MRCA: Special Funding and Advanced Negotiations

SHAH ALAM: Reuters made a big splash on July 28 when it reported that Malaysia was on the verge of buying the Dassault Rafale. The story stated that Malaysia and France are “advanced negotiations” for the sale of the Rafale fighters.

This should have been posted earlier but I was distracted by the chase to land the Starstreak story.

Anyhow, reading the Reuters story one might be forgiven to think that a deal for the Rafale was imminent, though the story also cautioned that the Malaysian deal might be delayed due to fiscal troubles.

The Reuters report:

“By Cyril Altmeyer

(Reuters) – France is confident of winning two more foreign orders for its Rafale fighter jet by the beginning of next year as it seeks to extend a spate of recent export successes, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Rafales in Egyptian Air Force colours. Rafale
Rafales in Egyptian Air Force colours. Rafale

After failing for years to win an order for its warplane, France has sold 24 Rafales each to Egypt and Qatar in recent months and is in talks to finalise the sale of another 36 to India.

“There should be two other export contracts for the Rafale by the beginning of next year,” not including India, the source said.

“The most advanced discussions are with Malaysia and the UAE,” the source added.

In a further development, the source said that France was negotiating with India for options to supply further aircraft on top of the 36 Rafales the country has provisionally agreed to buy.

In April, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had ordered 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale fighters to modernise his country’s warplane fleet, dealing directly with the French government after three years of inconclusive negotiations with the plane’s manufacturer, Dassault.

India has signaled any further purchases will come though government channels, raising doubts over the future of the stalled commercial negotiations with Dassault for 126 jets


The recent spate of Rafale export orders has shaken up the global defence market and given fresh momentum to the French warplane as available production slots begin to dwindle.

Analysts and diplomats say the appetite for the jets has also risen as a result of the United States’ diminishing influence in the Arab world along with wider security concerns.

However, Dassault still faces tough competition from U.S. and European rivals.

Advanced Super Hornet. Boeing photo
Advanced Super Hornet. Boeing photo

Kuwait is expected to announce soon an order for 28 Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, a $3 billion-plus deal that will keep the jets’ St. Louis production line running well into 2019, according to people familiar with the deal.

Malaysia, which wants to replace its fleet of Russian MiG-29 fighters, is looking at the Rafale, the F/A-18, Swedish firm Saab’s Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Typhoon taking off with the latest P2E software, recently, BAE Systems
Typhoon taking off with the latest P2E software, recently, BAE Systems

While a Malaysian decision had been expected this year, aviation industry executives have warned that fiscal troubles due to lower oil and commodities prices could lead to delays in placing the order.

Indonesia, which needs to replace ageing U.S.-built F-5s, is reported to be studying the Rafale, Eurofighter and Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35 as well as Sweden’s Gripen and the Lockheed Martin F-16. The Eurofighter consortium comprises Airbus Group , representing Germany and Spain, Italy’s Finmeccanica and Britain’s BAE Systems. (Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; Writing by Tim Hepher; Editing by Michel Rose and Pravin Char).- Reuters.

I am not blaming the reporter – I have been in the same situation before – but relying on a source which- is obviously a patriotic French person carries a lot of risk. That said I am not saying that Malaysia is not in advanced negotiations with the French over the MRCA programme.

Indeed a couple of my industry sources confirmed such talks are on-going. However what the anonymous source failed to inform Reuters is the fact that the advanced negotiations are also being conducted with two other countries namely the US and UK for the sale of what else, the Super Hornet and the Typhoon.

Dassault recently delivered 3 Rafales to Egypt. Dassault
Dassault recently delivered 3 Rafales to Egypt. Dassault

So in reality, if we live in a perfect world, we could be signing for the Typhoon or the Super Hornet and not just the Rafale. But that is the reality of it, with the Rafale seeming on song a well timed leak always create the bigger buzz.

Buzz notwithstanding, my sources pointed out that the countries which had chosen the Rafale in recent months – Qatar, Egypt and India – are all long term operators of Dassault fighters so it was not conceivable that they would again choose a French fighter for their needs. And Malaysia is not.

Advanced Super Hornet
Advanced Super Hornet

They pointed out that another air force which had considerable experience with US fighters, Kuwait Air Force looked increasingly likely to choose the Super Hornets to replace its legacy Hornet fleet. Although Typhoon is also competing for the same deal, my sources again pointed out the Kuwaiti experience with US support and maintenance would probably be a tipping factor for the Super Hornets.

It is for this reason, they said the Super Hornet was probably the favourite for the MRCA programme with the two European fighters lagging behind. Could the Rafale or Typhoon be chosen, instead, of course, my sources said.

One thing going against the Rafale at the moment is – ironically – its own recent successes. Even India with 36 Rafales selected, though not signed, are fearing that its aircraft will not be delivered on its schedule. The supply bottleneck will be further exacerbated if the UAE – another operator of legacy Dassault fighters – finally decides to go French again and signed the contract before the Indians!

Typhoon with P2E soiftware taking off for a flight test recently. BAE Systems
Typhoon with P2E soiftware taking off for a flight test recently. BAE Systems

However, in the case of both the Super Hornet and Typhoon, the aircraft could be delivered quickly to Malaysia if the contract is signed in the immediate future as the production line is much more fluid at the moment thought it will not be so forever. Indeed Dassault had indicated it will ramped up production of the Rafale to meet the new orders but at the moment, the French air force and navy are taking a back seat due to the export sales.

Anyhow, so why we are negotiating for the MRCA when it is not listed under the RMK11 funding? The title of this post of course; Special Funding.

Although call Special Funding, if exercised, it will become part of the Security sector allocation of RMK11 or specifically defence. Huh? Yes even though the current allocation for RMK11 for the security sector does not include funds for the MRCA programme, if the Special Funding is passed, it will be added later under the plan as part of the mid-term review.

For example, if the allocation for the security sector for RMK11 is RM16 billion (a hypothetical figure of course as it had not been announced), by adding RM2 billion for the MRCA, the final allocation will be RM18 billion. As usual any shortfall for the programme could be covered in the next Malaysian plan or the next (you get my drift)

As it is not a firm funding yet, it is called “special”. It must be noted that such special funding had been done in the past and its not specifically meant for the security sector only. It could also and had been given to other sectors including education or any other needs that the government sees fit.

Will the Finance Ministry commit to the special funding, which will allow for the signing of a deal within one year or so (according to my sources)? I am still not convinced yet. With historic low oil and commodity prices coupled with a declining Ringgit and the current political imbroglio, I am not too optimistic.

We could however be blessed with a couple of billions in donations of course, but the donor must specifically stated MRCA for that to occur. I am willing to be the person to receive the donation, as my contribution to national service. My email is in the About page (in case any one with a couple of billions to spare is reading this).

Anyhow check back with Malaysian Defence on regular basis, hopefully I will get more updates on the MRCA programme.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2203 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Buy now pay later.. The supposed 10 year loan from the French is obviously attractive, if the interest rate is OK.

  2. Marhalim, are you a fan of Eurofighter Typhoon? Because it seem’s like you ‘criticize’ about Rafale deal. But i do read that news since last week.

    What deal are you talking about? I am no fan of any plane I am aware how ever that money is very tight and even India with a much bigger budget also feels the pain of the Rafale deal. More over I am aware of certain things which I cannot write about as it’s hearsay. I am sure it’s correct but who will vouch for it

  3. Maybe the donation is for our MRCA program…
    This could be the answer for MACC..

    if we have extra USD 700 million, what can we get? 12 super hornet? or 12 Su-30mkm? or 12 Gripen?

  4. Depends, if the interest rate is okay… We’d cash it in. If it sucks, We’d go back to Super Hornet just as what TUDM had wanted.

  5. the billion euro question is…

    how much “donation” the MRCA seller is willing to give for their fighter to be choosen?

  6. Hmm … too bad there’s hardly any mention of Gripen: similar performance but relatively much cheaper to buy and fly (a third of Rafale’s and half of the Super Hornet’s flying costs). Easier to maintain too — according to Swedish AF, just a team of 1 NCO & 3 conscripts. And doesn’t need much support equipment either — a C-130 load of parts can support 10 Gripens. Lots of upgrades planned. I suspect the Gripen’s single engine probably tilted the balance against it as far as RMAF is concerned.

    Having said that the Rafale is the next best choice to my mind. A step-brother of the more expensive (flying cost) Typhoon but with all-French systems. Also combat proven like Typhoon. Good in FGA role as seen in Libya.

    I don’t know why we are still considering the Super Hornet. SH shouldn’t really be in the equation. It’s outperformed by the others, the design is a bit old and it thus offers nothing new. It’s not cheap to buy or to fly either. It’s really optimised as a ground attack a/c built for the US Navy. That brings me to my final point: if we want to replace the Migs which are essentially air superiority fighters, why are we looking at a ground attack a/c? Also, with the USN’s F-35 about to be delivered in a couple of years, it’s doubtful if any major upgrades will be planned for SH.

    In the 90’s the RMAF had a good mix of ground attack (F-18) and air superiority (Mig-29) fighters complemented with a/c for CAS (Hawk) and recce (F5) but no EW. If Boeing really wants to sell us a plane, how about selling us the Growler?

    All of my sources said the Gripen is out but don’t tell that to the Swedes!

    Growler is not in the MRCA requirements. If it was it will be the only one under consideration as both the Typhoon and Rafale are not configured for the Growler tasking.

  7. I am not a fan of the rafale deal (If it ever happens) not because the lack capabilities but more on what actually we can afford.

    Looking at the potential situation next few years, either we lease (which in my rough calculation will save between 20% to 30% over 10 years period as opposed to buying) or we buy legacy hornets and spruce it up or remains with MIGs (albeit upgraded) or just remains with 18 SU30, 20 Hawks and 8 Hornet till 2020.

    Bean counter will favor the last option though, arguing there is no visible threat thus the number of aircrafts are good enough as deterrent factors

  8. few day ago news.

    khoo jin kiat on Twitter
    @HishammuddinH2O look forward to meeting HE Jean-Yves Le Drian next month in Malaysia.

    HE Jean-Yves Le Drian and @HishammuddinH2O also highlighted the deep and enduring defence partnership between Malaysia and France.

    What does that crap mean anyway? Its easy to offer something cryptic without saying anything. At least my story is out there, if I am wrong, I am wrong. Its like a politician saying that the elections will be held soon when the elections needed to be held within the next 12 months.

  9. If the money situation is bad, let go with the second hand stuff. Let’s ask the Kuwaitis to donate us their Hornets to us. I hear the Middle Eastern donors are very generous nowadays. The UAE even pass their Leclerc MBTs and BMP-3 IFVs to the Yemenis….

  10. if the middle east can “donate” 2.6 billion ringgit to najib, giving TUDM used/discarded hornets should not be an issue…

  11. kamal….
    Lease gripen not cheaper, you can take cost current lease country. after 30 lease, cost same like your get 18-24 unit F-18F. also can use for at lease 30 year.

  12. Hi Marhalim…
    Base on news, India Rafale expensive is due to India want huge 50% offset from deal amount and integration local weapon. if without huge offset, India rafale price will be around 120-130 each.

    And we do not want offset deal? A nuclear plant or two is quite expensive you know…

  13. Oh… if that case, then sure… France-Malaysia relation remain strong anyway but Dassault french company so eager want Malaysia buy those jet. What so special anyway? And……. i’m sorry for question about ‘fan plane’ thingy.

    Of course they want to sell their jet, thats the reason they go into business….

  14. Ferret, The way I see it, we already have the Su-30mkm to fulfill air superiority role, and RMAF is looking for a more potent platform for ground attack for wild weasel offensive operation. Thus the aircraft selection for MRCA, the only true air superiority aircraft among the bunch is the Typhoon. Regarding the growler, what I understand is that Boeing is not actively marketing the system because it is a very sensitive technology and quite effective as well, only to be shared with USA’s proxies. Please correct me if i’m wrong. Besides the sukhoi with KNIRTI jamming pod could more or less does the job, but the sukhoi lacks ground attack capability.

    Regardless of RMAF preference, i quite agree that the Gripen would be a financially wise pick, but the leaked Swiss Air Force evaluation of the aircraft and Lars Helmrich testimony to the Riksdag caused the aircraft to fall in disfavor. I must confess that i’m a super hornet fanboy, but i do realize its shortcomings and to be honest the Rafale and Typhoon were a lot better in terms of capability with many modernization programs already in the funnel. If only someone could shake out a few billions out of his private account that’d be nice..

  15. If we have a budget . Can we buy both models
    ( Rafale and Typhoon )
    just asking.

    If we have money, either choose one or none

  16. I couldn’t care less about what we buy a long as it’s minimum of 18 and as long as we acquire a common data link and eventually get a AEW. The question of whether we should get Super Hornet, Rafale, Typhoon or whatever is academic; irrespective of whether a particular type has a better turn rate when carrying a certain load, has certain areas which incorporates newer technologies or whether it requires less maintenance hours per hour flown : the difference will be in the systems capabilities we acquire to go in with our jets, NOT the actual platform. All the types on offer have their respective merits when compared against their competitors.

    No doubt negotiations are ongoing (they almost always are) but I find it hard to to see how we can sign a deal (irrespective of whether part funding in the form of a loan is provided) in this political and financial climate. Then again, I could be wrong.

  17. I love the sound coming from the Eurofighter EJ2000 engine .
    during Lima 2013 this jet produced the noisiest sound of all jets taking part. Eurofighter typhoon.really rock the show.
    Just share the info.

  18. Anas,

    You’re right of course about the Sukhois playing the air superiority role and that we need more a/c capable of undertaking ground attack/strike, hence my mention of Rafale’s good account in Libya in FGA role. The unmentioned aspect of RMAF’s search for Mig replacement is strike capability. IIRC there was an earlier report of ATSC working with Mikoyan with a proposal to upgrade our Migs — the upgrade crucially includes upgrades to increase A2G capability. ATSC claims RMAF was ‘positive’ regarding the proposal but who knows.

    As for Growlers, I asked the question with tongue firmly in cheek. They’ll never sell us the planes. We’re not in the same circle as Australia. Anyway AFAIK the Sukhois are also equipped to undertake SEAD missions.

    Platform vs Systems.

    I’m all for systems thinking, Azlan. A fighter plane is a system consisting of a platform and several sub-systems including avionics, power plants, weapons and humans which in turn contain sub-systems of their own. The plane is part of a super system, the patrol/flight/sqn.

    Platforms count because they carry the sub-systems to battle, and, hopefully, back in one piece. For example, many of the reports about F-35 deals with its deficiency as a system, because its weapons sub-system is deficient — only 4 missiles. Adding external weapons will add to its observability and thereby compromise its function as a stealth system. Defence people including RMAF recognise that they’re dealing with systems although its more tacit than expressed. And so tactics are born.

  19. Ferret,
    That’s interesting, have the specification sheet for the proposed mig-29 upgrades been finalized? is it going to be similar to mig-35? Yes, i’m sure the sukhois are SEAD capable but i’m not really sure of it’s terrain masking capability, the wings are too swept (i’m no aviation expert so do correct me if i’m wrong).

    Regarding platform vs system, it is true that without a good platform a good system would nevertheless fail. I’m sure RMAF is well aware of the importance of system-centric doctrine, the problem is RMAF is trying to build a system with platform as the basis. It is not impossible but very expensive and problematic. Firstly to integrate the plethora of platforms that we have hoarded to suit the system. Secondly, the problem lies in developing tactics, a system-centric doctrine needs system-centric tactics. But because of our platform focused procurements, our tactics tend to be more platform vs platform. Again i’m no norman schwarzkopf, please correct me if i’m wrong.

  20. Ferret,

    There was a very interesting article about how the RAF is already conducting tests “(if that’s the right word) about how to jointly employ the Typhoon and the F-35 to bring out the best in both; in the knowledge that each has its merit.

    Platforms do count but at the end of the day, in this day and age, the actual platform matter less as all can do the job. It’s not the platform that will make to core difference but many people forget this and instead place more importance on the actual platform. No point buying Rafale or Typhoon if we don’t but the goodies to go along with it.

    Instead of the common tendency to compare platforms, what we should be doing is asking how we intend to achieve “connectivity’; to increase the SA of the platform by linking it with other fighters and other assets. I’m under no illusion that we can achieve the same level of connectivity as Tier 1 NATO air arms but getting a common data link to connect all our fighters with each other and with ground based surveillance would a good start. Said this before and I’ll say it again : rather be in a older gen aircraft connected to an AEW than a newer gen one like the Rafale which is totally reliant on its on board systems.

  21. Ferret,
    Things like “1 NCO & 3 conscripts” is like the industry standard, nothing to fuss about. And forget about the volume, Hercs can carry 6 full airframe, don’t think “C-130 load of parts can support 10 Gripens” is any impressive. The AF can’t do line properly in established base, lets not fancy ourselves with them projecting to a field base.

    As for the system thingy, I would say, learn to walk properly before running.

  22. I am not lobbying for any fighter aircraft except for the old fighter plane
    the Northrop F5G/F20 Tigershark and the KAI-F50 of ROK.
    Why don’t RMAF consider buying KAI-F50 ?It is a good buy as Iraq and Philippines have it.
    RMAF used the Hawk 100 and 200, F/A-18D in Ops.Daulat, so why not KAI F-50 to replace the MRCA.

  23. Have to agree with Azlan on this.

    Better to have existing fleet connected via datalink to AEW&C, ground & sea assets before embarking on a new MRCA.

    A wise move at present is to wait for any available or suitable legacy hornet to consolidate our fleet.

    Focus on enhancing our system first, platform could come later.

  24. Just for laugh, all the government need to do is sacrifice one of the overweight “crocodiles” within its rank and confiscate its illegal wealth, and voila, funding problem for MRCA, AWAC, MPA, AH… solved, plus Malaysia will be healthier in the long run with one less giant parasites leeching of the people wealth. Btw, I thought RMAF already decided to forestall new MRCA and go for upgrade/refurbishment of the MiGs? I think the glossy future of too-big-to-fail F-35 replacing the SH still remain to be seen with Boeing announcing extending SH production (perhaps betting on the failure of F-35?), not to mention recent reports of only 50% readiness for the 5th wheel B variant, despite a likely politically-pressured announcement of full operational status…

  25. Gotta say, Azlan has a point.

    The first thing we’ve been focusing is to get a better platform but we lack the AEW systems to support us. Most of us thinks what is the best aircraft but we didn’t have any good data connectivity among the friendlies in the battlefield.

    Integrate the system and we might be able to move forward.

  26. Why not skip the MRCA entirely and go unmanned. That’s where the whole world is heading…..

    Is this possible anyone?

  27. Guys,

    I’ve yet to hear of a manufacturer producing, say, a weapons system and then building a platform around it. In many cases platforms determine and limit the types of systems that’s potentially available to them. Usually systems development is platform-driven, hence the emphasis on platforms. Even directed-energy weapons (lasers, etc) systems are designed to fit existing platforms for the simple reason that platforms are what will enable the weapons to be brought to bear.

    Nonetheless I do take Azlan’s point about the influence advanced systems can have on a battle — it makes sense to think about systems that can enhance the combat power of a particular weapon. In the case of a fighter (as indeed, a submarine), that would obviously include sensors, communications and weapons. I sympathise with Azlan’s anxiety that people may be looking too much at platforms at the expense of systems but I think there are people in the MAF who don’t.

    I’m actually not comfortable with dividing the whole discussion into ‘centrics’. I’m just stating what is. I don’t know what platform-centric or systems-centric tactics mean. I believe that with any weapons system, we need to look at the whole picture.

    I’m no Norman Schwarzkopf either Anas, but just like the rest of MD’s visitors, I’m just a reasonably educated person who happens to be interested in defence and perhaps contribute to an intelligent discussion.

  28. H,

    Calm down.

    The operative word is ‘conscript’. How long did (Sweden stopped conscription in 2010, I think) a Swedish AF conscript serve? Answer:12 months. How long is the training for an RMAF fighter tech including recruit training? 12 months, maybe more. In the field, team of 6 can refuel and rearm a Gripen in 10 mins.

    Canada sent 6 CF-18 plus 3 support aicraft including tanker to fight ISIL. How big is the logistic tail? 600 personnel.

    “Hercs can carry 6 full airframe”

    What aircraft type?

  29. Ferret,
    My disclaimers are meant to say that I welcome scrutiny of my statements, as a guy without a military background I would appreciate verification from more knowledgeable and experienced MD visitors. I truly apologize if you took them as a snide, perhaps I should use better sentences. Same goes to my question regarding the Mig-29 upgrades, it is not rhetorical, I really want to know the specs and I was hoping you could share them.

    There are many instances where systems were made prior to development of platform such as the Aegis Combat System and the PAAMS. This way, the platform requirements will be centered around accommodating such system so that when the platform is ready integration could be made easier and tactics could be developed to maximize system’s capability.

    *Btw Marhalim, i’m having some problem with the captcha. It says that i didn’t check it when I already did and have to copy my comment, return to main page, go back the post page, paste my comment and once again check the captcha button. Is anyone having the same problem or am I the only one?

  30. A bit off topic, is MBDA camm is in the gov consideration for sgpv anti-air missile system?

    No, its MICA.

  31. Our jiran is more aggressive in their discussion with Eurofighter ….They will get everything they want from Eurofighter Consortium ….

    Eurofighter takes dialogue with Indonesia to the highest levels

    Airbus is already in Indonesia working with IPTN so of course they are working more closely. We on the other hand have JV in maintenance and support for the Cougars. A lot of difference

  32. Tom Tom,

    Mankind has yet to reach a stage where unmanned platforms can totally do away with manned platforms. As of 2015 the technology just isn’t there; if it was, the Yanks wouldn’t be spending trillions on the F-22 and F-35.


    I’ve encountered the same problem from time to time but only when accessing the site from a phone.

  33. No doubt, we one must learn how to “walk properly before running”. Having said that, having a systems capability is a prerequisite in this day and age; it’s something that the RMAF simply can’t do without.

    If left to the RMAF, our first AEW would have been delivered in the late 1980’s and if it wasn’t for a slow economy, we would would have had F-20s flying from Gong Kedak. For that matter, it if wasn’t for the 1997 Asian Economic Crisis the RMAF would have for Hornets Cs and Rooivalk (a blessing in disguise we didn’t get it as we would have been saddled with an immature design made by a company who was,facing cash issues)!

    I’ve been told told that there is a clause in the contract for Link 16 to be fitted to the MKMs at a later date. Not sure how true this is as I’ve yet to see any extra antennas on the MKMs but I’ve heard that the MKMs were delivered with Russian data links which are being used – as an interim measure – for aircraft to “talk” with one another.

  34. Honestly,we would not have this predicament with the Mig29 replacement had we bought the Fighting Falcons/Vipers and by the way why did we left out the F15 from the list?I know it’s an old design but the constantly updated systems that come with it still works.Yeah I know they’re expensive but why leave out the best and probably the most capable MRCA there is….just my two rupiahs!

  35. I’m not sure if the F-15E was even cleared for sale to us in the 1992/1994 period. I also doubt whether we could have afforded it; had we wanted it and had it been cleared for sale.

    At the end of the day there is no “best” or most “capable’ aircraft; just what comes closest to meet our requirements based on what we can afford and on political factors. Like everything else, choosing an MRCA will involved compromises.

  36. Agreed with Mr. Azlan..

    Why don’t we use the budget for AEWC .. and upgrades our capability in network centric warfare. Basically try to have same common data link for all radar, aircraft, command centre.

  37. MPA should be the priority rather than MRCA. We are surrounded by water but sadly lacking MPA.. These may be not as ‘sexy’ as Fighter Jets but the MH 370 and the hijacking of the tanker highlighted these deficiency .

  38. M.F.J.

    Our radars and operations centres are already linked and have been for some time. Part of the RMAFs radar picture is shared with GAPU. As part of the 1988 MOU with Britain GEC-Marconi provided a C3 system. This has since been replaced.

    The next step is getting a common data link for our fighters. Connecting our fighters to other fighters and to ground based radars won’t be hard. The technology is there and just requires the willpower and cash. Connecting those fighters to assets from other services however will be a problem : even other countries who have been in the business for a long time have yet to get things fully right.
    Even something like ensuring our fighters can communicate via radio to ships (which people would automatically take for granted happens) can be problematic; not just for us but for many others too.

  39. Yes. We should have this n that. But we have a lumited budget fir everything. What more with our foreign reserves going below 100 billion. Thats why our ringgit is in free fall coupled with china loosing steam n our own political situation. But looking at the big picture, we are fully extended. So we need to prioratise. The army armoured vehicle project is on going. This has taken a chubk of our budget. Now we have the china n sulu threat. So the navy has priority now with its new frigates or litorial combat ships. The lwft over is little. Looking at tge situation, our government will not be able to do anything with the political situation bring at the state they are on, defence is the last thing on yheir mind. Most practical option is still repair n upgrade the migs. For sure if the upgrade is undertaken, it eill be upgraded radars that can give between 50 yo 150% better performance compared to current radars. Then hands on throttle n stick upgrade n new digital instruments plus a new dorsal fuel tank n.upgarde to the fuselage for 6,000 hour. If really still got money, reenginning with new model engines rhat burns better n no more smokey bandits but more power n fuel consumption. This translate into better range or heavier load too. But.we can all dream. Money matters

  40. Post pone the mrca. Retire the migs with no replacement. That would release app. 170 million for other operational use. Main issue now are non state terror,human trafficking, piracy and weapon smuggling. So need more pv,more uav,more mpa,more observation heli and maybe aewc?

    Go for short term solutions first as the needs are pressing. Get good secondhand pv and mpa from us,japan or australia.If suitable maybe a few ex us navy e2c?

    China issue would need the effort of Asean +US and Japan to handle it

  41. For the mrca, do not cut it but postpone it until we hav the big bucks. For the interim measure, we should buy the legacy hornet from the kuwaitis (if it is available, hope so). Spend the money on naval assets like ships and mpa. Upgrade wat we hav like the kedah opv and the lekiu frigate.

  42. Why should we buy the legacy hornets from Kuwait.. the middle east leaders are very generous they should just donate them to us ..

  43. IS is out there. I think this is not the time Middle Eastern countries want to convert to a new fighter.

  44. Especially since a reliable and easily maintained F-18 is more than enough to drop a few bombs.

  45. Of topic.

    I would like to wish all our Singaporean readers a Happy 50th Independence Day and a Marvellous Golden Jubilee!

    May you continue to prosper and we can look forward to more and better cooperations in the future, Majulah Singapura!

  46. Lee,

    – Even if an upgrade for the Topaz was available, it makes little sense to do so: it needs replacing, not upgrading. Software or processer upgrades will not overcome the imitations of an older generation radar. Even if we get a new radar, we would still need a data link to bring out the best of its capabilities.

    – The smoke from unburnt fuel is the least of our concerns. What’s needed is an engine with FADEC and one that has a better MTBO compared to the RD-33. Also, the issue of smoke is only really a concern during WVR engagements. In this day and age, the bulk of engagements – due to better technology and sensors – will be BVR.

    – The most comprehensive Fulcrum upgrade – one that is operational – is the IAF’s UPG upgrade. With regards to the RMAF however, nothing has changed : it would rather retire the Fulcrums than subject them to an upgrade; not only because it feels the cash can be better used elsewhere but for other reasons.

  47. Here’s an interview with RMAF Mig CO at LIMA with some interesting comments about Migs and Hornets and a hint of C2 of counter-air ops.

    Bottom line: Know the primary roles of the planes; both systems AND platforms matter.

    I deleted the link as it did not work

  48. AM,

    Maybe the Sheikhs know more than we do. Just can’t put my finger on the IS/Daesh.

    A seemingly rabble army with no clear chain of command is able to get their hands on heavy weapons, tanks and arty (off an Iraqi division, no less) — and here’s the interesting part — and is able to use those weapons to fight almost immediately. Other armies take months to train their gunners and tankies. It’s amazing that recruits from dozens of countries can quickly gel and hold their own against the armed forces of two countries, Iraq and Syria, and capture large swathes of territory in the process. One has to ask, who really are leading them? Ex-Iraqi Baathist officers? Maybe, but why would they turn against the Baathists in Syria?

    The head scratching continues…

  49. Quite a number of those serving with IS previously served in the Iraqi and Syrian army. Quite a number of foreign volunteers, had also served in their respective armies or would have had experience fighting in places like Iraq against the Yanks, Abkhazia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Nargano Karabakh and Libya. Granted, IS units may still comprise largely if raw recruits but there is always a cadre of experienced men who form the backbone of these units.

    Like other similar groups, IS excels in small unit attacks that depend largely on a local support base, knowledge of the enemy and the local terrain. Like other similar groups, IS does less well when it has to mount more complex operations and gas problems when it operates in areas where there is an unfriendly population (in the case of IS, the Shjas). Other groups who made the transition from being a traditional guerilla army to one that had more bang; was UNITA, RENAMO, Polisario and off course the Taliban (the “game changer” (hate the word) for the Talibs were theirs 4x4s (courtesy of benefactors in the Gulf) that made them more mobile than their opponents.

    We also have to look at IS opponents. The most effective resistance has been from the Kurds, Iraqi Shia militias and Pasdaran detachments (off course the Yanks and Sunni Arabs won’t acknowledge this). When IS went on the offensive the bulk of the Sunni regular Iraqi army melted away: to be expected given that many has only minimal prior training.

  50. Ferret,

    Indeed both the platforms and systems matter. The KEY difference is that a new generation platform operating on its own doesn’t bring much value in terms of capabilities but a much older platform which has superior SA – due to having a data link to talk to an AEW – offers much more capabilities.

    The former Iraqi Baathists – all Sunni – who are now in IS or other groups opposed to the Iraqi government; are technically enemies of the Syrian Baathist government – Alawites – as Syria is also the enemy of IS and other groups fighting the Iraqi government. Another point to consider is that most Sunnis view the Shias and Alawites as heretics and not “true” Muslims. The Alawites – like the Shias – have icons depicting their prophets and have photos of the deceased on tombstones. In the case of the Alawites, they also celebrate – to some extent – Christmas.

    Another reason is that Syria and Iran – both considered “heretic” governments – by the Sunnis are strategic allies. When the whole world was supporting Saddam during the 8 year war which he started, the only regional country that stood by Iran was Syria. When the Israelis insisted that Syria drop Iran in return for part of the Golan; Assad refused, saying that Syria would never abandon a friend. Thanks to Bush Junior and his poodle Blair; Iraq is now led by a Shia dominated government and Iraq/ Iran ties are at an all time high : the mullahs in Tehran are ever grateful to Bush Junior and his neo-conservatives for the 2003 invasion which led to the toppling of a secular Sunni government.

  51. Azlan ….
    agree you on Datalink … but is not easy to be done.
    “Unfortunately, there is no “gain without pain” and the benefits of Link 16 cannot be realised without complex equipment, trained personnel and good organisation. This paper explores the operational activities that are essential to exploiting Link 16.\” from Thales.
    Our Mindef need a team, to design our Link-11/Link16/Link-22 standard, spec, frequency, for entire 3 force so future RMAF/RMN/RMA tactical datalink need follow this standard. so only we can think on AEW, and we also need Satellite relay to data if beyong 500km specialy in sea which no Comm tower. if not wrong, our 3 force is not data-link most like like voice command.
    For Su30mkm,it is not include Data-link module. due to mkm is using Thales comm module, possible we need huge money Thales to develop data-link module. it also involve radar and firecontrol russia use in MKM, so seem complex, and also inlcude Nato/Russia secret, not sure how deal with it. russia only develop own Su-27/30 series data-link link to his AEW standard.

  52. Ferret,
    No worries, none taken. But if you really believe brochers in such a way, it will be a painful endeavour in any business. When the time matters, OEM will tell you, “conscript” is defined as trained civilian, refers to a small print inside the contract. You need to know when to call BS.

    I do know know in what context you had in those 600 Canadians. But if you are refering their Kuwait attachment, all together 10 aircraft, ground unit and command unit together with their logistics sounds about right to me.

    Finally I did not said frames are in one piece.

    There is no point building a network when there is no node to connect. You can see them coming, then what? Snapshot your radar screen and make a big fuss on the UN table? This is losers doing. Unfortunately we were one of loser few years back and we did the same to others which were even bigger loser some time later.

    There are black holes on the ground yet to be filled up. If they cannot afford financially and logistically to fill them with decent solid state radars, should not think about flying ones. For the moment, they should think about how to get the fighters on the air more often and if possible, more fighter on the air more often.

    BTW, in the late 80s they were busy recouping the Skyhawk mess.

    For those who thinks we should settle for cheap used frame, take a second think about it. We have half of our fortune comes from the offshore rigs. At the same time, if shit happens, you want someone to drive a used ship that is, optimistically speaking, no better than the other side, gladiate with their life, and win the duel with their what? Lionheart or your ego? or do you think used frame are so cheap and we have such a big pool of pilots that we can gangbang the other side to death?

  53. SavyKL,

    We already operate data links; not as if it’s something totally new to us. The RMN for example has had data links since the 1980’s and today operates at least 2 different kinds! Like I said before, I’ve been told there is provision in the MKM contract that calls for Link 16 to be fitted at a later date.


    The whole point of getting “connected” is that it maximises the capabilities of what limited assets we already have. That’s the whole point! If we’re going to wait until we have sufficient hardware before we acquire the software to go along with it; that day may never come. What I’ve described in my previous posts about the need to develop a systems capability is not beyond us and is something the RMAF has wanted for ages. In this day and age, having such a capability is the bare basics and is a pre-requisite for the successful enjoyment of air power : not something that is exotic or a grand luxury we wish we could have but totally can’t. The RTAF will attest to that. To repeat, I’m under no illusions we can develop the same level of connectivity as certain countries : getting a common data link to increase the SA of assets by enabling them to “talk” to one another is the bare basics.

    I believed once the MKMs are able to use the ACMI pods used already by the Fulcrums and other fighters, they will enable the data link capability to the other fighters.

  54. Hai….where got derma Leclerc? That is a UAE armored brigade operating in Yemen la. Even the Oshkosh JLTV are operated by UAE SF. They are officially in, just not flying UAE flag. Oddly enough they use the old South Yemen standard. The ME is undergoing a lot of reversion these days.

    The only derma is to personal accounts.

  55. Azlan…

    your sound seems like RMN and RMAF not datalink each other too. so we still need new datalink standard to link all 3 arm forces together.
    MKM i heart Datalink only optional. i see no so soon MKM will include Datalink.their is no MKM datalink module yet.

    The MKM indeed have datalinks. However its Russian and apparently does not speak with the Western ones. I am told that they are working on it, thats why I replied in an earlier comment that once the Flankers are able to use the ACMI pods, I believed they will be able to use the datalink though it will be a Western one and not RUssian ones. Whether or not they will be able to send out data from the Russian made stuff ie radar, EW pods is beyond me.

  56. I’m very interested in the RMAF’s C3/C4 system that was deployed during the last Cope Taufan but – as to be expected given the sensitivity involved – very little information on it has been released in the public domain. There are also other things the RMAF has done which has not been reported or was only reported by others, e.g. the EW payloads from SAAB for use on UAVs.

    As for the developing more systems capability; it is expected that a common data link will be acquired if and when the RMAF gets its new MRCAs and that eventually, the MRCAs will also be connected to the Hornets and Fulcrums. The RMAF is well aware that it has to fit the fleet with a common data link and that failure to do that will mean it can\’t use its combat assets to their maximum potential. Data links have actually been around for decades and in the West the Swedes were the pioneers. Our Spica Ms had data links to enable all 4 FACs to share a common radar picture and the RMAF has had data links for some time now to enable a common picture to be obtained from the various dedicated surveillance radars we operate.

    The main difference now is that the technology is more affordable and more readily available [compared to only half a decade ago, restrictions on Link 11 and Link 16 to non NATO customer have been largely eased] : in this day and age it is a basic prerequisite; not an expensive luxury that one should get only when other areas have been sorted out or rectified. Doing without it and going up against an opponent which is more ”connected” and has better SA and coordination would mean the difference between success and failure : as simple as that.

    From Thai military blogs and other sources; we know the RTAF is very happy with the leap in capabilities offered by the Gripen/Eriye combo. Not sure however if the RTAF is using the non NATO compatible Swede data links or Link 16. Personally, when it comes to us; I I tend not to get excited when they’re reports of ‘\discussions” and ”negotiations” being held on the MRCAs as ”discussions” and ”negotiations” are almost always being held :]

  57. Isn’t ACMI pod used for combat training? Sorry i hav a lot of holes in my knowledge. ^^

    Yes the ACMI pods are used for training but they have to wire up the Flankers for them. So technically as the pods will send out data on a real time basis it will not be very difficult to use that capability (the wirings etc not the PODS) for a datalink with other RMAF fighters, ground control and other aircraft or vessels which could receive them. Currently the Flankers could only talk to each other.

  58. So in the end, is RMAF going for new MRCAs or just upgrading the MiGs? Lots of conflicting reports… Btw, is there also an AESA upgrade kit for the F/A-18D like those for RSAF F-16s?

    NO we are not upgrading the MIGs.

  59. If we have USD680 billion in surplus cash, then maybe we can afford brand new spanking items from ships to jets. Not talking about ego but realistic economic situation. Btw if i am not mistaken, there are some 1st world country that is situated here that used 2nd hand submarines and still being highly regarded….

  60. The Baathists, Iraqi and Syrian, were secular and didn’t actually look at the Sunni/Shia divide. They were more interested in Pan-Arabism more than anything else. It’s remarkable Saddam could recruit Shia Iraqis to wage war on Iran for almost a decade — reports say the Iraqi army was 80% Shia. It was more the Arab/Persian divide rather than Sunni/Shia.This Sunni/Shia divide really came to the fore (I’d say nurtured) post Gulf War II. The Alawites are “heretics” or whatever they want to call them, yet a top Sunni scholar (a recipient of Maal Hijrah award) was protected by these Alawites but killed by anti-Assad forces in a bomb attack on the Grand Mosque in Damascus. A city, known as ‘The City of Khalid (al-Walid)’ ie Homs, has been flattened. All traces of Islam’s achievements in Syria seems to be in the process of being wiped out from human memory.

    The “Islamic” State is killing more Muslims; causes more problems for Muslims around the world, yet is reluctant to step across 6the border after spooking the poor Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan. At the same time they’ve no qualms about pounding the Palestinian refugees in Damascus or fighting the Talibs in Afghanistan.

    Like I said, I just can’t put my finger on these people.

  61. Acmi is not a datalink and does not function as one.

    It records and sends out real time aircraft location and maneuvering pattern, but does not link aircraft to each other.

    The migs already carrying Acmi pods. I don’t see any issues integrating it with the su-30mkm.

    I am not saying the ACMI pods will serve as a datalink but if they get the ACMI pods to work with the Flankers then it will show the way for the Flankers to transmit out its data to other fighters using a Western made data link. Yes there were issues integrating the ACMI pods with the Flankers. I am not sure whether they have solve it or not. Probably they have.

  62. Ferret,

    The Shia/Sunnj schism did NOT come to the fore after Gulf War 2. It has been there for centuries, has ways been lurking below the surface and it’s hard for non Arabs/Iranians to understand how deep the rift is. I’ve personally heard Sunni Arabs tell me more than once that Shias are not “real Muslims”. How do you think Saddam managed to justify his 8 year war against the Mullahs and gaining the support of the Gulf Arabs and the West? His enemies were the “evil” and “heretic” Iranians who were hell bent on spreading the Revolution across the narrow waters of the Gulf. Off course Iranian rhetoric and the centuries long distrust that Arabs have held against the Iranians/Persians also played a part.

    For the Gulf Arabs, weakening Iran is of greater importance than dealing with IS. Why do you think Saudi and it’s proxies were so eager to get involved in Yemen and in Syria but did next to nothing assisting the Iraqi government against IS? The first outside help the Iraqis got were from the Pasdaran, not from the Gulf Arabs who spend billions in defence. The Gulf Arabs did nothing… when by right a Sunni Gulf Arab contingent should be in Iraq helping to defeat or roll back IS!

    The Baathists (a blend of socialism and pan Arab nationalism) were indeed secular and did not look at the Sunni/ Shia schism. But now times have changed. There are new alliances, new threats and less strongmen to keep emotions long penned up in check. Former Iraqi Baathists who are fighting against the Iraqi (read Shia) government are also enemies with Assad Junior, as Assad Junior is not only a “heretic” but also supported by “heretic” Hezbollah and Iran. If we go back to 2006, in public the Gulf Arabs were aghast at the destruction the Israelis were heading on Lebanon but in private they were happy that Hezbollah was being weakened.

    Saddam not only had Shias but also Kurds in his army. The Iranians also had Sunni Arabs in their army (from Khuzestan – an Arab majority province along the common border)). When Assad the Elder got involved in Lebanon in 1976, it was to help the Maronite Christians who were fighting a coalition of Sunnis and Druze (themselves another minority and seen as “heretics”). You mentioned the Golan. IS wounded who make it across the border happily receive medical treatment from the Israelis.


    Achieving real “jointness” is not easy. Not only for us but even other militaries who have much much more resources than we do. How many ground units do think actually have radios that can communicate with aircraft operated by the air force? How many naval ships are able to communicate with aircraft flying near them?

    If we go back 25 years ago, during the Gulf War, USN and USSAF assets could not share ATOs because of incompatible systems. Prior to strikes, ATOs had to be hand delivered to carriers! Even the Yanks as of 2015 still have tri service issues. Sure, we have made great strides in trying to achieve greater tri service interoperability but a lot more has to be done.

  63. Ferret,

    Something else to ponder about. The Arabs consider their greatest hero to be Saladin and Saddam built monuments to Saladin and saw himself as a modern day Saladin. The irony is that Saladin was a Kurd (from Tikrit) and under various Iraqi leaders – Saddam included off course – the Kurds were badly treated!

    They want to emulate Saladin who conquered Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

  64. Quite a lot of vital flight data can be obtained by ACMI pods; which is why when countries which are not ”allies” per say train together; they always use their respective ACMI systems and in the event one doesn’t have ACMI, they don’t use it, instead of borrowing it from the other side. On the question of the MKM’s Russian data links; I’ve heard about this but like I mentioned, there are no extra antennas seen on the MKMs [at last on the photos I’ve seen and the MKMs I’ve seen at Open Days and LIMA] that would indicate the presence of a data link. Then again I could be totally wrong.

    Having data links would enable the MKMs not only to share data among themselves and from ground based radars or an AW platform; but would also enable an MKM, which is silent or passive, to conduct a R-77 shot with guidance provided by another MKM. During the Kosovo war, the Dutch F-16 that shot down the Serbian Fulcrum, received guidance from another Dutch F-16. the shooter’s radar was either had either broken down or had problems detecting the target. The drawback of data links, amongst others, is that they’re not passive and can be detected by ESM [e.g. VERA] and that the bandwith has to be paid for : at the end of the day however, it\’s worth it’s weight in gold.

    At Cope Taufan 2014, both the USAF and RMAF did not use the ACMI pods as the Yanks were worried the data from the pods on Raptors would be accessible to others not only RMAF! The USAF brought along their own deployable ACMI system that would be kosher for us also but we also feared that our data will be available to USAF! So in the end they used a RMAF developed C2 system to score the exercise as reported by Janes.

    As for the antennas of the datalink, could it be that like other assets that the Russian data link available on the SU-30s are fitted only to a certain number of RMAF Flankers and not fleet wide? I have yet to see all of the Flankers from 01 to 18. Only a certain number of aircraft have been displayed publicly.

  65. Well it’s true that the Sunni/Shia schism arose 1400 years ago and Saladin himself took over power from the Shia Fatimids. But in the recent past the Sunni/Shia divide only erupted post GW2. None of the commentaries on the Iran-Iraq war written at the time that I’ve looked over mentioned anything about Sunni vs Shia as the cause of the conflict, the prime motive — in was all about the Arab fear of a resurgent Persia post-Khomeini. If there was any mention at all, it was done in passing. It was political rather than religious — Iraq was the Arab bastion to stop the Persians. There was sectarian tension, sure, more so after the failed Shia uprising post GW1, but it remained below the surface until GW2.

    Of course Saddam had Kurds (who are mainly Sunni) in his Army — he even had a Christian as his DPM, which reflects the Baathist outlook — but in the main his army was Shia who carried out his orders, including suppressing other Shia. In Saddam’s Iraq, there was no discrimination: if you dissented, you were punished regardless of religious denomination. That goes to show that the question of Sunni/Shia was not at the forefront of Iraqis’ thoughts then. Saddam fancied himself a modern-day Saladin, but as Saladin the Conqueror, not Saladin the Sunni.

    Certainly there are Sunnis (Arab or otherwise) who have strong opinions about the Shia and vice versa. But the situation then (in Saddam’s Iraq) was more akin to our neighbour across the straits. Some muslims there have strong feelings about Christianity (and vice versa) but they all learn to get along and live harmoniously, just like Assad and his Sunni wife. Just like you I’ve also spoken to Arabs recently — at an Arab language festival in one of the unis — none of them said, “I’m a Sunni Iraqi” or “I’m a Sunni Syrian”; they just mentioned their countries of origin, and all said with a tinge of sadness, I might add.

    Now, it’s a different narrative. It’s all Sunni vs Shia. Syria was stable under the Alawites until the Arab Spring — initially the argument was about “freedom”, then it morphed into “Islam vs heretics” and now, more and more, “Islam vs non-Islamic govts”. See the drift?

    IS and its backers are just exploiting sectarian tension to get their way in the Levant and elsewhere. Same thing with their opponents. Politics with a religious cloak. It’s a powerful tool, sectarian tension, to use to break a country. The Irish can probably tell us something about it.

  66. Based on latest Su-30MKI vs Typhoon article, SU-30MKI using radio to communicate when having BVR training, so mean India also do not have any datalink yet? However, base on the Su-30mki/mkm spec, BARS-30 can share the radar information each other which 1 scan it while another shot it.

    I could be wrong.

    Based on articles already the IAF Flankers do have data link but it maybe, I assuming here, that in a training exercise in a foreign country, it is most probable they did not turn on the data link so the link though encrypted could be detected and stored in an EW library. They may not be able to hack the encrypted link but it could be used in the future to track the Flanker surreptitiously…

  67. Ferret,

    The Sunnj/Shia rift did not erupt after the Gulf War and I’ll give you a couple of examples down below to prove my point. The Sunni/Shia rift was given a boost (if that’s the right word) in 1980 when Saddam went East but the divide was always there and never abated. Saddam justified his actions by the need to save the region from the Mullahs in Tehran. Like I mentioned before, the Mullahs didn’t help matter with their rhetoric and their calls to replace the corrupt and decadent Sunni Gulf rulers.

    Sure Tariq Aziz was No. 2 and was a Christian but there certainly was discrimination in Saddam’s army. There were never many Shia senior military officers and as the war dragged on, they were even less of them; they were purged. Shia dominated units were never trusted to even be stationed on the outskirts of Baghdad or in other vital areas and during the war, were almost never trusted and never placed in areas of the front.

    As for the Baathist being secular and not being particularly bothered about the Sunni/Shua divide, this is true but how many Baathist governments or regimes – with the exception of Assad’s – was not Sunni dominated?

    An example of how deep the rift is and how deep the hatred and distrust between both was evident when Assad the Elder fought his war against the Muslim Brotherhood. No quarter was given by both sides and Hama was razed to the ground. In 1982 when the Israelis when into Lebanon, they were welcomed by the Shia community who saw them as protectors and potential allies against the Sunni militias. Even after they had started fighting the Israelis, it was not uncommon for Shia militiamen to surrender to the Israelis, rather than their Sunni foes. Making matters more confusing is that at times the Sunnis allied with the Maronite Christians and Druze to fight Amal (the main Shia milltia before Hezbollah entered the picture! Later Amal teamed up with the Sunnis to fight the Maronites! When IS burns or beheads captured Syrian or Iraqi Shias, to them they are not killing Muslims but heretics who pretend to be Muslims.


    The IAF has confirmed it is using the Russian data links which were delivered with the MKIs. As for bilateral exercises, these are scripted and certain handicaps are placed on the participants for various reasons, including operational secrecy and safety. The fact that the IAF was not using its data links whilst training with others does not indicate they don’t have the data links.

  68. marhalim,

    Please request for Azlan to put up a guestpost on West Asia Conflict 101. So far very informative comments on the issue.

    AFAIK West Asian people are merchants-minded. They kill each other for millenia when they are left alone, but they can be in peace when being conquered by people outside their region.

  69. Azlan,

    I will agree with you if you said Iran employed the religious imperative in the war. Khomeini and the Shia clerics used among other things, the concept of jihad and reformulation of intizar (Shia doctrine regarding acquiescence while waiting for the Mahdi for the final jihad) to galvanise Iranians. Saddam on the hand appealed to nationalism to mobilise Iraqis. No appeal to religious doctrine.

    The US had an interview (a thorough debrief, really) with Raad Hamdani, Sunni commander of the Republican Guards’ II Corps during Iraqi Freedom. Hamdani fought in the Iran-Iraq war as a battalion commander, and served 21 years in the Republican Guards up til Iraqi Freedom. Not once did he mention religion as a motive for Saddam or the Iraqi military. He was aware, of course, that a high proportion of the army and other institutions in Iraq were Shia. And indeed Iran worked through the Da’wa Party to subvert Shia members of the Iraqi forces and several sabotage operations occurred.

    Despite this, the Iraqi analysis remained “The conflict that took place during Saddam Hussein’s era was between Khomeini and Islam on one side, and Saddam Hussein and pan-Arabism on the other.” “From the Ba’athist ideology, the religion issue was just a cover for an Iranian national issue, since this is a Persian conflict against the Arabs. It was not about Shi’ism, but it used Shi’ism as a cover and went back to the old conflict, the Arab-Persian conflict.” So it’s pretty clear that despite the Sunni/Shia divide then, it did not come to the fore as far as Saddam’s Iraq was concerned.

    15 years ago (pre GW2), Yanks and most non-Muslims had never heard of ‘Shia’ or even ‘Sunni’ for that matter — for them Islam was a monolithic religion. Now, even bimbos on CNN are quick to qualify Houthis as Shia.

  70. It’s the same everywhere and has always been. Irrespective of religion, politics, race and creed; people will do what is needed for their own interests; even if it entails opposing their co-religionists, alongside people of a different faith. When Sultan Mehmet besieged Constantinople, amongst his troops were Christian Greeks and Italians. When Hafiz Assad entered Lebanon, it was to bolster the Maronite Christians who were fighting Muslim groups/militias.

    The heart of the problem in the Middle East are the artificial borders drawn up by Britain and France for their own selfish invests. Off course, the locals had no say in the matter and were initially not even informed! The Arabs were persuaded to rise against the Turks but were betrayed as the Brits had already agreed to carve up the region with the French : the Sykes/ Pivot plan. As compensation Faisal was given Iraq and after being chased out of Hejaz by the Sauds, the Hashimites were given Jordan. The French were given Syria and to have a Christian dominated “colony”, they carved out Lebanon out of Syria. No doubt, the Arabs themselves are largely to blame for the mess the region is in now but outside powers have played a large part and continue to meddle in the region to the present day.

    Coming from outside the region and in a country which has a Muslim population which is overwhelmingly Sunni (no Malaysian Shia for obvious reasons will publicly admit to being a Shia); most Malaysians have little idea as to how deep rooted the Sunni/Shia schism is and the level of distrust, anger and hatred that Sunnj/Shia Arabs still have towards each other.

  71. Azlan,
    You must have a lot of Robert Fisk’s work. A lot of what you said mirrors his analysis. And I totally agree that the carving of a once nonexistent borders and the forced installment of monarchy provided a catalyst for instability. What the hell are they thinking when they install a sunni monarchy in shia dominated Iraq? But it is worthwhile to note that though the Iraqi Baathist who instigated the 14 July revolution were dominated by sunnis the founder himself was a Shia and he is one of the small minority of shias who supported the Pan Arab movement.

    While it is easy to say that the woes that had befallen the Middle East was due to western intervention, which is true (ie: Operation Ajax) I would say that the instability of post imperialism Middle east is the making of their own hand as well, and as you would expect for newly independent countries, ideological parties sprung up like shrooms after rain. The Pan Arab movement was actually a commendable effort to unite the ideologically diverse region (naturally Iran is excluded for they are not considered as Arab), the problem lies in the fact that at that time two Pan Arab movements exist, one is a coalition between the nationalist Egypt and Syria the other is a coalition of Hashemite Iraq and Jordan, and remember both coalitions were Sunni. The sunni/shia divide in Iraq began when the two dominant parties in Iraq (Baath Party and Iraqi Communist Party) became increasingly sectarian, and remember both parties were founded by Shia leaders. The Baathist supported the Egypt-led Pan Arab movements but majority of Shias dislike the movement because Egypt and Syria are overwhelmingly sunni, thus most of them chose to side with the Communist Party. When the Baathist came into power, the Iraqi Communist Party and consequently the shia community were severely persecuted, and even though the oppression were mainly based on ideological differences but because the Baath party were sunni dominated, the conflict naturally evolved into a sectarian struggle and the fact that Sunnis were the minority is just adding insult to the wounds.

    When talking about the Middle East’s instability, the most common context used to perceive the conflict is the Sunni/Shia divide. The Iran-Iraq war is quoted to be the prime example of this, even though in truth Saddam’s objectives were mainly about capturing the region surrounding Shatt al-Arab (for oil of course, back then Iraq has the 2nd largest oil reserve after Saudi Arabia, capturing this region would prop up Iraq to #1) and also to undermine an increasingly critical neighbour (Khomeini had swords as his tongue). Many forget that one of the bloodiest conflict in Middle East, which is the Algerian Civil War is not even remotely sectarian, it is Islamist vs Nationalist. It is one of the forgotten tragedy of the 20th century.

    How about Iraq’s hatred for the Kurds? One have to read about the Kurdish Kingdom and the discovery of oil in Kirkuk. How about the Saudi-Iran quarrels? Maybe that’s for another time, I think i’ve wrote long enough. Perhaps Azlan could elaborate further.

  72. Azlan,

    I think our conversation has gone off tangent a bit although I agree with your quick overview of modern Mid-East history, especially the Anglo-French deceit. But let’s recap:

    My basic premise is that in recent history, the Sunni/Shia divide did not come to the fore, to come into the world’s consciousness, before GW2. I say even in the Iran-Iraq War, sectarian divisions were not at the forefront of the discourse about it. As a corollary, post GW2, this division, which is 1400 years old, is now being trotted out to sow strife in the ME and the wider Muslim world. Sectarian division is a powerful tool to do that and that is why the narrative now is all about Sunni vs Shia. I’m even prepared to say that this is being done deliberately in order to stoke up tensions and provoke armed conflict.

    We need to remember that the initial schism at the time of Caliph Ali (ra) occurred for *political* reasons, not reasons of faith. Shia religious doctrine came to be developed later.

    You mention that the depth of the schism is difficult to be understood by people outside the ME. It is not surprising that people in the ME have a more acute awareness of the Sunni/Shia divide — the greatest battles 1400 years ago were fought in Iraq! Nonetheless Syed Hossein Nasr (scholar) wrote that an award to be bestowed by USM was withdrawn at the last moment. He puts it down to his being Shia — so the schism was also felt in Gelugor, Pulau Pinang.

    People are keen to reduce Yemen (for example) to a conflict between Sunni and Shia even though it’s much more complicated than that. There is a sectarian dimension, to be sure, but pure political calculation has much to do with it. Using the Sunni vs Shia construct to explain the conflicts in the ME is convenient but it’s a pernicious and dangerous construct that tends to detract from the real causes of the problems. Framing it as a Sunni/Shia conflict serves a bigger purpose vis-a-vis Muslim nations too, and for some strange reason, the old “divide and rule” cliche comes to mind.

  73. The main reason Saudi and it’s ever willing proxies got involved in Yemen is because of Iran : it’s really simple as that! Same reason why they want to do away with Assad : to weaken Iran and not because of any concerns towards ordinary Syrians. The biggest joke is that none of the Arab countries who are calling for regime change in Syria on the grounds that Assad is brutal and undemocratic are themselves democratic! By right the gallant Royal Saudi Air Force should flying above the skies of Gaza and southern Lebanon the next time the IDF decades to have a go at Hamas and Hezbollah but it’ll a cold day in hell before this happens (then it’s Typhoons will really be “combat proven”) …. and by right the Saudis, Qataris and UAE (all spent billions in defence) should be in Iraq helping the Shia dominated Iraqi government defeat Sunni IS!

    The Shia/Sunni divide really came out of the box in Iraq. This was courtesy of Bush Junior : his invasion led to the civil war between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. The point I’m making is that the centuries old animosity was always there and prove of this is the visceral hatred and brutality both sides had for each other in several conflicts (I provided examples to prove my point). It came out of the box in Iraq but it others places it was, in the box to begin with. The schism was not an issue during Saddam’s time because he held things together with an iron fist and everyone had to behave. I gave you examples to show how even during Saddam’s time; Shias (and others) as a whole were tolerated but never fully trusted: regardless of the fact that a Christian, Tariq Aziz, was Vice President.

    As for most Malaysians not being aware of the Sunni/Shia divide; this has less to do with the fact that the divide occurred in the Arab world and involves mainly Arabs but more to do with the fact that there is no open discourse taking place about it in Malaysia!! It is verboten…

    I don’t think we have gone of tangent. Everything I mentioned is related to the topic 🙂


    Yes and when the “Islamists” looked like they would win the elections and the Algerian government clung to power; the West kept silent and did nothing. Democracy or the lack of it was the price to pay to keep the “Islamists” at bay and away from Europe.

    As for the Kurds; like Fisk says : everyone makes promises to the Kurds but later betrays them. Which is why the Kurds play off one power against the other and fully trust nobody. The Kurds if course have made their own miscalculations in the past and have never been united. As for the Saudi/Iran quarrels. I think it goes back to centuries of Arab/Persian distrust that was there even before the arrival of Islam. The Iranians are proud of the fact that they adopted Islam from the Arabs but maintained their culture : they weren’t “Arabised”. Traditionally, the Iranians/Persians have looked down on Arabs as uncouth, unsophisticated and uneducated desert dwellers.

  74. Ferret – ”My basic premise is that in recent history, the Sunni/Shia divide did not come to the fore, to come into the world’s consciousness, before GW2.”

    It may not have come into the ”world’s consciousness” before but it was always there and is plainly evident in the visceral hatred and brutality demonstrated in various places in the region way before Bush Junior’s and Blair’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. I can also say that the feeling of discontent many Muslims have towards the West [for decades of Western flawed policy towards the region] really didn’t come into the ”world’s consciousness until after 11th, September, 2001.

    ”using the Sunni vs Shia construct to explain the conflicts in the ME is convenient but it’s a pernicious and dangerous construct that tends to detract from the real causes of the problems.”

    There are various deep rooted problems that need to be addressed but the main one is that there is a Sunni/Shia Cold War being waged by Saudi Arabia [and its ever willing proxies] against Iran and which involves foreign powers for their own selfish self interests.
    We see this Cold War being waged not only in Syria, Iraq and Yemen but also in Pakistan. The event that really brought the genie out of the bottle was Saddam’s invasion of Iran . He – as the Arab world’s and West’s best chum then – justified his whole venture on the need to keep the ”evil”, ”fundamentalist”, ”heretic” and ”perfidious” Persians in check [for historical reasons and to stir emotions the enemy were always ”Persians” as opposed to ”Iranians”]. Iraq was the ”bulwark against the spread of Shiasm that aimed to spread the Revolution across the Gulf” : the West off course went along with this fantasy and the Iranians – by their foolish rhetoric – didn’t help themselves.

    Another deep rooted problem is of outside powers imposing their will on the locals and forcing them [so to speak] to be ruled by government’s they didn’t even elect. Look at the irony of it: the West often speaks of undemocratic Iran and praises the Gulf States; yet in Iran there are elections, women can work, can drive and can go out unaccompanied! Apart from Israel and Lebanon, which country in the region has an elected government? The West speaks of evil Iran, yet it is Iran that is encircled by a string of Western bases in the Gulf and has neighbours that have sold themselves – for regime preservation – to the West and armed themselves to the teeth. We keep hearing non-stop about civilians killed in Syria but the State Department has been silent about civilians killed in Yemen by Saudi and UAE ordnance! Assad is a nasty piece of work no doubt but who remembers that just a few years ago, Al Qaeda people were being tortured by Assad’s goons under the U.S.’s Rendition programme and a smiling Assad was guest of honour at Bastille Day?

    With such double standards and back stabbing; is it a surprise that the region is such as unstable place and that people have so much grievances?

    It must be noted some religious scholars in the Gulf claimed that the US is actually supporting Iran. That’s why they claimed Iran had not been attacked by US and Israel all this while. Some people in Malaysia are also spreading this line of thought

  75. The Gulf Arabs were very annoyed when Obama decided not to strike Syria and later Iran. I suspect there was also a lot of truth in the reports that Saudi had given permission for Israeli planes to over fly Saudi territory to hit Iran. Like Israel, the Arabs don’t want Iran to have the bomb but each have different reasons : the Israelis want to keep their nuclear monopoly and the Gulf Arabs fear the Iranians will get more aggressive if they have the bomb. As far as the Gulf Arabs are concerned, they have no issues with a nuclear armed Israel but not a nuclear armed Iran . In fact the Arabs welcome a strong Israel as it provides insurance against other Arab states: after all, the main goal of the Gulf monarchies is regime survival.

    So we have the strange situation where Saudi and Israel are “allies” in that both want a weakened and isolated Iran. Not surprisingly when taken into account that Saudi, as well as other Arab states, have always had beck door dealings and common interests. On top of that we have an Israel that is a nuclear power but off course the Yanks won’t allow any discussion on that subject and any attempt to discuss that in the UN will lead to a Yankee veto.

    An Iranian/U.S. rapprochement makes lots of sense as both countries have common interests. It is given that Israel and the Gulf Arabs will try their best to prevent this from happening. It now remains to be seen who will succeed Obama and what his position on the issue will be.

  76. Ibn Saud was against the formation of Israel, he is well aware of the British plan to upset the status quo of Mandate Palestine by opening the territory to Jewish migrant. Though the idea was proposed by Baron Rothschild which in turn became what we know as the Balfour Declaration, the British Parliament never proposed that Palestine would be a Jewish state but as “a national home for the Jewish people”. The plan was supposed to benefits the British, by diminishing the status quo of the Arab it will indirectly undermine the Palestinian Arab nationalist movements and and the jewish migrants would hence become the support base for British Mandate. But when the Jewish people knew that formation of Israel was never in the British plan, they began to demand an increase to immigration limits for Jews and form their own independence movement. The foolish British, befuddled by their own scheme left when things got out of hand.

    At that time, Saudi-US relationship was still in infantile stage and the US saw no strategic benefits for a stronger ties between them (back then Saudi have yet to discover their oil reserve). FDR made it known to Ibn Saud that they favored the formation of Israel. But when oil was found and the US was well in their way for WW2, Saudi strategic importance to the US became apparent. To charm the kingdom for more oil concession, FDR invited Ibn Saud for a meeting at the USS Quincy in the pretense of discussing Mandate of Palestine. Ibn Saud proposed that the state of Israel to be established in Africa (if i’m not mistaken Nigeria), FDR promised Ibn Saud that he would reconsider in exchange for more oil. Alas, two months later FDR died along with his promise.

  77. President Wilson, in line with his anti-colonial stance actually toyed with the idea – in the aftermath of WW1 – to have a united Arab state stretching from the Maghrib to the Levant. There were also Zionists, who despite being Zionists” were against the idea of a Jewish state in the region as they were convinced it wouldn’t work and would make Jews in various countries distrusted. There were also Jews, living in what later became Israel, who supported the Ottoman cause in WW1.

    Off topic but during the 1st Emergency, the Malayan Police was bolstered by the arrival of many policemen who formerly served in Palestine and who after the British withdrawal from Palestine, had no job.

    Good books on how the Brits and French reshaped the Middle East are “A Line In The Sand” (Barr) and “Lawrence In Arabia” (Anderson).

  78. Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilization and Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag-Montefiore. Both are lengthy read but well worth it.

  79. Azlan,

    “The Shia/Sunni divide really came out of the box in Iraq. This was courtesy of Bush Junior : his invasion led to the civil war between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq.”

    That’ll be GW2. Thanks.

    Well, display of erudition has its place. Didn’t Churchill insist on having Alanbrooke limit his brief to one sheet of paper?

  80. Ferret,

    No thanks needed.

    I totally agree that “in Iraq” the genie came out due to the invasion and the removal of Saddam: never indicated otherwise. In other places however, I still maintain that the divide never slipped far from memory and this is evident in various conflicts, in various places apart other than Iraq, way before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As I mentioned before, the defining moment that really brought the issue back to the surface – to the region as a whole – was Iraq’s invasion of Iran.

    No idea about Churchill limiting Alanbrooke’s briefs but Churchill did have a habit of losing attention and falling asleep after consuming too much brandy.


    Fisk was here a few years ago and gave a talk at Bukit Kiara. I missed it. My only complain about his book is that – like in many of his articles – he keeps going back on the subject of his father 🙂 I was in the CO’s cabin of an RMN ship once and the book was on the shelf. Guess what? The owner of the book had the same complain as me!

  81. Azlan,
    Yes the GW2 brought upon Iraq a regime change that favors the Shia and disbanded Saddam’s army which is now fighting with IS. But the big folly was the failure to topple Saddam during GW1. Back then the US were transmitting radio transmission into Iraq calling for the people of Iraq to rise up against Saddam. Naturally the oppressed Shias and Kurds rise up hoping that their revolution will be supported by the US once the boots of Marines were in Iraqi soil, but once US got rid of Saddam’s army out of Kuwait they declared the war won and business as usual. The incited local Iraqi rebels were then left on their own, facing the wrath of a furious Saddam. It became clear to the Baathist then that the Shia community is the fifth column, leading to Saddam’s decision to use chemical weapon to quell popular uprising in Najaf and Karbala. The US, still patting their back for a war well done, decided not to intervene.

    “Well, display of erudition has its place. Didn’t Churchill insist on having Alanbrooke limit his brief to one sheet of paper?”

    Hahaha, not all of us are great orator such as Churchill, so we can’t afford strong words without substance. But i’ll try to shorten my comment 😀

    The problem in ME is not as clear cut that we could point to one historical event as the beginning. Dismissing the sunni/shia divide would be academically unsound but i think we agree that is not the ultimate moot point. When talking about ME, one should never forget the three elephants in the room; Israel, Iran, and Oil.

  82. Anas,

    The endgame in the 1st Gulf War (in my book the 1st Gulf War was the 8 year Iran/Iraq war) was to liberate Kuwait. Not to regime change in Baghdad. Seen from this perspective, the Americans did gain their objectives, irrespective of the fact that they could have gone all the way north to do away with Saddam. At that time, regime change hadn’t entered the equation yet.

    Others will say that Saddam’s biggest blunder was not to roll on south to take the Saudi oilfields. From a military viewpoint this is certainly true but doesn’t take into account that Saddam only wanted Kuwait and that in his view; taking the Saudi oilfields would have done away any chances of making peace with the Saudis. There is strong indication that, even after Saddam took Kuwait, that the Saudis were going to buy him off (in time honoured Saudi fashion) to safeguard their security but decided not to after Cheney rushed to Riyadh to show the King satellite photos if Iraqi troop concentrations along the border and assured Saudi of American support. Saddam was expecting to be paid off and was caught by surprised when the Saudis invited blue eyed troops in.

    When his invasion of Iran started, Saddam had quite a few high ranking Shia officers and there were units that predominantly consisted of Shias. As the war drag on however, he started to distrust his Shia officers and purged them. There appears to no indication however that the Iranians distrusted their Sunni units and militias who played a key role in defending Khuzestan. Saddam was expecting the Iranians of Arab descent to rise up against the mullahs but they didn’t.

  83. Azlan,
    Fisk was a little bit sentimental about his father, and the chapter where he investigated his father’s involvement in the execution of deserters is a bit, to borrow Ferret’s vocabulary, off tangent (like our comments in this post haha). But to compile such treasure trove of journalistic experience in a magnificent book is a most welcomed feat, so i was not terribly bothered.

    I’m aware that the objective of desert storm is to liberate Kuwait and nothing more, but US had been stoking popular uprising in Iraq against Saddam’s regime through their broadcasts from Voice of America and the CIA funded Radio Free Iraq. Bush himself made similar appeal to the people of Iraq shortly after liberating Kuwait. This gave the illusion to local rebels that US is going to follow through with toppling Saddam.

  84. In an interview Chuck Horner did in the 1990’s, he said the last country which placed unconditional faith in America had a capital called Saigon.

    No doubt, elements in the Bush administration wanted to go all the way but at the end of the day, America and it’s allies did not have the political will to go all the way to Baghdad. The result is that the Iraqi Shias and Kurds were f****d and the best the Allies could do was impose a no fly zone in southern Iraq and a safe haven in Iraqi Kurdistan.

    The Iraqi Shias and Kurds were not the first nor the last to be sacrificed on the altar of big power politics.

  85. Anas,

    “Hahaha, not all of us are great orator such as Churchill, so we can’t afford strong words without substance. But i’ll try to shorten my comment”

    I’m afraid you’ve read my comments wrongly. I said it in the context of an argument with Azlan — which we engage in quite often :] But we have quite friendly chats too. I do learn from his posts — and yours — and I guess it’s a case of each trying to keep the other honest sans malice.

    I’ve no problems with long comments (if Marhalim approves, then who am I to say otherwise: it’s coming out of his pocket, lest we forget — thanks once again Marhalim) and I read *all* comments. So please, fire away :>

  86. Basically our MKM need Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) module to get Link-16 communication, due to our MKM comms is by Thales, we need Thales develop new MIDS module for MKM (su-30), i dont think our RMAF have budget ask Thales to develop. also i don’t think MIDS is part of contract requirement during procurement .

  87. ” The result is that the Iraqi Shias and Kurds were f****d and the best the Allies could do was impose a no fly zone in southern Iraq”

    Yep, imposed but sadly, not enforced.

    “I’ve no problems with long comments (if Marhalim approves, then who am I to say otherwise: it’s coming out of his pocket, lest we forget — thanks once again Marhalim) and I read *all* comments. So please, fire away :>”

    Ok, glad to know that. Because in my opinion, when discussing complicated topics like this, it is better to do a spreadsheet of facts and let readers to decide what to make of it than simply voicing my opinions and perspective, because no matter how academically sound it may be, it is not necessarily correct or even comprehensive. Besides facts could be corrected but opinions are merely debatable. Thanks Marhalim for allowing this thread although it deviates from the main post.

    Question; say if we want to create a datalink system to connect our air force and navy, is it necessary for us to acquire a dedicated command & control ship to relay data for coordination between fleet and air assets? or can we just rely on satellites? AFAIK, we don’t have a dedicated military comm satellite. Are we renting a satellite for this purpose?

    It will also be great if anyone of you write something down and send me the thing around 1000 words, if you have more, Part II is also viable, via email.

  88. @ savvykl

    Yes one of things that would be good for MKM (and tudm in general) would be common datalinks among diverse platforms. Link 16 capability would depend on the approval of USA/nato to use the protocol. Hardware wise there should not be a big issue to integrate MIDS hardware into the MKM (it is one of a few Russian aircraft that uses mil Std 1553 databus standard)

  89. Anas,

    No. There is no need for a command and control relay ship.

    Like many others – including even the the Yanks, who are off course far ahead of us – we have a lot more to do to improve inter service cooperation or ‘jointness”. It is not just a question of having cash, assets and the software but also mindset, traditional turf guarding and parochialism.

    In another note, it was reported in 2013 that the SAN had installed Link Y to its Valour class so it can “talk” to the SAAF’s Gripens.

    The no fly zone is southern Iraq was enforced. Iraqi aircraft that entered were engaged.

  90. “The no fly zone is southern Iraq was enforced. Iraqi aircraft that entered were engaged.”

    I stand corrected.

  91. Saddam used helicopters instead of jets to eliminate the Kurds…the helicopters were not engaged

  92. Chin,

    I was referring to the years that the no fly zone – in the south of Iraq – was maintained not in the period after the no fly zone was declared. Throughout the years the no fly zone was maintained, there were several instances of Iraqi jets being intercepted and Iraqi air defence systems that had locked on Allied aircraft flying within the no fly zone being attacked. Regarding the helicopters, the Iraqis at the cease fire talks at Saddam requested permission to use them for non military purposes but broke their word.

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