Malaysia to upgrade Hornets

SHAH ALAM: A request has been made via the US FMS programme for the mid-life upgrade of the F/A-18D Hornets and the purchase of 6 ATFLIR.

Since the whole programme has an estimated cost of US$72 million (RM301 million) and the ATFLIR pods cost around US$3 million each (RM9 million) much of the money will probably go towards the Hornets MLU, which is about time I might add.

For more information on the ATFLIR go here


From other Hornet user MLUs, we can surmised that our programme will probably add new capabilities to the radar, electronics and capabilities to use the latest munitions including satellite guided weapons such JDAMs and the C7 version of the Amraam. An extension to its service life is also expected. With the MLU, our Hornets will probably soldier on beyond 2020.

Perhaps another FMS request for the new munitions will be made soon.

From DSCA:
Malaysia request for Hornet MLU

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2011 � The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Malaysia for upgrades to existing F/A-18D aircraft, as well as associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $72 million.

The Government of Malaysia has requested the procurement and integration of a Mid Life Upgrade to existing F/A-18D aircraft including six (6) AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR Pods. Also included are software development, system integration and testing, test sets, aircrew and maintenance training, support equipment, spares and repair parts, publications, technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor technical, logistics, engineering support services, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $72 million.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in East Asia.

Malaysia needs these assets to support future coalition operations and aircraft interoperability with the U.S. and other regional partners. This will upgrade the current FLIR pod to a current configuration, reducing obsolescence issues, and aligning the Malaysian Navy with functionality similar to the U.S. Navy.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor will be The Boeing Company in St. Louis, Missouri.

There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this sale will require the temporary travel of approximately eight contractor representatives to Malaysia for installation, system validation, and verification of this system along with other upgrade capabilities being integrated and installed simultaneously.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

–Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam


  1. At least this project will be cash well spent unlike some of our other projects. 6 ATFLIR pods for 8 aircraft is a very good ratio!!

    It should be eight pods.

  2. …I suppose its an upgrade from the Nitehawk unit currently available..also thought there was an FMS request for the JHMCS not too long ago, wonder what happened to that??
    Off topic slightly ,were our Hornets given a new coat of paint recently?

    Dont know about the new paint job…

  3. This is the same program that had been talking about 5 years ago.

    Yes it was supposed to be funded in the RMK9 which included a trip to Red Flag. They had more pressing matters in RMK9 like completing the NGPV programme and one must not forget the sub-prime mortgage crisis which blew out almost everything in the plans.

  4. eddy, our D’s from day one, had the same colour scheme. A slightly darker grey than used by others. The ATFLIR can be used from a much higher altitude than the Nitehawk and even the Damocles. Though the Damocles has just entered service with the French AF and navy, Thales is already working on an improved version.

  5. just need another 10 -12 SH to complete two squadron then. Then can retire the MIG fully and may be the hawk 200…so we should only have max 2 types of Multi-role fighter and 2 types of trainers. I believe with that our budget would be suffice for other things

  6. Agreed. Let just go with the 2 full squadron of Su30MKMs and 2 full squadron of F/A-18E/Fs. That can give us around 70 MRCAs to cover the entire country. As for the trainers, all the Hawks and MB339s should be upgraded and based on a same dedicated training base for logistics sake. That gonna settle a lot of headadches and save money. Money save should be used to buy AWACS or surveillance aircrafts…

  7. …thanks for the info Azlan , what i meant to say was whether they were given a repaint (same grey coating) some latest pics that i’ve seen seem to suggest ,making those ‘birds’ lookin kinda brand new.
    Well the ATFLIR is definitely progress , though i could never understand why procurement numbers never match aircraft numbers…that goes for other ‘stuff’ too..

  8. If the D’s are to be upgraded, i don’t see the D’s going to be traded in for the SH’s. To add SH to the mix is adding another different aircraft without taking a current variant off the fleet…

    I believe its either upgrade them or store them.

  9. Should have traded them in as part of a deal to purchase new. Why upgrade 8 legacy aircraft, only to add more advanced models later, resulting in a mixed squadron? I know they share a similar logistical footprint, but a pure squadron would be preferable. It all makes me wonder whether there are any plans to purchase new aircraft in the foreseeable future.

    RMAF procurement needs to get going; the force is vastly outclassed in both number of aircraft and quality. How many aircraft can the RMAF put into action at a moment’s notice? Singapore, with only 5 million people and one island to defend, is two decades ahead of Malaysia in air force development. The RMAF is operating too many types of aircraft at all levels (fighters, trainers and support), lacks sufficient numbers of aircraft and pilots, has virtually no ISR, AEW&C, electronic/signals intelligence, etc. and so on. The government won’t wake up to what is a crisis in national defence until a precision guided munition from an undetected UCAV is dropped on the Istana Negara.

  10. We need someone with vast military knowledge and experience at the highest level in our parliament to change that I guess. Until then we can talk all we want and sammo, sammo.

  11. Dear Fareed, Singapore is a well developed country and like you said, it’s a small island country with only several million populations. Obviously, as a developed country, they don’t have the burden like our country, a bigger country then them. We have too many area to focus on including to eradicate poverty and developing infrastructure in the rural area of the east malaysia and not limited to develop our defense capability only. But yes, I agreed that our AF operates too many type of aircraft especially the combat aircraft ranging from the MIGs to the Hawk.

  12. They irony is the Super bugs were bought around the same period as the MiGs and the Bugs are gonna to outlast them by a long way.

    A penny wise, a pound foolish. We could have gotten more than 8 Hornets, if not for the Fulcrum and Hawks diversion….

  13. fird, there is no incentive for any MP to speak up on defence in a more informed manner and to ask the right questions. Buying fighters, MBT’s and missiles, unlike building schools, roads and fighting corruption, does not buy votes. The average member of the public does not want to be reminded how much it costs to equip, pay and train the ATM/MAF. Most however welcome the expansion of the PDRM, to fight crime, which in the near future will have 150,000 members, more than the ATM/MAF!!!!

    Faredd LHS, Singapore’s strategy is to have enough air assets to able to deal with Malaysia and Indonesia simultaneously if needed. Though such a scenario was extremely unlikely given that both countries have other pressing matters to attend to than pose a threat to the Sings, Singapore defence planners in the past, and at present, have to take into account the possibility of Malaysia and Indonesia teaming up and posing a threat to Singapore.

  14. The singapore strategy to fight both malaysia and indonesia at the same time much resembles the Israelis strategy. The israels has fought the Egypt, Jordan, and Syria simulateonusly and WON. One must remember the roots of SAF is based on planners and generals from the Isreal Defence Minstry.

    Marhalim, agreed with you on the fact that we should have procure more F18Ds back in 1990s. Why did Mahathir ever thought to buy 3 types of fighters at the same time anyway? Mayb the indonesian experiences and US unfair policy of favoring the Sings that had coz it…

  15. The ATFLIR pods are great for the Hornets. No need to compare with S’pore or the rest. A fully functional MRCA squadron is more important than poorly equipped two squadrons. Maintenance costs are related to fleet size. I guess defence is probabilistic. Create a scenario and prepare for it. Pray that the actual scenario will not differ much from the planned one. Investing in policemen is also defence related, just imagine if the 2 million illegal immigrants decide to take over?

  16. i dont see any issue if the PDRM have more staff than MAF, in fact most countries have more policeman than their full time armed forces.

    i really want to see MAF reduces their full time staff and to counter this disadvantage, they give more focus to wataniah. right now wataniah training is like crap. that one of the reasons why many ex rotu/palapes officer didnt active in wataniah.

  17. No point worrying about SG IMO. If there is any potential threat in the next 10 years will be likely from Indonesia and potentially spillover from armed conflict in souther thai.

    Indonesia is growing to be potentially among world economic growth engine apart from the BRIC countries and we have a lot of territory and border dispute with them. They are a very passionate nation and a proud nation. They are not afraid to go head to head with anybody if they think their sovereignty are threatened. At the same time however, we also need them for our growth story also. Huge market attracted alot of our companies to invest there.

    They have a very ambitious program to expand their navy and airforce and marine force. Apart from targeting around 50 SU 30 in next 10-15 years, they are also targeting around 50 KFX fighter with South Korea. Not to mentioned to beef up their f16 fleet.

    But i am not saying that we should expect war with them and gear up for it, just i am saying that we should equipped ourselves sufficiently to deter war and giving us leverage in any negotiation table. As such although it is very pricey, i believe we should have at least 40 MRCA armed to teeth and the SGPV should be put in as a major importance apart from the transport heli and surveilance assets off course

  18. No matter what, the desicion to upgrade the HORNETS is the correct decision but I am going further to say that the upgrade program is insufficient. With better offensive weapons and electronics in the area, our hornets should be ungraded with the latest AESA radars and newly installed with infra red and tv modules so that they can also track the targets silently without emitting any emissions.Maybe a better ECM and ECCM system too and conformal fuel tanks? Better precision stand off weapons should also be acquired too.
    The Hawk 200 should also be upgraded with better radars and targeting pods and use them for dedicated ground attack weapons as they are small, light and cheaper than the hornets.its not just winning the air war but also we must have the planes to support the mat sabuns at ground level too.As we dont have dedicated ground support planes nor the attack helicopters, the Hawks should be used for that purpose.

    Show me the money!!

  19. Singapore, if anything, is rational. This alone counts significantly in any strategic equation and they take a dim view of armed conflict (not good for business). Despite the results of the recent General Elections, the PAP looks set to remain comfortable in control the next few decades and political stability would be rock solid.

    Indonesia on the other hand is subjected to various internal nationalist and Islamic pressures. Frankly, no one can see beyond Bambang.

  20. scorpio,

    Several questions come to my mind with regards to the expansion of the PDRM.

    1. Is increasing the numbers of police personnel the main answer to dealing with an increased in crime?

    2. Will it result in a more efficient PDRM, one that is more ‘friendly’ to the public and more accountable for its actions?

    3. Or will it result in an overall drop in quality of manpower? As it is, 2 years ago, the PDRM announced that to cope with a rapid influx of volunteers, the basic training cycle had been shortened and recruits were to receive on the job training.

    4. Another question to my mind is what motivates all these new volunteers into the PDRM – is it because they genuinely see it as a long term career prospect or because of other reasons??

    kamal, none of the TNI’s long terms plans [at least what’s been revealed] or recent purchases indicate any attempts at introducing a power projection capability. Despite recent orders for new aircraft, the TNI-AU like the RMAF, remains largely underfunded and ill equipped to cope with its operational responsibilities.

    Its must be noted also that Kementah has some 15,000 civil servants under its payroll.

  21. first quarter gdp growth 2011 is only 4.6%, very low compared to last year 10.1%. there is a possibility the economy will slip back to recession in 2012.

    taking into this consideration, i doubt the MRCA additional purchase will go through. I feel both the hawk and the MIG will be upgraded further.

  22. Dear Azlan,
    More policeman is the first step. I live in a crime ridden area where a house is broken into almost every night last year’s Ramadhan. Then a new District Police Chief was appointed and he was clever enough to capitalize on the intelligence unit and the suspect was caught. To catch criminal red handed is almost impossible. Visibility is first, community engagement second and others will fall in place. I hope you will talk more to the policemen and understand their problem. Our border is porous (proven!) and the next line of defence has to be the policeman. I believe this is the situation where a practical solution is warranted and not to seek for the best solution which fits one parameter only (narrowband filter)

  23. News

    Malaysian Coast Guard To Wet-Lease Fixed-Wing Aircraft

    AWIN First May 19 , 2011
    Leithen Francis

    The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) plans to issue a tender seeking wet-leases on fixed-wing aircraft.

    The government has granted approval for this initiative and the tender will be issued this year or next year at the latest, MMEA director general Amdan Kurish tells Aviation Week on the sidelines of the Imdex naval defense show in Singapore.

    Malaysia needs fixed-wing aircraft for maritime surveillance in four key areas: the Malacca Straits, territory off the Malaysian peninsula that extends into the South China Sea, territory off the coast of East Malaysia’s Sarawak and Sabah state, and the Sulu Sea off the eastern coast of Sabah, Amdan says.

    The aircraft need to be able to cover Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nm out to sea, he says, adding that the aircraft need to be capable of going a further 200 nm out to sea beyond the zone, in case there is a search-and-rescue mission.

    Amdan says the MMEA plans to pay for a set number of flight hours each week, so it is up to the service provider to propose how many aircraft are needed. But he says he anticipates it will be a minimum of four. The provider will, for example, need to have one aircraft on stand-by in case another aircraft has to be temporarily grounded, he adds. The aircraft operating also need to be able to loiter for six hours in an area of interest, not including the transit time to and from that area, Amdan says.

    In the 11th Malaysia national plan the MMEA has a request in with the government for permission to buy two fixed-wing aircraft, Amdan says. The 11th Malaysia Plan is 2016-2020. But Amdan also says he anticipates the MMEA will be wet-leasing for the next 5-10 years.

    Wet-leases are appealing because the MMEA wants to avoid the cost and trouble of establishing the support infrastructure for aircraft, he adds. The service provider will maintain and operate the aircraft. There will only be two MMEA personnel onboard each aircraft and the pilots and support staff will be provided by the service provider, Amdan says.

    In the 11th Malaysia plan, the MMEA also has made a request for six more helicopters, Amdan says. The MMEA presently has three Eurocopter Dauphin and three AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters. It also has two Bombardier 415 amphibious aircraft.

    Eurocopter Malaysia maintains the Dauphins, Bombardier Malaysia maintains the 415s and AgustaWestland has been maintaining the AW139s, although the AW139 maintenance has just gone out to tender, Amdan adds.

  24. News

    Asian Countries Look To Counter Chinese Submarine Presence

    AWIN First May 19 , 2011
    Leithen Francis

    Concerns over China’s growing submarine fleet are leading Asian nations to invest in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.

    The Malaysian Navy uses six Westland SuperLynx helicopters for ASW, but wants ASW helicopters with more capability and plans to buy six, a senior official from the navy tells Aviation Week on the sidelines of this week’s Imdex naval defense show in Singapore.

    The government has included the requirement in the country’s 10th Malaysia Plan 2011-2015, he says. The budget for the procurement has yet to be allocated, but the navy hopes it will be budgeted for the period 2013-14, the official adds.

    The official says the navy wants medium-lift helicopters that have long range and endurance. He declines to name the helicopters in the running. But it is understood the contenders are the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R and the AgustaWestland AW159. Malaysia has notified the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur that it wishes to receive information on the MH-60R.

    South Korea also uses SuperLynx helicopters for ASW missions, but it too is considering buying the MH-60R, according to a South Korean navy official speaking to Aviation Week. AgustaWestland also is in the running. Besides the AW159, AgustaWestland has the AW101, a much larger ASW helicopter powered by three engines. The AW101 is out of the Malaysia competition because it is too big for Malaysia’s ships.

    In the next couple of months South Korea is expected to decide whether it will seek to buy the helicopters from overseas or go for a locally developed product, says an industry executive familiar with the situation. Industry executives anticipate the request for proposals will then be issued at year’s end.

    Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is proposing a naval variant of the Surion, the utility helicopter KAI is developing, for the Korean army, with help from Eurocopter. The Surion is due to enter service next year. But it will be a challenge for KAI to develop a naval variant within a schedule and cost that meets the navy’s needs. The March 2010 incident in which a North Korean midget submarine sank South Korea’s Cheonan corvette has added urgency to the ASW requirement.

    The country also has a requirement for airborne mine countermeasures helicopters. South Korean reports in 2008 said the country was considering the AW101 and Sikorsky MH-60S and planned to order four, with options for four more. But following the Cheonan incident, this procurement has been delayed. Industry executives now expect South Korea to wait until 2013.

    Another procurement that is in the works, but which will take a few years to become a firm deal, is Indonesia’s requirement for ASW helicopters. Indonesia’s navy has no ASW helicopters but wants to buy some, an Indonesian navy official says. He was unable to say when the ASW helicopters will be bought and says it is up to the government. The navy plans to station the ASW helicopters on its Sigma 9113-class corvettes, he says. Indonesia recently took delivery of four from a Dutch ship-builder and a fifth is under construction in Indonesia, with more to follow.

    Thailand, meanwhile, plans to purchase kits to upgrade its Sikorsky S-70-7 helicopters for ASW, a Thai Navy official tells Aviation Week. It bought the six helicopters in the late 1990s, but in an effort to save money, never purchased the ASW kits, which include dipping sonar.

    Singapore last October took delivery of its final three S-70Bs on order. It signed a firm order in 2005 for six and all are equipped with L-3 Ocean Group dipping sonar. Mark Jarvis, Lockheed Martin’s director of design and production on the P-3, disclosed late last year that Singapore had issued a letter requesting information on the aircraft. If Singapore purchases the P-3 it is likely to get ex-U.S. Navy P-3Cs in a similar configuration to the P-3Cs that Taiwan is getting from 2012 onwards, he says. Taiwan already has S-70 ASW helicopters.

    Asian countries are trying to boost their ASW capabilities as a matter of urgency, because all are concerned about China’s submarine fleet and increased assertiveness. “Asian nations are worried about China and every year the number, of submarines in the Chinese fleet, goes up,” one industry executive says. China also has reportedly started deploying a new and more advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine, the Shang class.

    China’s main submarine base is on the southern tip of Hainan Island, which is strategically located in the South China Sea. China claims huge areas of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, and this had led to maritime border disputes with some of its Southeast Asian neighbors.

  25. last nite channel 502 8pm news, stated zahid admitted that malaysia bought the anoa for Lebanon peace mission. That should be interesting.

    there is no question we need to improve our surveillance, patrol, transport and combat asset in the EEZ near the disputed area. Simple, our future oil revenue and energy needs depends on it. But whether we have the fund to go for new stuffs, or go for 2nd hand stuff, depends.

    I just checked Bernama there is no mention of the Anoa on it. I believe 502 just used the Jakarta Post story which stated that the Malaysia has bought the Anoa for the Lebanon mission without quoting anyone…

  26. I have already said in earlier postings that China and Indonesia are our main concerns. Its proven to be true. Yes we need maritime patrol planes.What is the cheapest and fastest way to get? Go to the UK and buy up 4 of their MP planes which has just been retired as they dont have money to maintain them. Also get at least two oif their MR1 for sigint and comint.Otherwise go to the states and buy their retired ship based twin engined anti submarine planes which has been retired from service. Of course, we do need the helicopters too as the planes can do long range patrolling while the helis does close range work

  27. Zaidi,

    If you look at my post, I was questioning whether expanding the PDRM is the answer to all our crime woes….. Having a bigger PDRM does not equate with having a more efficient PDRM.

  28. YM Lee,

    The Nimrods will cost a bomb to operate and mantain, being jets. As we already operate the CN-235, perhaps additional CN-235’s from Bandung, fitted with AMASCOS would do the job? There are 2 CN-235’s, owned by the PMs Department and flown by the RMAF, fitted out as VIP aircraf – perhaps the government should find a more useful role for these 2 aircraft rather than ferrying around VIPs. The UK will never sell the Sentinal to us [the technology is to ”sensitive” to be sold to a non-NATO country] and we don’t have the ground support infrastructure that goes along with it! To supplement our handful of 1980’s capability Aludra’s, a batch of UAVs operated by a joint command, would be very useful in monitoring the Straits of Melaka and the waters of Sabah.

  29. Azlan

    I heard the Alludra is dead. Sold lock, stock and barrel. Too expensive they say. New companies are coming in but the SA**RA grip on the whole system is very strong. Have to wait and see.

  30. Unless the government is prepared to pour in hundreds of millions of ringgit to develop a UAV, for which a foreign partner will still be needed, the best and only solution would be to buy off the shelf. This is something we should have done years ago instead of investing in stuff like the ASTROS which looks impressive on Merdeka Day but has no peacetime application.

    The problem was that the only people who were developing UAVs and other unmanned vehicles 10 years ago were the Israelis. The rest are only Johnny come lately….

  31. Not really, in the mid-90’s the South Africans already had RPVs [as they were known then] for export. Dornier, which when bust, also had a UAV about 8 years ago.

  32. Malaysia, like most other countries without deep pockets ($$$), missed the UAV rush. Azlan is right, “the best and only solution would be to buy off the shelf”. If Malaysia wants to consider getting into a cutting edge field, it should look into developing UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles). Here is a field yet to be fully exploited and would be of great service to the navy.

    UUVs are a dime a dozen. The holy grail now is a direct energy weapon in an M4 size package or smaller. If one can develop a power pack the size of a cigarette pack and it can last for one day at least, he or she will be the new Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

  33. Fareed
    There is a good reason why the French is sourcing UAV from the US. Wonder why Japan still does not have its own UAV platform. These are technological giants! It is the reliability and liabiity issues. Ever imagine if your UAV goes beserk and hit a school? When we buy a weapon platform, the liability is with the supplier if anything goes wrong. That is why the exorbitant costs. Its OK to buy the UAV platform.

  34. I am not a military technocrat but an economist. Since we have no ambition to invade other countries, and quite protected under the defence pact with the Brits, Ozzies, Kiwis and Kiasu-land, I think the future of defence and security should be in Covert Operations. We need to build more capabilities akin to Navy Seals or CIA assassins. Big hardware like Mikoyan or Sukhoi or F-series fighters are too expensive to buy and maintain, especially if we need to buy a lot.
    Otherwise, we should build our own capability to design and manufacture our own aircraft and naval equipment.

    If its too expensive to purchase it will be more expensive to do it locally

  35. sam majid,

    The FPDA does not oblige other countries to aid Malaysia or Singapore in event of a war, it never did. It is not a binding pact like NATO and it does not provide us with a protective umbrella.

    We already have a number of units that are trained for ‘behind the lines’, deniable work.

  36. Not true. Military research and related manufacturing of equipment will bring in spillover effect to the economy, finding its way into commercial world. Having to depend on other countries to provide weapons is not a way of providing sustainable security of this country.

    Of course in the early years the accounting losses will be painful, but every business ventures will lose money anyway in the first few years.

    Yes I believe most of us understand the concept, economics and strategic importance of an indigenous defence industry. The problem is with our defence budget, we cannot afford to sustain an unprofitable ventures, just look at the Steyr and NGPV fiasco. We sustained the industry all right but its always the Armed Forces that suffers.

  37. I recently had a change to speak briefly with KAI’s man in the US (he was visiting the defence contractor that I work for). The Indonesian version of the T-50 will be known as the T-50i. Basically, all Israeli items will be replaced.

  38. I attended a presentation on the economics of military hardware manufacturing. The economic model showed that there is no major economic benefit in developing indigenous capability. For example, the ripple effect of housing development is 14 times the gross value. Naval shipbuilding only 1x. Fighter jet programme? Almost zero. I shudder every time a politician say that we will achieve self sufficiency in military technology. Just imagine, to develop a walkie-talkie system like Moto**la in Penang requires more than 1000 R&D engineers. Start laying the foundation now, rather than building dreams.

    Yes, based on logic alone, there is no need for arms manufacturing. But since war is illogical, someone need to make the investment to make the things needed. But as you pointed out a lot of money is needed to pursue the dream. Unfortunately we cant afford to do it. The best thing we can do is to pay for things that our military thinks are best suited to our country needs and at the same time try to keep the damage as low as possible. Its the balancing act that we have yet to grasp because of the most of the time the military bend over backwards to please their masters.

    The major concern seemed to be “since we have to buy this …..we should make sure that somewhere, somehow my guys will get a piece of the economic pie. We want to make sure that not only the Mat Salleh makes the money” and “as long we get to purchase the….. , its ok. Let the next guys figure out how to find the money to make these thing last for next 30 years

    That is the reason we have a lot of everything but not enough of anything….

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