Lets Not Forget About the Mark V SOC

Kuwait F/A-18 C Hornet. Flickr

SHAH ALAM: It appears that the deal to purchase the whole fleet of F/A-18 Hornets from Kuwait may well be a reality going by the latest report. Defence Minister DS Khaled Nordin met with the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Malaysia Rashed Mohamed Rashed AlSaleh at the Defence Ministry today.

Among the issues discussed were the Malaysia’s wish to procure the legacy Hornets from Kuwait once the country took delivery of Super Hornets from the US.


Two Kuwait AF F/A-18C seen here with a couple of F-16s. Internet.

That said I was told that there was an intense lobbying from the local defence players to get the contract to maintain and upgrade the Kuwaiti Hornets even before the procurement is completed. The lobbying I was told was so intense that even the Kuwaiti themselves had expressed their unhappiness over it. It is likely that the cost of maintenance and upgrade will cost much more than initially expected. This is I am told is like what happened to the planned procurement of the Mark V Special Operation Craft back in 2015.
A Mark V SOC launching a ScanEagle UAV. US Navy picture

The planned procurement of the Mark V SOC was shelved as

the navy had serious misgivings about it as the cost of the In-Service Support (ISS) was deemed to be excessive

Will history repeat itself? Your guess is as good as mine.

–Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2223 Articles
Shah Alam

38 Comments

  1. Given our history of doing things on the cheap; even if the deal proceeds I have doubts as to whether sufficient funding will be made available to sustain an extra 12-18 fast jets [which will get more resource intensive as they further age]; to get ground support gear and ordnance. As for the local companies trying to get a slice of the cake; they’re only doing what the system in place has long enabled them to do.

    In short mode people are fixated with the idea of getting the airframes. I’m worried about what happens after we get them.

  2. All Kuwaiti F/A-18 Super Hornet that ordered in 2018 already completed by Boeing and delivered to USN right? But why those aircraft not yet delivered to Kuwaiti Air Force?

  3. If I not wrong TEMPUR did publish the maintenance work at Kuwait is expensive than usual.

  4. Is the RMAF really going to get all the Kuwaiti Hornets? That’s quite a few and my understanding is the USMC and Tunisia are also interested. Maybe but like 10 or so will do IMHO.

  5. Seems the local defence players are shooting themselves in the foot yet again.
    The 2nd hand Hornets for one may/may not be of like upgrades, so those rushing to offer their ‘services’ should brace themselves for any eventualities.
    We probably don’t want to see any repeat of the Army Black Hawk leasing fiasco infecting RMAF.

  6. Yes, all the SH ordered by Kuwait has already been delivered to the US Navy. I have no idea why they are not yet sent to Kuwait.

    If I got the money I would rather speak to Kuwait and persuade them to sell us the SH to us instead of buying their old ones.

  7. Taib – “Seems the local defence players are shooting themselves in the foot yet again”

    They are looking for profit and revenue and are doing what the system allows and encourages them to do. If I was in the business; I too would be vying for some Hornet related business.

    As alluded to my main concern if not so much getting the Hornets but what happens after that. It’s not as if we don’t have a history of doing things on the cheap; getting stuff but struggling with sustainability due to inadequate funding.

    Tom Tom – “Maybe but like 10 or so will do IMHO”

    Ok but what is this opinion based on? The number of pilots? The funds available to fly them? Also, if you were the Kuwaitis wouldn’t you want to dispose of the whole fleet; rather then selling a few and being straddled with the remainder?

  8. Taib – “We probably don’t want to see any repeat of the Army Black Hawk leasing fiasco infecting RMAF”

    We don’t but the circumstances faced with the leased Blackhawks are different compared to the issue of used Kuwaiti Hornets.

  9. >If I got the money
    then you might as well go straight to Boeing lmao.

    Kuwait is selling their hornet at literal throwaway price. 33 planes for, what? less than usd150 mil? It’s literally a steal. Just upgrade one squadron to our hornet standard as our go to strike platform and the the other squadron is given minimal SLEP for routine air policing/training/flyover/whatever.

    >USN keeping kuwaiti hornet

    that’s just typical murrican behavior, like how they kept our missiles (that we bought with our taxpayers’ money no less) on hostage in guam or hawaii because reasons.

    with FA-50M as well as the upcoming 5th gen MRCA programme we should at least consider substituting some of the American missiles with european/turkish/korean ones

  10. In the current situation which peace is going downward (Europe, middle east and SCS) and how the westerns (US and allies) are developing stronger defence. MY should think over again our defence strategi. Will diplomacy be is enough to face the future?
    Even in negotiation we Will be a loser if our military strength is too weak.

    Subsidies should be lower gradually as soon as possible so military budget can get more. Waiting for economy getting better maybe a bit too late.

    ATM need too many and the need will be bigger if the gov stay at today policy.

  11. Marhalim and Azlan,
    My question is where the RMAF is going to get the money to operate 24 ex Kuwaiti and 8 original Hornets. There is nothing to stop the Kuwaitis from getting rid of their fleet piecemeal.

  12. They have been waiting for these for the last 10 years so they will already know how much money and manpower is needed. It is not like something that just fell on them.

  13. Of course, but ordering new will take at least three years to get them delivered. And if Boeing will take our order as the SH production line is closing in 2027.

    The Kuwaiti SH are already stored in a hangar or two somewhere in the US and we will only need around 12 months to get the flight and ground crews to get ready for them. By the third year, the whole fleet will achieve IOC.

    If we order brand new SH, it will take around five to six years (three years for delivery) to reach the IOC.

    The US are not keeping the Kuwaiti SH for their own reasons, it is the Kuwaitis which is not pursuing the delivery. They have never explained why.

  14. The original delivery schedule after USN receiving the planes was 2023. My guess is manpower shortage. KAF has one operational conversion unit, the 61 Sqdn based in Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base. This same OCU is currently supporting the transition of the Eurofighters, which they are receiving,

  15. Question. Are our missile in storage enough for all future FA50 and Kuwait Hornet(if approve)?

  16. For the 1st time ever Australia; in the form of Rifle Company Butterworth; took part in Keris Strike. This is significant because it involves 2 countries we have the most extensive defence ties with.

  17. @Romeo
    “Will diplomacy be is enough to face the future?”
    What is the current immediate threat to our country stability & the livelihood of the people? Is it a far off looming war on the horizon or is it the pertinent high inflation caused by poor governance and withdrawal of subsidies plus the shitty ringgit and fleeing of FDI? If your the man on the streets what do you worry more; Chinese soldiers coming to invade or putting enough food on the table?
    I know which one the Govt should rather put what little of our money on.

    And that is the problem, we never seem to run out of poor, and such there is just never enough money for tongkats no matter how much we pump in.

  18. Back to the Kuwaiti Hornets, it seems like the noise about the getting them may be off the mark. DSCA recently released that Kuwaiti had purchased a maintenance package for them and the intention was to continue using them alongside SH if and when these arrives.

  19. “If we order brand new SH”
    With the growing fleet of 5th gens and advent of more affordable ones, it makes less and less sense each year to be getting legacy 4.5gen platforms neither the SH, nor Rafale, nor Typhoon.

  20. Yes. The unit is based at Butterworth on a permanent basis and comprises reservists who come in rotations. To me it’s significant that Australia participated for the 1st time.

  21. I think they wanted a different training exercise than what had been offered over in the peninsula. They could have done it at the earlier exercise with the US Marines at Kuala Terengganu last month but that was even restrictive as it was mostly conducted inside the camp next to the airport.

  22. Haiqal,

    Perhaps you should ask if the missiles we have are enough for the small number of jets we currently have. Do we have enough to load out each jet for at least one sortie?

  23. Unless there’s a change; the MRCA competition will only commence in 2030. Assuming there are no delays that is and once a contract is signed it will take 2-3 before 1st deliveries. Even then fill deliveries and squadron IOC might take another 2 years. As such the RMAF badly needs airframes sooner rather than later and the Kuwaiti option is the most feasible and suitable. All of course contingent on the Kuwaitis making up their minds fast and American approval granted [a timely cumbersome exercise]. With just 8 Hornets and Q18 Flankers; meeting even day to day peacetime commitments; including the odd exercise; is a major challenge. At any one time ‘X’ aircraft will be undergoing squadron or depot level maintenance.

    Back to the Kuwaiti Hornets; if the deal goes through the government should put its money where its mouth is and allocate sufficient funding for upkeep [plus the fact that costs will rise as the airframes age further] and to get the ordnance and other gear needed. On a 5th platform yes it’s needed but I’m not so upbeat about the RMAF in a decade or so being able to operate those platforms at a systems rather than a platform centric level which is how 5th gen platforms are intended to be operated.

    5th gen types are very capable; their LO features makes them hard to detect, track and engage and by virtue of their connectivity have superior SA but they don’t render legacy platforms totally obsolete or impotent. The gap becomes somewhat narrower if legacy platforms are also operating on a systems centric level.

    Dundun – “least consider substituting some of the American missiles with european/turkish/korean ones”

    Why? Granted stuff like Meteor is superior over AMRAAM but look at the larger picture. In case of troubles American missiles are stocked in larger numbers in Guam and Japan. In case of an emergency you reckon the Europeans have large stocks of Meteor and Scalp on hand? We also train regularly with the Americans. How often do we train with the Europeans? As for Turk and Korean ones; still a bit early days as to the maturity of their air to sue and sue to ground ordnance.

  24. Joe “What is the current immediate threat to our country stability & the livelihood of the people? Is it a far off looming war on the horizon or is it the pertinent high inflation caused by poor governance and withdrawal of subsidies plus the shitty ringgit and fleeing of FDI?”

    Most often economic and security goes hand in hand rather than contradictory to one another. SG is a fine example of such.

  25. Zaft – “Most often economic and security goes hand in hand rather than contradictory to one another. SG is a fine example of such

    Economic stability goes “hand in hand” everywhere; whether in China, the Solomon Islands or Trinidad Tobago. Singapore does what it does because financially it can and because due to circumstances unique to it; it has the policy it has : adopting a first strike strategy and making it a policy issue to always have a qualitative superiority over the MAF and TNI. Defence also gets far less scrutiny from a compliant press and from a public and opposition [the vast majority of whom have NS experience] which understand the need and value in a strong SAF.

  26. Dundun- “that’s just typical murrican behavior, like how they kept our missiles (that we bought with our taxpayers’ money no less) on hostage in guam or hawaii”

    No. There’s a backstory to it.

    The reason it was done isn’t because of “typical” American behaviour but because it was policy during that period – started during the Clinton era – that they wouldn’t be the 1st to introduce a new capability to the region. When we bought the Hornets in the 1990’s were inquired but did not request AMRAAM which was not cleared to any regional user. When Thailand later placed an offer for Hornets it too was not cleared for AMRAAM.

    Also, if indeed the Kuwaiti Hornets, are being “kept” [they’re not] it’s due to a totally different reason compared to the AMRAAMs. Also when we bought AMRAAM we agreed to their conditions and it was 20 odd years ago anyway. You think other countries don’t set conditions?

    Tom Tom,

    Like I said here and in other threads; most focused on getting the planes but not what happens after. I will say this again : yes we should get them but only if certain prerequisites are met.
    The problem is not the RMAF. It’s the government.

    As for the Kuwaitis; again, if you were them would you rather deal with a customer willing to take lock stock and barrel or just part of the fleet; leaving you with the headache of disposing the rest.

  27. “MRCA competition will only commence in 2030.”
    Realistically even if we start on 1st Jan 2030 it will take at least 1 year to do proper evaluation, moreso if we want to do trials. So were looking at least 2031 to sign contract, then 2034 to take in deliveries (if its F35), reaching full IOC by 2036. If we can get the Hornets inducted by 2025 and full IOC by 2026 we would have a good solid 10 years of usage which imho is a very good return, and also it helps to preserve the MKM staying frosty unless necessary to fly them.

    Finally you came around accepting the merits of getting the Kuwaiti Hornets instead of pooh poohing them from the onset.

    “systems rather than a platform centric level”
    Even on a platform level, a 5th gen is miles better than what we have. Of course system centric means we can get the full potential, but just getting 90% of out them is already a best case situation looking at where we are.

    “American missiles are stocked in larger numbers in Guam and Japan”
    If say China ady blockading whole of SCS, wouldnt that mean they are between us and the said stockpiles in Guam & Japan?

    “Europeans have large stocks of Meteor and Scalp on hand?”
    At the moment no. All those have gone to Ukraine so much so their own are facing a shortage crunch to replenish.

    @Zaft
    “Most often economic and security goes hand in hand”
    We arent yet in a situation where we are directly threatened both economically nor financially. However our current situation is in a more financial dire than an enemy wanting to invade. That is the reality.

  28. Joe “We arent yet in a situation where we are directly threatened both economically nor financially.”

    Technically we are. 15% of our GDP is produced off the north coast of borneo where a foreign juggernaut claim as theirs. Obviously nothing we nor our immediate neighbors do would and could deter them. They can only be deterred by a certain global hegemon.

    We are also kinda trapped in a middle income trap, the same trap that that certain foreign juggernaut also find themselves in. So More trade with them ain’t gonna solve anything for us but more trade and investment from a certain hegemon would.

  29. @Joe
    “What is the current immediate threat to our country stability & the livelihood of the people? Is it a far off looming war on the horizon or is it the pertinent high inflation caused by poor governance and withdrawal of subsidies plus the shitty ringgit and fleeing of FDI?”

    Politicians need votes and in return they give “tongkat/subsidies”. They are afraid to loose votes that is the main reason subsidies always pumped in. In comparison data shows that our GDP percapita is Twice bigger than ID but MY enjoy a lot more subsidies. It is just mental illness.

    “So were looking at least 2031 to sign contract, then 2034 to take in deliveries (if its F35)”

    It is a bold prediction. We will not get F35 untill 2040s. A lot of factors internally such as our budget and many due to external factors such as when US ready to sell outside her “allies” and queue of buyers. A lot of F35 potential buyers are shifting to 4.5 gen due to the uncertainty of delivery.

    “If we can get the Hornets inducted by 2025 and full IOC by 2026 we would have a good solid 10 years of usage which imho is a very good return”

    That is a major future problem actually. If the hornet only last until 2035 and what? The hornet and MKM are retired. RMAF will only have FA-50.
    As I said getting F35 in 2030 unlikely to happen. The real solution is we should learn from others AF which is getting a brand new 4.5 gen in 2030. Jumping from 4th gen to 5th gen is too big leap. 5th gen fighter has a new way of fighting.

    @Zaft
    “Obviously nothing we nor our immediate neighbors do would and could deter them. They can only be deterred by a certain global hegemon.”

    We will not enter and help a country as an absolute “king”. We only need a mean to protect our fence.

  30. Marhalim,

    Apparently, even though nothing official has been agreed on and there are many things to be sorted out; Kuwait – in principle – has agreed to the deal.

    On another issue; although I “pooh poohed” [to quote an esteemed individual] because it seem preposterous; as part of a political balancing act, there is some long term interests towards the Su-57.

  31. Romeo – “umping from 4th gen to 5th gen is too big leap”

    It’s not like we’re jumping from turboprops to space ships. Yes 5th platforms are the way to go and they have inherent advantages over a legacy platform but it’s the big leap you make it out to be.

    As for the “new way of fighting” it entails buying various enablers; all operating as one as part of a networked environment which already being done with legacy platforms; albeit at a different level. 5th gen platforms are not a panacea; they are not something which by virtue of being a LO platform which is highly networked renders everything else obsolete or totally vulnerable.

  32. “Finally you came around accepting the merits of getting the Kuwaiti Hornets instead of pooh poohing them from the onset.”

    Sorry but I’ve didn’t “finally” come around to anything; as you put it.. I’ve long maintained we should get them but only if certain prerequisites are met. Also; does looking at both the pros and the cons equal to “pooh poohing”?

    “better than what we have”

    I don’t know about the “better” part but a 5th gen platform does not
    automatically make a legacy one “toothless” or impotent.

    As for the Chinese blockade of the SCS; if such a scenario occurred us needing a few AAMs would be the last of our worries. A blockade would mean that our main concern is the economic impact and would mean open war between the U.S. and China. One can also be pedantic and point out that a blockade of the SCS doesn’t automatically preclude any movement of things as there are alternative – albeit long – routes.

    On Europe; If we want to follow your example and go into doomsday mode; in the event of the war in Ukraine spreading; we wouldn’t be able to access European stockpiles.The point I was driving at is the Europeans don’t tend to stockpile things in large numbers on the scale of the Americans and they are much further away than say Guam or Okinawa; a 6 hour flight from Guam competed to a 13 hour flight from France. In short even if there was no war in Ukraine the Europeans don’t have things in large numbers comparable to the Americans; due to American policy and the fact that the Americans have a larger military than the Europeans.

  33. Romeo – ” If the hornet only last until 2035 and what? ”\

    As it stands Boeing will stop supporting the legacy variants by 2023 but even after that; assuming spares are available and there are no major issues; they could still remain operational. There was talk BTW of us getting some low houred engines from Australia.

    Romeo – ”As I said getting F35 in 2030 unlikely to happen.”

    Who said it is likely? 2030 is the date the MRCA programme is supposed to get moving but as things stand only the most optimistic observer would really expect F-35 to be a contender.

    P.S. ”but it’s ”not” the big leap you make it out to be.”

  34. If really indeed we will get the Kuwaiti Hornets, lets hope that RMAF make it publicly that government must allocate enough resource to maintain these higher number of aged airframes. At least the public will know and hopefully “support the government” to make those politicians “goyang” a bit.

    If RMN made it clear to the public earlier on the LCS drama to the public, maybe certain “bad things” could be prevented especially nearing the PRU timeframe.

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