SHAH ALAM: LIMA 2021 – On or Off. There is talk among industry insiders that LIMA 2021 scheduled in March, next year, will be postpone to another date in the year or deferred to 2023 instead. Money or the lack of it brought upon the Covid 19 pandemic and higher operational tempo, also as result of the same disease are likely the main reasons for the two possibilities.
The pandemic already caused DSA 2020 to be postponed to 2022. LIMA 2021 is not helping either by listing a To Be Confirmed on the dates of the show – mid March next year on its website, with the event just nine months away. The problem is the fact that there is no clear indication of what will the Covid-19 situation be like during the time LIMA will be held.
Postponing the show to a later date in 2021, brings its own set of headaches as well, if LIMA is not held in March then it has to be postponed to a suitable interval time, it would not exactly make sense to say LIMA is postponed by a month or two due to Covid-19 concerns since it is doubtful that things would change within a month or two from the original date. So it’s likely a postponement could held as far back September to December 2021 timeframe.
LIMA of course originally was held in the December period but changed due to the fact that December was pretty much a time when most companies were winding down activities and budget allocations and plus for Western companies and militaries, close to the Christmas period. And for Malaysia, December is during the monsoon period and a time when the Armed Forces is normally busy with flood relief efforts along with the same for many government agencies. The winding down activities and budget along with Christmas focus still holds true in December though climate change effects makes it pretty much that LIMA could be held in any other month and the MAF may end up still being busy with flood relief operations. The plus side of a September to December postponement date may be the fact that LIMA could just be near an FPDA air exercise which then has the possibility of having the FPDA nations taking part in it having their assets also participate in LIMA as in the past.
It’s hard to say if fiscal restrictions will be a factor in postponing LIMA 2021 or putting it forward in 2023. The government budget for the show officially is around RM15-17 million as per the defence budget allocation for the event in previous years though it is likely that there are other costs incurred not directly covered from the allocation that are instead drawn from other funding allocations.
So it’s an open argument calling off LIMA will bring about cost saving benefits that outweigh the benefits of having the show. This isn’t just specific to LIMA series only but to all defence and aviation trade shows, there is always uncertainty as to how much governments actually benefit from holding and hosting such shows and the return of investment on such to a government though the same is also the case for sporting events such as the Olympics or Formula One.
It’s also still an open question as to how much participation there would be in an aviation or defence trade show given the Covid-19 situation and its aftereffects, so far every major defence and aerospace trade show has been called off since Covid-19 became a global pandemic, the last show just prior to the global outbreak being the Singapore Airshow and that was affected by withdrawals though given all the booths were paid for in advance, the organizers did not lose money because of the withdrawals. However it is now difficult to ascertain as to whether companies will participate in shows away from their home countries even if travel restrictions are eased.
As whether local defence companies will also want to take part given the impact of the Covid-19 situation which might have affected their finances and also if there really is any defence business to be done given not only the Malaysian government but also other regional governments are expected to not have much money for defence spending due to having to deal with the economic aftereffects of Covid-19.
It also remains to be seen how much the MAF along with the MMEA can spare to participate in LIMA, both the EC-725 and AW-109 fleets are now pretty much worked heavily to cover the gap left with the Nuri fleet grounded and in the case of the RMAF Nuris, being phased out and the RMN and MMEA helicopter fleet also appear to be heavily tasked for Ops Benteng and the RMAF still remains stuck at a small number of fighter aircraft not to mention the RMAF Hornet MRO work in Australia has to be carried out, having been postponed due to the Covid-19 situation.
And of course, there’s no chance of towing the LCS to Langkawi for display though they could, if they haven’t disposed of it, display the plywood mockup they towed the previous RMN chief in during his farewell. The LMS could be there if the RMN gets the second one delivered but the question again is always how much operational assets should be tied up supporting LIMA. The result might be a lesser commitment of MAF assets to LIMA if the operational and availability concerns win out.
One expect though for LIMA, the Malaysian government will wait until around December this year to make the call on it. Of course we all know that LIMA was created by you know who and currently the MP of Langkawi though the politics of that factor affecting LIMA going ahead or not is uncertain though one can say for certain that if Tun Mahathir is PM again then LIMA will go ahead in 2021.
It must be noted that Avalon Air Show 2021 in Australia originally scheduled in mid-February has been postponed to November, 2021. The show’s organiser announced the postponement in May.
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— Malaysian Defence