Malaysian Defence ORBAT for RMAF

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Defence would like to celebrate Royal Malaysian Air Force 49th anniversary with its own Order of Battle, in time for the big celebration next year. RMAF is rather conservative when it comes to celebrating its 50th year unlike our Tourism Ministry!

Anyhow, RMAF current ORBAT is rather convoluted with so many types of aircraft making up its fleet from MIG-29 to the 40-year-old Sikorsky (Nuri) Sea King helicopters. The latest addition to its “multi-racial” fleet is the Sukhoi Su-30MKM, two of which is coming home on June 17.

Since I was involved in reporting RMAF in the last decade, I always believed that the force was operating simply too much aircraft , in terms of variety, to be cost effective and battle ready.

For example, RMAF operates two type of fighter jets, the Fulcrum and the Hornets, and two types of training jets, the MB-339 and the Hawk 100/200 series. All four types has its own a mile-long logistics trail from pilots to spares.

Its pretty looking from outside the gate but I wonder what is actually going inside the manned gates.

Mainly due to tactical reasons, RMAF has to operate two types of transport planes, the CN-235 and C-130. The CN-235 is used mainly in Sabah and Sarawak to transport soldiers and cargoes to border outposts. The Hercules is used for everything.

The set-up seemed nice and hunky dory but by 2012 (if Airbus don’t messed up again) the A400M will joined the fleet. A third trail for logistics from pilots to spares. Who will take care all of this? And we all know that the private sector is a big drain on good recruits.

Malaysian Defence would like to offer a solution to the hard working people of RMAF. I understand that National Interest will prevent any kind of debate on my ORBAT (which perhaps is already on going in RMAF even without my input). At least its out there for all to see. and not hidden under the blanket of National Interest

Malaysian Defence ORBAT for RMAF

40 Sukhoi Su-3OMKM (three sgdn; two combat and one for training and testing)

<30 T-50 (two sgdn for advanced fighter training)

30 A-50 (Three Sqdn)

40 PC-9 MKII for basic and advanced flight training.

4 Boeing 737 Wedgetail AEW

4 Boeing 737 Maritime Patrol

4 KC-767 MRTT

15 C-130 Hercules ( also used as tanker)

15 CN-235

20 EH-101 (CSAR)

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About Marhalim Abas 2147 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Just came across you blog.
    Good job.
    Comment on your RMAF Orbat.
    The A-50s are good (are they operational?) but 30 for 3 sqns is a bit understrength. We are already using Hawks for light strike. Maybe we shld stick to them instead of introducing another new type. (Recommend 54 Hawk 200s for 3 sqns).

    Wedgetails will be the ultimate but may be a tad expensive. Perhaps the Saab/Embraer Erieye may be adequate.

    I think we need more than 4 MPAs. There’s a lot of sea to cover esp in East M’sia. I’m open to less expensive turboprops like the Orions with some offensive capability. The platforms can vary as long as it has sufficient range and loiter capability. Its the equipment that counts. In this respect we shld look into UAVs & UCAVs as options to supplement MPAs. Our sea borders are porous. Smuggling, piracy and illegal fishing are concerns that I think the MMEA will need assistance to tackle.

    We also need more than 20 helos. The EH101s are superb but perhaps a number smaller helos could supplement them.

    I’m partial to both the MiG-29s & Hornets but sentiments aside I agree that we have too many types.
    Just my opinion.


  2. Thanks for the kind words. Hope you will continue reading and commenting. Anyway the A-50 is not yet fully operational. The Hawks to me in RMAF service has not been so lucky (the worst record of all Hawk operators and this include the Indonesians!), and even the latest version, LIFT, remained a subsonic AC.

    As for the numbers, I deliberately kept it low as I want it to remain a training AC. With more numbers, beancounters would argue that it will be cheaper to use them as front-line combat aircraft.

    Due to commonality, in the long run, it will be cheaper to run the Wedgetails than the other candidates and this even if Malaysia Airlines goes Airbus. Actually, the Orions would have been perfect for the MP role but since they no longer make new ones and for the sake of commonality (again to reduce running costs) the Poisedon would again be a better choice.

    As for the helos, the number is strictly for RMAF as the army air wing is supposed to take over recon, attack and utility roles

  3. 8 737s ? I would be surprised if we have the money to but 2. If my memory serves me right, Turkey bought 4 Boeing 737 at a whopping USD 1 Billion. It wouldn’t make sense for us to have 4 or even 8 wedgetails if our front line fighters are less than 50. Those countries that operates 4 or more AEW platform has 100+ front line fighters.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think we need AEW platform, but with only 18 Flankers, we are a bit short of an escort for our AEW platform.

    By the way, why haven’t we upgraded the RD-33 engines on our MiG 29. I dont know whether the black smoke affect flight performance or engine but I remember reading somewhere about how RAF Harrier pilots during WVR engagement could easily pick out our MiGs during Ex Flying Fish.

  4. The Wedgetails will be the most expensive of course but we need a common airframe like the 737 so we can reduce the operating cost especially if Malaysia Airlines purchase the 800/900 series to replace the current 400 series. If the purchase is made together with the Malaysia Airlines order (together with the MMA) the price of the basic airframe could be as low as US$40 million each. It the same price for the basic Embraer airframe or Saab.

    The RD-33 engines on our Fulcrum has been upgraded. The smoke on the Fulcrum which I saw during Langkawi 05 was much cleaner than the previous years. Perhaps what you read was the first Flying Fish exercise after the Fulcrum went into service circa late 90s or early 2001 as Harriers have not been involved in these exercise since 2001.

  5. Out of curiosity, is there a difference between an AEW and AWACS ?

    Most countries with budgetary constraint operate AEW and those bigger air forces operate AWACS. Apart from type of plane and acronyms, what is the difference ?

    I know Saudi Arabia has 5 E3 AWACS but plans to buy 14 Saab 2000 AEW to be shared with Pakistan. I would have thought that if you have AWACS, what more 5, you wouldn’t want to downgrade and buy AEW.

  6. 2 AEW platfrom should be enough i guess but we do need a tanker aircraft . just one is enough .

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