MRCA: Rafale and the Master

SHAH ALAM: DASSAULT Aviation has teamed up with the Weststar Group to offer the Rafale for the MRCA programme, industry sources have revealed to Malaysian Defence. It was probably this industrial collaboration – led by Weststar – that led to various stories coming out from France that claimed the deal for the Rafale was imminent.

Unfortunately for them, it was another defence deal that Weststar’s subsidiary, Global Komited Sdn Bhd, signed for recently. The deal. Apart from this contract, Global Komited has also won contracts to supply the various types of 4X4s to the Army and recently the IAG Jaws APC to the police.

Malaysian Defence contacted Weststar for comments for this story, however, no comments were forthcoming.

Industry sources told Malaysian Defence that among others, if the Rafale was selected, at least 15 of the aircraft will be locally assembled by Weststar, which is also expected to lead the ISS for the fighters.

Alenia Aermacchi M346 Master advanced jet trainer.
Alenia Aermacchi M346 Master advanced jet trainer.

Apart from the local assembly, the Rafale team -according to the industry sources – is also offering the Alenia Aermacchi M346 advanced trainer aircraft as part of the deal. Details surrounding this part of the deal is limited however.

Alenia Aermacchi M346 Master at the Singapore Air Show 2012
Alenia Aermacchi M346 Master at the Singapore Air Show 2012

So what is the likely deal on offer? Most likely that the M346 will replaced the six MB339CMs LIFT in service with Pulatibang 3 at the Kuantan Airbase.


As the M346s will replace the CMs, the former’s FMS is expected to be part of the deal replacing the latter which is operational at the Kuantan airbase.

The M346 Full Mission Simulator
The M346 Full Mission Simulator

But wouldnt adding another aircraft will increased the cost of the Rafale offer then? Technically, no, as the trainer jets will be “FOC” as part of the package deal. We will have to pay for the cost of support and maintenance of course.

A Rafale pictured in a F3R standard weapon load,  AASM Hammer for strike missions and MICA and Meteor missiles for air-to-air work and extra fuel tanks.
A Rafale pictured in a F3R standard weapon load, AASM Hammer for strike missions and MICA and Meteor missiles for air-to-air work and extra fuel tanks.

Like the British, the French are aware that their aircraft (Rafale) is quite pricey. By offering the Master as part of a package deal, it hoped to kill two birds at the same time. Fulfilled the MRCA requirement with some economic justification while at the same time solved the looming LIFT gap as no upgrades are slated for the two jet trainers in RMAF in the near future.

Alenia Aermacchi MB339CM
Alenia Aermacchi MB339CM

As the Master is also capable conducting similar roles as the Hawks, it would also be the obvious candidate for the mission – extra ones – when the time come to retire them (Hawks). Anyhow, if the Typhoon is chosen instead, Alenia will still benefit from it. And it could still offer the M346 separately to RMAF for the LIFT and light strike missions.

A CGI imagery of modular weapon launchers on the Typhoon.
A CGI imagery of modular weapon launchers on the Typhoon.

Before anyone say T50, do note that, yes, I am aware that the plane is cheaper and more popular, than either the Hawk AJT and M346. However as the F16 or for that matter the F35 have not been selected for the MRCA programme, it is unlikely that the T50 will offered as part of a package. Honestly I don’t think Boeing is that desperate to offer the T50, bearing in mind the TX programme of the USAF.

That said I stand to be corrected.

Personally I think RMAF should get out of the LIFT and light strike role completely and send its trainee fast jet pilots to train overseas. It will be much cheaper than operating several LIFT and light strike squadrons.

RMAF Hawk 208 M40-34 taking off during Eks Paradise 2/2015 at Labuan airbase.
RMAF Hawk 208 M40-34 taking off during Eks Paradise 2/2015 at Labuan airbase.

What about the light strike role then? Well what is the use of the MRCAs if its not used for this type of missions? Its not like we are going to run into low intensity conflict that often. The Hornets were used during Lahad Datu so its not that the MRCA – which ever aircraft chosen – cannot do the same thing.

A Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) F/A-18D M45-02 Hornet aircraft lands at RMAF base Butterworth, Malaysia, June 11, 2014, during Cope Taufan 2014.  Note the bomb markings on the nose. U.S. Air Force photo.
A Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) F/A-18D M45-02 Hornet aircraft lands at RMAF base Butterworth, Malaysia, June 11, 2014, during Cope Taufan 2014. Note the bomb markings on the nose U.S. Air Force photo.

Yes, using a light strike aircraft in a permissive environment is cheaper but having three or four different type of fast jets are considerably more expensive. It is time for RMAF to cut down its aircraft inventory to reflect its budgetary realities. Which is why the MRCA programme is the best chance for it to do so though I admit the initial investment costs is simply staggering.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2227 Articles
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  1. If its assembled in Malaysia for just 15 aircraft , who is going to pay for the infrastructure to built the aircraft?


  2. T50 golden eagles has nothing to do with Boeing. It is a Lockheed martin – KAI product.

    Btw a lot of my comments has gone missing…

    Of course it is a LM product

  3. By the way, just to mention that the Qatar deal for 24 rafales cost usd 7 billion. That is more than the cost of the gowind+scorpene+samudra’s+av8 gempita+Ec735+a400m+su30mkm combined!!!

  4. I would like to see RMAF maintain 2 type of aircrafts.
    1. F18d and Advance Superhornet
    2. Su-30mkm…


  5. We can afford the rafale……just cancel the MRT 2nd Line and High Speed Rail to SG…walla you got the allocation already… but of course it a dreamland story only la

  6. These cost comparisons are very hard to make. We have no idea what specs and services are included from country to country.

    yes but basically that the same price for the export version of the Rafale

  7. Yes, agree that we need not have a cheap fighter just to bomb the occasional Sabah intrusion.

    But there will always be a need for air sovereignty patrols that can be handled by a cheap fighter.

    This need not be a new M346 or Hawk or T-50, the cheapest to buy and operate will do, such as early block F-16s from AMARC.

  8. There again the melayu tends to be cheated by the org putih with all the bling bling…guys cant u see if ever we keep changing to newer training platform n newer mrca…we get shining toys but the amount is still be the same forever…remember what we need is up to date platform n at the same time increase the amount of these platform to 2 folds or 3…the basic needs stil is up to date platform n increase in numbers

  9. Like I said, just get the 2nd hand Typhoons from the RAF. Last time I mentioned it, everyone went poo, poo!!! Taboo subject, second hand aircraft.

    Why does the RMAF need another MRCA aircraft? It’s to replace the Mig 29 which is air defence anyway. Get some Meteor AA missiles and air borne SAAB early warning with the money and that will be OK for the time being. The only way to grow the defence budget is to grow the GDP. Hopefully, won’t be long before its 1.5-2% of 500 billion USD.

    Its a lease buy deal, we cannot lay our hands on the second hand Typhoons unless we signed for the new ones.

  10. Hope if they go with the rafale, the initial 15 assembled locally will be the stepping stone to build more rafales here to fufill the 6 sqdns requirement of the air force.

  11. @ nanonano

    If you want to have 15 large pizza, just order from your nearest pizza joint, no need to open your own pizza restaurant.


    From 2016-2020, there are 3 large projects that are still to be funded

    Av8 gempita
    Gowind ngpv lcs frigates.

    With decent quantity of tudm’s dream mrca might cost more than all of the above, I really don’t see any possibility of getting 18 mrca before 2020. I oppose any mrca buy of small quantities like the previous legacy hornet procurement. The only logical and affordable procurement before 2020 is a replacement/augmentation of the light fighter fleet.

  12. I think rmaf should go for typhoon.
    I also do think that we should keep our light attack aircraft for the next 15 years until our mrca squadron getting bigger and solid.
    And last but not least,the awacs..dont know how long until the gov will acquire this assets.

  13. This country’s national debt:

    I don’t believe we can afford Rafale or Typhoon. Better consider lease or 2nd hand Gripens, T-50, or F/A-18s. Channel whatever savings into AEW and weapons/training.

  14. To make economic sense, we shouldnt stop at 18 rafales. Initial order of 18 with 15 locally assembled will open the way to build more aircraft locally with more local contents, perhaps this will help the airforce to achieve the target of having full 6 sqdns of mrca.
    Perhaps we can have the M345 locally built too to make use fully of the aircraft manufacturing plant.

    With our maturing avionics and parts production plus system integration expertise that we have gained throughout the years, it only make sense that we fully utilise our capability to ensure self sustainability in fighters production and supports because of the large numbers required to fulfill our requirement.

  15. Tom Tom – ” Last time I mentioned it, everyone went poo, poo!!! Taboo subject, second hand aircraft.”

    No. For various reasons the RMAF would rather not have pre-owned air frames; especially high mileage ones that entered service some time back. There is a difference however between a pre-owned high mileage air frame that was manufactured some years ago and has parts that will replacing soon and a pre-owned high mileage air frame that has a newer lineage and will continue to be supported by its OEM for a long time more

    .Tom Tom – ”It’s to replace the Mig 29 which is air defence anyway. Get some Meteor AA missiles and air borne SAAB early warning with the money and that will be OK for the time being.”

    The intention is to get an aircraft that can perform a variety of roles. in this day and age, nobody goes for a front line type that is role specific. Whether we get Meteor or Mica or AMRAAM is irrelevant; we have to sort out other issues. Acquiring the hardware is just part of the solution but not a complete one.

    Az – ”I think rmaf should go for typhoon.”

    Base on an offer of getting Tranche 1s if we buy Tranche 3s; maybe. But based on the actual platform itself; no. There are a host of other issues we have to get right before we can think of getting the best of whatever MRCA we buy. Another problem is operational costs – new generation fighters tend to be much more expensive to run per hour and maintain compared to previous types. For one, there is a greater need for better human resources as things get more sophisticated; and new gen MRCAs have more electronics and other ”high tech” stuff; which leads to more test/support equipment.

    All the OEMs know we don’t have the cash now. What they’re doing is better positioning themselves to get ahead of their rivals so they have the edge when the time comes for us to sign a firm contract.

  16. There are so many countries where the national debt is higher than the gdp. Japan is one of them.

    IMHO The MRCA,LCS are tools required for deterrent level mechanism in dealing with border disputes with countries namely China,Indonesia and Philipines. Its not tools for war as war is far too expensive to even ponder. But not having an adequate deterrent level,may cost us to lose in in the negotiation table of some of these disputed territories,which will have far more dire economic consequences than the so call USD3-4 billion expected cost for the 18 MRCA.

    YES we need the MRCA,the question is what cost/capabilty/foreign relation trade off are we willing to make

  17. @ kamal

    Yes I agree that evey country needs some credible weapons systems as a deterrent to any forces that has hostile intent on our country.

    In malaysia’s case, we need the six gowinds to reinforce our sovereignty in the south china sea, to maintain situational awareness sub sea, on the surface of the sea and the air. The current 2 f2000 frigates are too few and without advanced ASW suites while the SGPV’s has no ASW capability at all. This ASW capability is important as the increased profileration of submarines operating in the south china sea.

    In contrast to the MRCA, we need to take into account that we already have the relatively new and advanced 18 units of the sukhoi su-30mkm as our main air superiority fighter. Realistically we don’t have the funds to buy a credible number of expensive MRCA’S. A small buy of expensive advanced MRCA’S would add very little capability to the already advanced su-30mkm platform while adding to the logistics complexity of the fleet. Additional type of fighters in small numbers also does not solve the now reduced fighter numbers caused by the f-6e and mig-29 retirement and the high attrition of the hawk fleet.

    I understand and I support the need if new MRCA’S for tudm, but the time is not now. Somewhere after 2025 would be the ideal time to get new high end MRCA fighters. For now (2015-2020), with our available budget, it is better for tudm to get advanced low end fighters to make up the numbers in the fighter fleet. I am for the buy of around 40 brand new TA-50/FA-50 for around 1.3bil usd, but something like the jf-17 would fulfil the same mission profile too, and they would provide around 80% of say a Gripen C type of fighters at less than 50% of the cost.

    For new fighters buy the golden eagles 1st. Probably get some money by selling off the hawks and aermacchis (maybe gulf states buying and gifting them to friendly states like what uae does to Lebanon). While getting the golden eagles probably just stay tuned to any available second hand hornets from Kuwait to add to the current hornet fleet. A 3 type fighter fleet (mkm, hornet, golden eagle) to 2025-2030 would be a credible deterrent for the skies of the country

  18. Is Master meant to replace the MB339CM or to complement it? Because I think the CM are quite new…

    Replaced, the body is new but the engines are taken from the old Macchis…

  19. I am no expert when it comes to platform…but if the key concerns are to reduce logistical footprints and enhance quantity…imho then there are only 2 platforms that fit the requirement the SH and additional MKM. But as pointed out..tHE MH17 issue seems to kill the idea of buying russian equipments for the time being

  20. With china ever growing and frequent military exercises at spratly..we have a choice…let The US handles things for us with China as it seems only the US and Vietnam doing anything concrete about it (which in dollar terms cost us nothing) or have a bit if face and make our presence felt there( and incur billions of dollars in return)

  21. mr marhalim…what do u mean about..”singaporean will be fund the infrastructures if rafale will be built locally’

    Its a joke…

  22. We should buy good fighter jets that will be a really good investment in a long term. Buy in the quantity that is really needed to defend our country. Don’t buy in quantity that is only just adequate. That is 18 fighters only. That is not very enough for our country. I suggest at least three squadron of 12 fighters each for Sabah & Sarawak. Six to eight squadron for peninsular. Why? I think you all can figure that out.

  23. Nalzar,

    What we should have and what we can have are 2 profoundly different things. Having ”Six to eight squadron for peninsula” sounds brilliant but in the real world; do we have enough pilots? Do we have enough trainers? How many pilots are accepted annually and how many are streamed for fast jets? Before we can even dream of significantly expending the fighter fleet there are other issues we need to address; not only funds but the human aspect and the support and training infrastructure.

  24. So the pilots and support staffs from our mig squadron will be diverted to sukhoi squadron or training for our new mrca squadron?

    Heard that a few of our sukhoi pilots will go to france in near future, anyone ever heard about this?

    It will depend on the slots available. Have not heard about the French training

  25. I think we should use some of the Hawks for double duty to train pilots.

    It has always struck me why we have never done so and use a different aircraft for advanced training.

    The two seat Hawks are also used for LIFT like the CMs though I am not sure for which aircraft either Hornets or the MKMs. The old 339s were mostly used for new pilots destined for the Fulcrums while Hornets driver used the Hawks

  26. The only 6-8 squadrons of MRCA will be manufactured by Tamiya

    Tamiya. Most likely Trumpeter

  27. Well only 4 squadrons is enough for until 2030. If we can buy 36 rafale which are for 2 squadrons and adding our sukhois and legacy hornet. Its enough i guess. Rafale squadrons in butterworth and kuantan, mkm in gong kedak and legacy hornet in labuan. Though there are a lot of stuffs that i didnt know that need to be considered. Just my sekupang.

  28. @ nihd

    Please look up the price of qatar’s buy of 24 rafales. Their cost could buy 140 su-30mkm. Do you think malaysia has the money to buy 36 rafales as you suggested? Or you would love the gst tax increased to 20% to fund your dream rafales?

    How do you know that by raising the GST to 20 per cent will get us the Rafales?

  29. @ marhalim

    “How do you know that by raising the GST to 20 per cent will get us the Rafales?”

    Just my wild guess in response to nihd’s wish of 36 rafales. How else can we stump out something that costs more on its own than any of malaysian military’s previous RMK budgets in its entirety?

  30. Well i mean that we can buy those in batches. Maybe like 6 aircrafts every 2 years. Bcoz in my opinion if we cannot buy it in bulk, buy it in small batches.

    And yes i’m aware of the price. Per aircraft is almost 200 mil dollars. Not including the operational cost, ordnance and support. But it have different role than our mkm. Even russian use both their Su-30SM and Su-34 for different role. So the rafale is akin of the su-34.

    And the other alternative is of course the F-18 SH. But from my view the government is keen to sign on the french plane.

    Either way, i think we need assets that is not gonna be obsolete in 20-25 years time. Thats why i vouch for rafale. And i think we can buy more ordnance from french compared to uncle sam.

    And if can i want to avoid using same stuffs with our neighbours. We can see from the navy request for kda nsm. Then again, its all up to the government. And this is just my opinion haha.

  31. @ Nihd

    Every rancangan malaysia (5 year plans) have around 5-6bil usd allocated for defence upgrades. And that is to be shared by the army, navy and airforce.

    Currently for Rmk11, most of the budget will be for the gowinds, av8 gempita and the a400m. There is barely 1.5-2bil usd balance left after paying for all those, let alone 8-9bil usd needed for 38 rafales.

    Your suggestion is akin to asking your father to buy a vellfire when all his budget has is for an exora.

    That is the reality now. I don’t see tudm able to buy its dream mrca in acceptable quantities, and if they still insist in getting just 6-8 mrca’s, that will be an irresponsible decision by them.

  32. If tudm really goes for the jf-17,


    Adding another type of fighters to the inventory


    Low cost (around 25mil usd each)

    Able to carry wide range of missiles and bombs (western, Chinese, brazilian).

    Similar engines as mig-29 (maintenance knowledge of engine already established in malaysia)

    It would cost less than 1billion usd to equip 2 squadrons of jf-17 (18×2 for a total of 36 planes).

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