MAS-Air Asia Share Swap: A Golden Opportunity for MAF. Edited

edited to correct the figure of the A330 order.

PETALING JAYA: Over the weekend came reports that Tan Sri Tony Fernandes has been given the task to guide Malaysia Airlines (MAS) back into the black. Full details have yet to emerge but Khazanah Malaysia will remain the biggest shareholder with West Ham fan Tony set to extend his Midas touch so far. For further information, read here.

We are not interested in the dealings of the airline industry but since MAS has a number of aircraft that has dual usage its time to re-look at my previous proposals on how to use these assets.

With a new top dog on the job, rationalisation and redundancies will occur. MAS has more aircraft than it needs at the moment while the other government agencies, the Malaysian Armed Forces and the MMEA are crying for more planes, for AEW and maritime patrol.

MAS has ordered 35 Boeing 737-800s and up to 25 Airbus 330s to re-capitalise its fleet. Some of the 737s had been delivered (not sure of the numbers) while the Airbus have yet to be delivered.

I would like to propose here that Jalan Padang Tembak take six of the 737s that had yet to be delivered, four to be configured as P-8A Poseidon MPA and the other two fitted with the Wedgetail radar to serve as AEW aircraft. Two of the A330s should also be taken over by the Armed Forces as MRTT aircraft. In one fell swoop we have solved the problems of the armed services and MAS. The MRTT aircraft could also be used as cargo services when it is not needed by the armed forces.

Since the aircraft had been paid for by Khazanah, I believe the cost of converting the eight aircraft to be around RM4 billion to RM6 billion. I know RM6 billion is not cheap but it will be more expensive for the Armed Forces to buy the planes directly. And it will be better than having to sell them cheaply in the open market.

If you think, my proposal is illogical think again. A similar deal was carved out on the MAS BBJ around 2000 after the government took over the airline from Tajudin Ramli following the economic crisis in 1997.

Hopefully, this post will be read with more interest in Jalan Padang Tembak rather than the usual disinterest.

–Malaysian Defence.

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About Marhalim Abas 2222 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Well, I do agree with you and since we have this opportunity, perhaps we can also take over a few of the older Boeing 777 for conversion to Aerial refuelling and medical evacuation aircrafts too.
    It would solve a lot of the Khazanah’s problems too.

    Since there is no military version of the 777 I think it would be more prudent to use them for MasKargo..

  2. Why not just use B737 instead as aerial tanker? IMO if we can’t afford to convert the 737 into P-8 standard, we could settle with conversion similar to Indonesian B 737 Surveillance aircraft. During Ambalat crisis, I heard TNI-AU 737 had shadowed RMN PC and even captured some image of the patrol craft.

    No one had converted a 737 to MRTT yet. Thats why. We dont want to pay for the job.

  3. It’s the best idea to equip RMAF with latest aircraft in short time… with it’s we can retire all the H-130. Just take 10 from this aircraft (4 A300 to be MRTT, 4 B737 to be MPA and 2 B737 TO be AEWC). Because RMAF will delever A400M at 2016 so this will fill the gap…

  4. 4 P-8
    2 737 ‘Wedgetail’
    2 A330 MRTT

    Excellent opportunity, now to get the ‘gundus’ that make the decisions onboard.

  5. It’s a good idea you have here but I don’t see much hope in this idea. Personally, I don’t support the plan for share swaps between the two company.

    The plane…the plane…

  6. Garda,

    Shadowing and close up work is the job of the Nomad fleet. The 737 is fitted with a Motorola SLAR and operate from a distance.

  7. Good thinking other than MPA and multipurpose cargo carrier, AEW config will not work as the structure mod is way complicated than the cool plug and play mindset

  8. The new Auxiliary ship Bunga Mas 6 will joined the existing Bunga Mas 5 in Aden. But I doubt if BM6 will be equipped with Fennec like her sister BM5.

    Its most likely that BM6 will replace BM5 and for that they need a new Fennec

  9. It seems unlikely but not for political reasons per say. The proposal does not take into account why 35 Boeing 737-800s and 6 Airbus 330 were ordered. I presume that the numbers were there because there were operational and business needs. While rationalising may take place, would it be so easy to just divert the planes?

    I admit I have no idea what are the plans for new MAS but it must some of the new 737s have been diverted to Firefly which is now flying to the same destinations flown by AirAsia. The 737s were supposed to be for MAS in Asean and slightly beyond so they had tweaked the plans somewhat. The Airbus was ordered for the Middle East/Far East and Aussie market so therefore there will be redundancies.
    Its a political decision whether or not to divert the extra planes to other uses or to sell them

  10. It’s not 6 A330 but 15 MAS is buying. The 6 is the A380. You were right about the 737-800 though. But none of these airliners is suitable to replace the charlies which are rugged tough military spec transporters, can land and takeoff from unpaved unprepared ad-hoc short runways anytime. Those jets need longer and paved runway for their operation.

    But yes, the 737 can be turned to mpa and aewc. And the 330s can be the mrtt. But not the superjumbo 380. Its only suitable military usage is as a double story flying fortress super spectre multiple cannon destroyer.

    Since we are getting A400Ms already they will be used for austere operations. Yes you are correct its 15 A330s with an option for another 10. We need only the 737s and A330 as both aircraft had been converted to military use already so we do not need to pay for the modifications. As for the A380 no one is currently using it as a military ac although I am told one of the Middle East country had purchased one for VVIP use. MAF dont need the A380 but maybe FLOM may asked for one….

  11. Koxinga,
    there is no need to put too much speculation about the MAS new fleet orders. They have an ancient fleet and also trying to shift into smaller platform aiming more rapid flow destinations.

  12. No place to park the new planes (if the idea become true), RMAF to get out of Sg BEsi by Nov 30, so fast eh? I was under the impression that they mto move after sendayan is commissioned…

    The Bernama report is not correct. No one is moving from Sg Besi until the plans have been signed off. Only the ATC will be closed so no fixed wing aircraft flying from Dec 1 but then even Selangor flying club has got a waiver.

  13. Forgive my ignorance. Isn’t KNB a profit oriented organisation? It would be like wishing for the star if ever one of their plane ever lands at Jalan Padang Tembak. As we all know, TF and KM is all about money and they have 20.5% in KNB. Positive thinking? Dream on..

    Yes Khazanah remained a profit based organisation but as I mentioned in the post, this had happened before when Khazanah took over Malaysia Airlines. They had the BBJ for sale but since no good offer came, I was told the best price for it was less than RM100 million, it was then handed over to GOM to be turned into an executive jet operated by RMAF. If rationalisation and redundancies occurs, which they will, they need to sale the excess planes. If they cannot get a good price for it, which they will not in the present economic scenario, its good for Mindef to make its request now rather than wait for the opportunity to slip by. As I said they want AEW, MPA and tankers and eight planes had been handed over on a silver platter and they only need to fork out the money to fit the mission equipment. We tax payers had already paid or half paid for those bloody planes, do you want some European sun bathers fly for their holidays in cheap airplanes? I bloody well do not.

  14. @marhalim

    BM6 will join BM5 in the gulf of aden by middle of this month… And why do BM6 need a new fennec? TLDM has 6 of them. They can always rotate heli’s on the ships.

    I suppose BM6 and BM5 will be in theatre together for a while before BM5 returns home. Now TLDM have 2 ships, allowing 1 to always be in theatre.

    What I meant was BM6 will be carrying a new Fennec from the six they had.

  15. Nice enough idea. But don’t be too hopeful. Our planners and decision-makers are not too prone to innovative and creative solutions. Furthermore private sector-public sector arrangements such as the one proposed would appear too adventurous to them. For now I would think ATM-PDRM joint recruit training would have exhausted their propensity for collaborative planning/action!

    I am not being too hopeful. But I wonder if a similar proposal from a highly paid consultant would gain more traction?

  16. Its not a hare brain proposal after all.Look at how other countries had done it.Most of the American AWAC are the old tired B707’s converted, re-engined and serving very well with the US worldwide. Only the Japanese and Australians had brand new aircrafts. All of the MPA/AN-TI SUBMARINE AIRCRAFTS (exception of the new Poseidons) are the retied prop planes used eaons ago. So converting these old MAS planes for our defence purpose is never something which is rocket science. However, conversion/modifications which need to be done overseas and the system to choose to be put in place is expensive. But as the planes are gotten cheap its offset by this cheap initial investment.Stocks of spare parts and engines are plentiful too as MAS can be outsourced to do maintenance for the planes and such planes can even be overhauled locally by our well trained MAS technical staff.
    A trully well integrated solution for the country’s defence neeeds-joint military/civl co-operation

    Those US AWACs are not second hand planes, those were brand new air frames back then as those the prop MPAs.
    Yes MAS is to retire its old A330s and they could be converted to MRTTs too but these airframes are old and it will not be wise to fly them more than 10 years…

  17. Re: “we can retire all the H-130” and “RMAF will deliver A400M at 2016 so this will fill the gap” – Taj

    Have the problems with the A400M engines’ gearbox been resolved yet? Considering the delays, expense and problems of these aircraft, wouldn’t it be wiser to renegotiate with EADS for some new A330 MRTTs? And then the C-130 fleet could be bolstered with some new C-130Js. Just thinking…

    The A400M has went for so long now that delivery will happen unless the current economic crisis escalate and it will be necessary for EADS to cut their losses…

  18. Taj,

    Why on earth would we retire the C-130Hs when all have plenty of hours left and only a handful of A400Ms have been ordered?

  19. Correct.The C130’s has its use as a tactical platform whereas the A400’s are Strategic airlifters.They serve different purposes.Transport-is not a one size fill all solution

  20. Ym Lee,

    I’m all for a jet platform for MPAs and AEW aircraft as they can fly higher and can get to where they need to faster. The key issue or problem here for us is that operating a jet also more than quadraples the operating and mantainence costs compared to a turboprop.


    Almost every single major European or U.S. defence project the past few decades has been plagued with delays and cost overruns, yet some have proved to be an outstanding success. As Marhalim said, short of a major economic disaster, there is no way it will be cancelled. Water under under the bridge but we should have gone for Js in the first place, but then again CTRM would not have got its offset package…….

  21. Alzan,
    For the area the MPA supposed to cover, other than the burst speed, jet platform has little advantage over a turbo prop. However the nature of the MPA mission is to cover a regional area with good endurance. A turboprop platform excels in 0.5-0.7M cruise speed where else turbofan shines in .8-.9M. A rough calculation from Subang to Spratly Island its about 1200km, therefore the both should take 95min and 75min respectively. It is a 20min difference, but in practice, taking account of wind direction and other weather factor, it becomes insignificant. Within the MPA mission profile, the turboprop offers the same range, endurance and sufficient cruise speed. Combine with a far less initial cost and operation cost, turboprop is a better choice over turbofan for our medium MPA requirement.

    To take advantage cost savings through commonality, RMAF/RMN/MMEA must choose the 235/295. The disadvantages are in terms of endurance, for both time in station, sensors and ordnance. Yes operating costs for turbo-prop.

  22. Why retire the C-130s?

    Be patient with the A400M. The Europeans will finish the planes ,they have no choice,for thier future otherwise they have to realy on US transports, a monopoly, unless of course they buy Russian.
    And we are part of the supply chain for these planes.

    Marhalim’s idea are good but will our Government look at it that way.

    The cost of the projects they are mentioning is staggering,where is the money coming from?
    Did Petronas strike gold?

  23. Unfortunately CN-235 series were designed to be a versatility carrier. The multi-role characteristic is just a by product from the decent payload capacity. The aerodynamic design, specifically the wing is bend towards high lift profile and thus the relative low cruise speed and less endurance due to larger induced drag. The AEW required high cruise speed where else the MMEA needs a amphibious carrier platform. The 235/295 fit non of these needs.

  24. Hui,

    My point exactly, a CN-235 still provides around 6 hours of loiter time, plus we already operste it and have a simulator for it. Unless we intend conducting long range patrols over the Western Pacific or the Indian Ocean one day and the governments increases the ops budget to support a jet MPA fleet, something like the CNN-235 or a CN-295 more than fits our requirements, especially if fitted with a mission sensor like AMASCOS. Chile has taken delivery of 2-3 CN-295 configure for MPA/ASW work.


    I’m fairly confident that like other delayed and overpriced European defence projects, the A400M will turn out to be a success but did we need it in the first place? The main reason the Europeans went for it was because their C-130s and C-160s are much older than even our 1st batch of C-139Hs and have had a much, much higher tasking than our H fleet. In short, their transport fleet has to be replaced much more urgently than ours. First the government, at the time of contract signing, announced that the A400M would replace our Hs and then recently, the RMAF announced that it would supplement snd not replace our Hs, so which is which? Given that we are a long term C-130 operator, AIROD is a certified C-130 mantainance centre and that we do not have the heavy lift requirements that NATO air arms have, going for the A400M was a silly and costly decision, especially when there were other areas that required/require funding.

  25. Azlan,
    RMAF operates the 235, while the MPA config requires the 295. The biggest maintenance for aviation asset is always the propulsion system which they both are distinctly different. However the CASA 295 does share the same engine with Saab 340, but they will be diversity in other parts. On other hand RMAF does not really have the facility for the CASA 295 nor the B737. As for the AEW need, Saab 340 does not seem to catch favor from RMAF. Also to be practical, RMAF probably can only afford 2 units within a 10 yrs span. If this is true, then the Sentry might be the best choice. The B737 is a common platform shared by the commercial sector which greatly reduce the maintenance cost, and also offers 10 hours of air time, combine with its better sensor complex, yields the maximum return from the limited investment.

  26. Posted some interesting comments from another site about the Super Hornet and Gripen, that some here might find interesting. The comments are in reference to Canada’s plans to replace its Hornets with the F-35. All in all, IMO the Super Hornet for reasons of commonality and training fits our requirements for than any other present contender. In the present political climate, whether the government will go ahead with an MRCA purchase, even if it wins the next GE, remains to be seen.

    ”A few points to consider. The F/A-18 E/F SHornet is an entirely new, though very similar aircraft to the CF-18 A/B Hornets in Canadian service currently. While the aircraft is very advanced, it is not currently at the leading edge of capabilities at present, and as time progresses and newer designs enter service (F-35, PAK-FA, J-20 et. al.) it will be less and less capable against potentially hostile aircraft. The farther into the future one plans, the less relevant the SHornet will be. If Canada had placed an order for SHornets when they first entered service ~2001, then service until ~2025 – 2030 would be reasonable. If Canada were to order SHornets now, they most likely would not begin to enter Canadian service until 2016 at the earliest, and IMO 2018 – 2020+ is a somewhat more likely timeframe. Assuming a 25-30 year service life, that would ‘see’ Canadian SHornets serving until 2043+, which IMO would not be reasonable based upon the likely limations the system places upon the platform.

    As for a Canadian order of Gripen NG’s… These are IMO still ‘paper’ airplanes. There has been much talk here about the Gripen NG, but when one gets down and seriously examines the claims in terms of capabilities, costs and development risks, then things stop adding up. One of the key issues here is that the Gripen NG does not yet exist as an actual aircraft. There has been a Gripen C or D which has been modified somewhat to serve as a sort of prototype for some Gripen NG systems, it is not the same as actually having a Gripen NG prototype to do testing on, nevermind actually have SDD completed and be ready to commence production.

    It is also worth noting that Russian (and Soviet before them) aircraft have a different design, construction and maintenance doctrine than that used by most Western nations. While an Su-35 would likely have a lower initial cost to purchase and begin operations, Russian aircraft typically have a higher operational and logistical cost. That logistical cost in particular would count against the Su-35 in Canadian service, because Canada would most likely need to source many of the Su-35 parts from Russia, which in a time of conflict might not be available, particularly if the Russian position does not agree with the Canadian position. Continuing with the potential issue a higher logistical cost could have, since the design is different (and a different doctrine) then much of the resources which Canada could potentially draw upon from an ally during a conflict would be unavailable, since the NATO allies operate completely different equipment.”

    In my earlier post on the F35 I had made similar points…

  27. Brother
    Just tell the minister and the generals to get their house in order.
    The assets in the inventory?
    The power that be in MINDEF will rubbish this proposal. Like you said it will be another silly decision, not according to the way you look at it but according to their interest.
    Why and what interest? to be continued…..
    Ramadan Al Kareem…

  28. Hui,

    Integrating AMASCOS to the CN-235 will not be an issue. Yes the CN-235 and CN-295 have different engines – I brought up the CN-295 as a cheaper option to buy and run than a jet.
    I’m not too bothered about AEW aircraft as we have a more pressing need to orbit our EEZ and sea lanes rather than having a network centric ability for our fighters. I’m a firm believer of getting what we need at present rather than getting something we can’t afford for a future possible threat.

    I understand your concern I am also concern that money is being frittered away for things we can’t afford.

  29. I observe with envy delivery to the RAAF of their F/A-18F Super Hornets. Could have been the RMAF receiving theirs as well. A detachment was even at Butterworth!

    Interesting that the RAAF opted for a totally “F” buy. Parallels RMAF’s own “D” and “F” strike emphasis…

    We envy them, some Aussies whacked them saying the Super Bug is not good enough….

  30. Apart from its price tag, another problem for us in getting the F-35 is the delivery schedule as priority will be given to the U.S. and countries that are partners in the programme. Though there is a lot of hype regarding ”stealthy” aircraft, just as there is about digital camo and practicaly every country wanting digital, a lot of serious questions have been asked about the F-35, especially its payload and range [I find it ironic that the F-22s will not be fitted with Link 16 to preserve its stealthiness and that much older aircraft are].

    Given our threat enviroment, plus the fact that we are very, very, very, unlikely to participate in a coalition led air campaign against a country armed with top of the line fighters and triple digit Russian built SAMs, the Super Hornets more than fits our requirements to face any threats we are likely to face.

  31. P.S. There is a photo in ”” showing a Hawk 200 dropping something I can’t ID. It appears to have fins so its probably a retarded bomb.
    I just can’t make out what it is. As far as I know the Hawks are only equipped with dumb bomds, rockets and Rockeyes.

  32. Dear Friends,,

    Honestly all your ideas of swapping our MAS airplane are indeed brilliant,,no doubt !!

    But i dont think it will materialise.

    The answer are simple,,,Only buying new item people will receive certain gratitude aka comission.
    While swapping most of it gain nothing.
    Thus nobodys will bring this issue to top level ,,,,well, i would say max 2hrs on the table then dustbin !!

    This just my humble opinion,,not a justify fact !! hehe !!

  33. FYI, it looks like the Boeing 737s will be going “to Sapphire, a new short-haul full-service carrier MAS is establishing, which will be managed by Firefly.”

    There are many 737s to go around…

  34. @azlan

    That photo you mentioned is a hawk 200 dropping a paveway laser guided bomb. It is guided by the paskau team using laser designators.

    An interesting note that a real live paveway was used, rather than a training round that TUDM recently purchased (well maybe that has not arrived yet?).

    It can also be buddy lased by F/A-18 and Su-30mkm, but not by the hawk itself…

    As for malaysian stocks of paveway, i have seen one as far back as early 90’s, hung below the skyhawks during one of the many Kuantan AB
    open days…

    In the second photo, the guys are wearing Protec water helmets!

  35. ……,

    Very interesting, I had no idea the Hawks were cleared to carry Paveways. And a Paveway was seen under a Skyhawk? You sure it was a Paveway as the Paveways were ordered with the Hornets and by that time all the Skyhawks were retired, including the 8 used as buddy tankers for the Hawks. The Paveway could have been one that was on board the MV Leopard that was hijacked and which no official news was released by the government.

  36. Interesting reading on the Paveway…

    “Also, Malaysia will receive 60 Paveway II bombs, along with 15 wooden containers, for $173,370, the announcement said.”

    “Lockheed Martin Corp., Archbald, Pa., is being awarded a $21,867,788 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-10-C-0092) to exercise an option for the procurement of 7,665 enhanced laser guided training round Paveway II units for the Navy (7,217) and the governments of Pakistan (300), Spain (88), and Malaysia (60). In addition, this modification provides for the procurement of 589 wooden containers for the U.S. Navy (500) and the governments of Pakistan (74) and Malaysia (15); 23 replacement-in-kind wooden containers for the the governments of Pakistan (one) and Spain (22); associated data; and non-recurring engineering efforts. Work will be performed in Archbald, Pa., and is expected to be completed in June 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($20,573,292; 94 percent) and the governments of Pakistan ($866,850; 4 percent); Spain ($254,276; 1.2 percent); and Malaysia ($173,370; 0.8 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.”

    Lastly, it appears that Paveways are being “Made in Malaysia” as well…

  37. Well, some of the A-4PTM skyhawks can launch the laser guided maverick missiles, so in theory it can also drop and designate the paveway, although it wont be a good idea as you have to point the aircraft at the target until the bomb hits, which defeats the porpose of having a LGB in the 1st place.

  38. Fareed LHS,

    Thanks for the interesting links. Our Hawks are probably the only ones carrying Paveways
    [during a border clash some years ago, RTAF
    F-5Es fired some Paveways at Myanmmar troops].
    What I find mind puzzling is ……..’s statement that he saw a Paveway on a Skyhawk in the early 1990’s.

  39. ….,

    Iranian F-5s used the IR version of Maverick to great effect during the war against Iraq. I believe that we only have the IR version for our Hornets, or least that’s the only version that has been shown. The Hawk 100s, being fitted with a FLIR and laser range finder in place of a radar, might just have the ability to launch and lased Paveway. In the photo you provided, Paskau is using the new Pakistani laser designators.

  40. Well, paveway bombs aren’t exactly new stuff… It was developed in the 60’s and thousands was expanded during the vietnam war. It is basically a guidance kit for Mk 82, 83 and 84 iron bombs.

    Was the picture taken by a chase plane?

  41. Whatever other things you may wish to say of the RMAF, they are very good at keeping ordnance from public view. It is very rare that we see our combat aircraft’s load-outs, partial or full. What the RMAF have in their a2a/a2s inventory may still surprise us and others.

    And we will never will unless RMAF actually gives a pix handout or one is willing to take the risk of being arrested by waiting on the approaches to Butterworth, Kuantan or Gong Kedak.

  42. Then we wait on the approach of Kuching (Old and new bases) Labuan and Tawau.

    LOL…yes we can do that but the interesting stuff are mostly located in Butterworth, Kuantan and Gong Kedak.

  43. Give and take 2 years maybe Labuan and Kuching air bases will get to see those interesting stuff, expensive hardened shelters are not for transport (rotary and fixed wings) rite?


  44. “The Australian government is in talks with U.S. government officials and Boeing about ordering a further batch of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets because of delays in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

    “The deal could be for up to 24 additional twin-engine fighters. A decision will be made next year, says Defense Minister Stephen Smith.”

  45. More SF export airframes so in long term IMO costs of maintenance and spare part will come down. TUDM if they grab a squadron worth of SF can do some familiarization training with Aussie in Butterworth (yeah so you guys over there can be awed with a brand new “interesting stuff”). What to do with the “veteran” Hornets? Why not those 8 Hornets transfer over to Borneo lah? (Not fair lah u guys over there got all the interesting stuff and we over here have a passing glimpse when they buzz/runway bombing practice on our airports). After all TUDM does have nice hardened shells for each and everyone of them. Its a waste of taxpayers monies to park just transports (rotary/fixed wing) in hardened shells.

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