New Bombs and Capabilities on Flankers

Flanker M52-08 turning hard and fast after taking off from Labuan. The aircraft is in a clean configuration.

SHAH ALAM: New Bombs and Capabilities on Flankers. A few years ago I wrote that the RMAF wanted to integrate the DRS Technologies ACMI pod on its Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flanker fleet. This was expected as the pods were already integrated on the Mig-29N Fulcrum fleet as well on the Hornets and Hawks. The integration on the fast jet fleet came soon after Aerotree group was contracted to operate a rangeless ACMI system in 2009. Initially the ACMI system was limited to the Kuantan and Butterworth though it appears now that it had been extended to Labuan airbase as well.

RMAF Mig-29 Fulcrums in a diamond formation over Butterworth airbase on Nov 30, 2011. Three of the Fulcrums are carrying a single ACMI pod on their left wing

Anyhow on a trip Labuan last week to cover the exercise conducted by No 11 Squadron, I spotted a Flanker fitted with the ACMI pod conducting tail slides, TVC turn and Cobra Spike high above the island. Basically the aircraft was performing the same air display routine performed at LIMA and other airshows. I did not realised that the Flanker – tail number 18 – was carrying the ACMI pod until I return home and downloaded the pictures to the computer (below). I have never seen the Flankers with the ACMI pod so this was very interesting development, to say the least.
A Flanker flying with an ACMI pod over Labuan. Malaysian Defence

11 Squadron commanding officer Lt. Col Faizal Abu Bakar – FAB – met the next day at the airbase, when asked about the Flanker flight display the previous day, said it was him flying the Flanker together with another colleague for a flight test. (see above why I did not ask him about the ACMI pod).
Flanker
RMAF Flanker armed with four R-77 and four R-73. It is unclear whether the picture, published by RMAF, of a Flanker operating out of Labuan for the exercise.

He said the squadron was in Labuan for Exercise Bisa Daya from July 27 to Aug. 9 to conduct live air to air and air to ground firings. The squadron also performed some testings, he said without explaining the tests. It is likely among the tests performed include the integration of the ACMI pod.
Three of the Flankers deployed to Labuan AB last month.

As for the six Flankers deployed that I saw parked at Labuan airbase, all of them were clean apart from a single one fitted with the Thales Damocles pod.
The other three Flankers.

Lt Col Faizal did say that the squadron had dropped new bombs during the air to ground phase of the exercise. The new bombs are the Russian general purpose bombs the FAB 500 and OFAB 250. He said the new bombs were recently procured by RMAF together with replenishment of the OFAB 100 bombs, usually dropped by the squadron previously.
11 Squadron ground crew placing an OFAB100 bomb on a wing pylon of a Flanker. RMAF picture.

The new bombs were likely ordered as part of the LOI signed at LIMA 17 for the supply of missiles and bombs for RM96 million. I have tried to find out the types of bombs and missiles contracted for but I guess at the moment we now know that the bombs are the ones mentioned above.
A pilot from 11 Squadron checking what is likely OFAB 250 bombs underneath the Flanker. RMAF picture.

Rosoboronexport, supply of missiles and ammunition for Sukhoi SU-30MKM (RM96 million)

What is interesting about the bombs is that Rosoboronexport only listed the FAB 500 bomb on its online catalogue product page. Both the OFAB 250 and OFAB 100 are available from other countries like Bulgaria though.

11 Squadron ground crew preparing what appears to be FAB 500 bomb. RMAF picture.

As for the air to air firing, Lt Col Faizal said it involved the R-73 and R-77 missiles, all succesful, he added. As he did not mentioned that this was first firing of the missiles from the Flankers, I am assuming that the squadron had conducted them before.
Two Hornets flies in formation with a Flanker over South China Sea. Note the ACMI pod on the wingtip rail of the near Hornet. RMAF picture

Anyhow the R-73 was fired against illuminating flares fired from the Hornets of 18th Squadron which also fired Tactical Air Launched Decoy (TALD) for the radar guided, beyond visual range, R-77. The illuminate flares are usually fired to light up ground targets, once launched it deployed a parachute before the flare lit up, slowly drifting to the ground. Launched at altitude its a good, cheap target for IR missiles like the R-73 and the Sidewinders as well.
Fab (right) with his other flight crews getting ready for a sortie. RMAF picture

The jet-powered TALDs usually used to confuse air defenses, emitted a radar signal for the R-77 and the Sparrows (fired from Hornets) to lock on and home on.
Flanker M52-08 turning hard and fast after taking off from Labuan. The aircraft is in a clean configuration.Malaysian Defence

–Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

31 Comments

  1. Great find Marhalim. I think that is the 1st public picture of the MKM flying with ACMI pod.

    The issue with malaysian forces, everything is considered secret, while our neighbours things like ACMI integration is freely and proudly talked about.

    Hopefully you can also report on the AV8 loading test with the A400M done recently.

  2. In case someone asks why we’re still practising with dumb bombs, despite being in the missile age; it depends. Dumb bombs (as do unguided rockets) still have a role to play depending on the threat level and type of target.

  3. news of exercise and new capabilities like this is very good for RMAF and our armed force…at least nobody dare to say our asset sit idle at base or soldier just eat and sleep only…hope more and more of this will surface

  4. Did we get any S-25 OFM unguided rockets for the MKM? If yes, launching those huge babies would be a spectacle.

    As for the TALDs, there was quite a commotion within the malaysian defence enthusiast scene when those pictures of TALD hanging under the the Hornet was published by TUDM twitter handle recently.

    http://pbs.twimg.com/media/EBRmYtEUIAA97BL.jpg

    Reply
    No idea on the rockets

  5. SU30MKM is a great aircraft and this exercise shows that our airmen and tech is doing a great job in cultivating capabilities and maintaining it away from home bases. This is also a good show of presence and force to domestic and regionally.

    Hope the deal to trade MiG29Ns for more SU30MKMs go thru soon. Buying same aircraft that we already know how to maintain and operate is an efficient strategy. Even the US cant get rid of their F15s, developed in 1970s. Probaly better to invest money in new cruise missiles.

  6. ….. – “The issue with malaysian forces, everything is considered secret”

    Not really. Some things are indeed “secret” and some things are just not reported on. Some things are reported on but not widely and it may not necessarily be the fault of the MAF. At times people may assume that certain things are “secret”, not knowing it was already reported on. At times there are also things that are not reported on; not because they’re “secret” but because those responsible for PR have been ordered to report on something else or may not have received the go ahead (not because of “secrecy” but mundane reasons).

    In some ways we’re more open compared to our neighbours, in some ways we’re not. Nowadays service people are doing a much better job answering questions at exhibitions//Open Days. Things really reached ridiculous
    proportions in the 1980’s but we’ve past that point.

    In the late 1980’s a Scorpion crewman threatened to take my camera if I took a photo of the Cockerill and in the early 2000’s a RSAF F-16 pilot at AA stopped talking mid sentence when he saw my trade pass with “Malaysia” on it – so it depends. There was also the incident at LIMA when RSAF people tried – unsuccessfully – to prevent photos being taken of their Apache.

  7. Been a while since we heard updates about the MKM SLEP. So far how many birds have completed, how many more pending this year, and what’s the estimated full completion date?

    Reply
    Wait for the second installment of the Flanker story

  8. Answering the ‘secrecy’ on the new capablities…

    As for civvie military enthusiasts take enjoyment over our military achievement…the reason is that Malaysians are made of potty mouths who often jeopardizing the MAFs OPSEC and, national defence policy. In order to curb those arm race and not to pose aggressive posture towards neighbouring forces, thus the military activities were kept under low publicity and limited to ‘need-to-know’ basis.

    Even though the MAF has been undergoing upgrades and getting force multipliers in the past 20 years, the recruitment did not getting the required spike but created armchair generals sitting behind screens crying for new ‘toys’ while not paying their PTPTN loans. Would these netizen trade off lesser PTPTN loaners for more Flankers? Or cut more subsidies for the betterment of the MAF? Keep asking the country to buy more arms while they just sitting at home, having goodnight’s sleep so that only the MAF guys got to do the job?

    P/S – I even got to sit in the cockpit of RSAF 50 F-15SG in last SA18. Why? Because ‘we’ respected our neighbours well. Men in uniforms respect each other, civvie quarrelling in cyberworld making claims.

  9. It is so funny in today’s environment where the MAF has actively engaging local media and defence journalist,we can still hear the voices of unsatisfied netizens crying over the openness of the media reporting.

    The less open policy of the media reporting in the MAF shall not be the reason for Malaysian citizens to discredit the MAF personnel. If the Malaysians cannot give proper respect to the men and women of the MAF, why should the MAF need to ‘get naked’ in order to given the ‘transparency’ needed?

    The ACMI spotting was spot on, it was good way of journalism there. And yes, the ACMI will serve a good purpose in future.

    P/s: FYI the pic where the Su-30MKM was filmed with captive AAMs, it was a photoshoot organized by the RMAF, taken by the civvie journalist/spotters at the ramp of a C-130 in preparation for LIMA 19.

  10. Hazwan – “Buying same aircraft that we already know how to maintain and operate is an efficient strategy”

    There is also the need to take things to a new level by having the ability to fully exploit the MKM’s full capability. For that we’ll need a AEW platform; something the RMAF has been seeking since the 1980’s and something that still remains elusive.

  11. There is no reason to discredit the armed forces, and those people should be slapped with sedition act, if not high treason to the country.

    But there should not be any reason for TUDM PR not to officially talk about ACMI pods on MKM, as TNI-AU recently boasted about fitting one on their Su-30MK too. There have been many bizarre PR moments, like blurring out the A400M cockpit when it is exactly a copy of the A380 airliner cockpit! Not to mention other cockups like the TUDM Lapang Sasar High Intensity Tactical Shooting, with the acronym of L-SHITS.

    On the other hand, something sensitive like the TALDs (which is build by a country our PM despises), the PR guys should be more careful, but as they have posted it officially on TUDM twitter, I reposted it here.

    Reply
    The Indonesian one is locally developed and manufactured, according to the Indonesian Defense Ministry. I got scolded by pointing out the wierd acronym though I did say that they should used another acronym for it

  12. @ Mav

    Malaysian armchair generals mostly have very2 shallow knowledge of defence matters. And this is partly due to the very scarce official PR from our armed forces.

    Other than on this blog, comments and discussions on other Malaysian defence sites are nowhere near as seriously intellectual as say british defence websites.

    As for spending, yes our government does not spend as much as say Indonesia, thailand or Vietnam, but what allocation that we have, if we plan it wisely can be used to better improve our defence capability. Priorities need to be set, and compromises on lower priorities have to be thought of.

    I have written plans here on TLDM, TUDM and even APMM using current available budgets to be able to get more submarines, AWACs planes, OPVs… It can be done, if there is the will to do it.

  13. Anon – “The ACMI spotting was spot on, it was good way of journalism there”

    Yes it was.

    Years ago when the contract was awarded the company issued a press release. The RMAF subsequently said that the ACMI pods would be fitted to various aircraft; the MKMs and Hornets amongst them. This just happens to be the first time that the pod has been spotted, photographed and mentioned by a member of the public (thanks as ever to Marhalim for his powers of observation).

    joe – “Been a while since we heard updates about the MKM SLEP”

    They underwent depot level maintenance which is needed after “x” number of hours flown. Hopefully in the near future the RMAF will be able to perform an actual upgrade; for which feasibility studies have long been done.

  14. @Mav
    No different than fans of professional team sports.Go to our mamak this season and you can see plenty similarities.

    @…
    “those people should be slapped with sedition act, if not high treason”
    Some of them are our ministers or having governmental positions now. Be cautious or it might be the other way around facing the sedition act instead! 😉

  15. @Mav
    >”Malaysians are made of potty mouths who often jeopardizing the MAFs OPSEC and, national defence policy.”

    No.

    The potty mouths are mainly the fervent nationalists who declare we will piss the Singaporeans into the sea with the awesome might of our artillery. That is what is mainly seen on other defence blogs, and that is the kind of talk that creates friction in the region. (The Indonesians do that to us too. And we don’t like it do we? But that doesn’t stop us from doing the same…)

    There is no OPSEC to be jeopardised as other countries including superpowers with far more at stake than us reveal much more about their militaries to the public accountability bodies. Rather, the Malaysian military (like Govt and Malaysians in general) tends to hide their shortcomings under the guise of “Opsec”.

    >”In order to curb those arm race and not to pose aggressive posture towards neighbouring forces, thus the military activities were kept under low publicity and limited to ‘need-to-know’ basis”

    Our rivals’ intelligence units will have penetrated our military to a greater extent than the public ever will, and as professionals will have a deeper understanding then the civilians can ever have.

    But it’s oh so easy for the military and the Govt to promise the sky and the moon, to declare everything is a-okay, to claim that defence spending is being managed responsibly, and that this equipment or that unit adequately fulfills the duty given to them by the public… when everything is kept secret, and the public is not encouraged to understand the difference between a tank and an APC.

    No need to know, just give us the money, cheer the splendid display on Aug 31, and don’t you dare say a critical word or you will be hounded all over the internet.

  16. Since we already capable of making our own Mk 8x bombs, I don’t see why we didn’t produce OFAB100/250 as well

    Reply
    AFAIK we never produce any aerial bombs apart from practice rounds

  17. Most other defence blogs are made of mostly little dumb kids so it is expected that stupid things will be said there

  18. Dundun- “I don’t see why we didn’t produce OFAB100/250 as well”

    After taking into account that we don’t have economics of scale and that everything (from the casing to the explosives to the fuze) has to be imported; it’s cheaper and less troublesome to just buy dumb bombs from abroad. At least with small arms ammo or mortar rounds there is some level of economics of scale to justify production.

    In the past we sourced practice bombs from Indonesia.

  19. The drag chutes on the Fulcrums were made by a local company.

    Reply
    Part of the TOT for the purchase of the Fulcrums. Company stopped operating last time I checked a few months before the Fulcrums stopped operating.

  20. Side track@Mav, i also got the chance to sit in the F15Sg, but i believe the juice is in the back seater, where the sensors are, i once, ask an F16D pilot about the multi function dispay , to my dismay, he replied ,oh that’s a radio!
    Ironically, I’ve spoken to Mizawa base, F15 and tripple nickle F15, they are better forthcoming with their experience in the limitations and advantages of their hardware

  21. the picture with the full load of 4 Archer and 4 adder raises an interesting question. Back in the early 2010 or 11, it was reported we only ordered 35 R77 Adder for RM35 million, making at best you can put 2 R77 at any one flanker. Did we actually got more R77 than what was disclosed (personally at RM1 million a piece a bit over the top price)

    Reply
    As mentioned in the story, we did buy another RM96 million worth of missiles and ammunition in 2017. The Lt Col only mentioned the GP bombs. There is the possibility that more R73 and R77 procured as well. Anyhow its unlikely they have fired all of the 2011 missiles already.
    If you think RM1 million per missile is over the top, please don’t search the cost of AMRAAMs. We got 10 AMRAAMS in 2015 for some RM8.1 million each.

  22. Guided ordnance of any kind is expensive, high-G anti-air missiles even more so

    @Marhalim

    Aww I wanted to use a nom de plume

    Reply
    Not if you posted it once with your normal name

  23. Amraam makes sense around usd200k per missile list price or about RM810k a piece back then. Adder was supposed to be around usd100k per missile or about RM405k per missile.. But may include other cost such as training and maintenance

    Reply
    It must be noted list prices as just that. It is also indicative that we bought the missiles directly from Rosoboroexport without any local middleman

  24. Any improvement on the MKM anti-ship and anti-radiation capability?

    Reply
    No idea, will have to ask around

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