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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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