all were reliable. Eventually they resorted to having tighter controls and also manufactured some inbcountry to overcome the issues.The planes stopped falling out of the sky!
    I think the procurement/management system in RMAF did not overcome (speculating) these issues. Hence the A4s were phased out early.
    If you look at length of time A4s served with Israeli and RSAF, I think we could have made them work longer for us.
    So buying 2nd hand equipment may not be bad after all but we musht have the expertise and will to make them work for us! Maybe we still can used F5Es from Swiss Air Force and fly them for another 10 years after a good SLEP!

    Marhalim: We bought them cheaply think it was money well spent without conducting SLEP. Hence the crashes, no doubt dodgy parts may well contribute to the decline but one must remember that these planes were used by the US Navy in Vietnam and then parked in the desert for several years before we just air hosed them and declared them operational….

  24. Greeting sir…i was waiting for ur comment on the latest announcement of RMAF’s new MRCA procurement plan by their chief the other day. So..what’s ur take?Me for sure Gripen all the way..;-)

    Marhalim: No firm MRCA plan yet….

  25. Hi sir, RSAF’s A-4 Skyhawks were upgraded in avionics and re-engined to brand new engines to keep them in service. Try driving your CAR without service and vehicle inspection at AUTHORISED inspection centres in SG and you will be in trouble. The trick is good maintenance. Cheers

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