No 6 Skuadron Transferred to Labuan AB

RMAF MB-339CM M34-20 in a picture taken at the Cope Taufan in 2014 at Butterworth.

SHAH ALAM: ALMOST 18 months after it was first announced, a Hawk squadron is finally operational in Sabah. In March, the No 6 Skn – which flies the Mk 108 and Mk 208 Hawks – completed its move to Labuan airbase.

The decision to have a Hawk squadron at Labuan was first announced shortly after the Lahad Datu incursion in 2013. However as upgrades were needed at the airbase to cater for a full squadron, Hawks from both the 6 and 15 squadrons were stationed there on a rotational basis.

It is likely No 6 Skn moved to Labuan after its new facilities at the airbase were completed.

RMAF Hawk M40-25 which carries the Lahad Datu mission markings.
RMAF Hawk M40-25 which carries the Lahad Datu mission markings.

With the transfer of the No 6 Skn to Labuan, the Kuantan airbase currently hosts three squadrons – No 10 Skn which flies the Airbus Helicopters EC725/H225M; No 17 Skn (Mig-29N/NUB Fulcrums) and Pulatibang 3 which flies the Aermacchi MB-339CMs in the LIFT role.

RMAF Hawk 208s tail number 36 and 34 in the dispersal shed at Labuan airbase. Picture taken in 2015
RMAF Hawk 208s tail number 36 and 34 in the dispersal shed at Labuan airbase. Picture taken in 2015

As widely reported on Wednesday, a single MB-339CM from Pulatibang 3 – M34-20 – was lost in a crash near Pekan, Pahang on Tuesday (May 17, 2016). The pilots, Major Nazrul Hafiz Zaimi and Lieutenant Mohd Hakimi Khairi, ejected from the aircraft at 12.54 pm after it suffered engine failure. Mohd Hakimi reportedly suffered a broken leg.

RMAF MB-339CM M34-20 in a picture taken at the Cope Taufan in 2014 at Butterworth.
RMAF MB-339CM M34-20 in a picture taken at the Cope Taufan in 2014 at Butterworth.

The crash left Pulatibang 3 fleet with seven aircraft from the eight which was originally procured back in 2006 to replace the earlier variant of the trainer, the MB-339AM.

This was believed to be the first incident involving the CM fleet since the introduction in 2009. At least six AMs were lost in accidents – both the pilot and co-pilot died in a crash in 1985 – from the 13 acquired back in 1983.

An MB-339CM and a MIG-29N Fulcrum  demonstrates the interception at the NCO demonstration ceremony at Kuantan airbase on Monday.
An MB-339CM and a MIG-29N Fulcrum demonstrates the interception at the NCO demonstration ceremony at Kuantan airbase on Monday.

It is likely that the RMAF is regretting the decision back in 2006 to reuse the Rolls Royce Viper Mk 632 turbojet engines of the AMs in the CMs. This was the solution to reduce the cost of buying the new aircraft. As the engine is no longer in production, RMAF is having difficulties in supporting them.

Following the crash of the tail number 20, RMAF may well have to replace the Mk 632 turbojets in the CMs if it is found that it was no longer feasible to maintain them in the long run.

One of the Pulatibang 3 MB-339CM seen at the Kuantan airbase on June 1, 2015.
One of the Pulatibang 3 MB-339CM seen at the Kuantan airbase on June 1, 2015.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters on Thursday that an independent audit of RMAF aircraft would be conducted to “ensure the assets are in the best condition.

Alenia Aermacchi MB339CM M34-20 displayed at LIMA 2015.
Alenia Aermacchi MB339CM M34-20 displayed at LIMA 2015.

The AMs were mostly retired in 2005/2006 when their engines were sent to Italy for over-haul in anticipation of putting them in the CMs.

One of the MB-339CM getting ready for a test flight in 2008 prior to delivery to RMAF.
One of the MB-339CM getting ready for a test flight in 2008 prior to delivery to RMAF.

Meanwhile, the Fulcrums of the No 17 Skn will continue flying for sometime despite rumours that it will be retired on June 1. The rumours were sparked after the aviation community found out that a renowned photographer would conduct an air-to-air photography session with the Fulcrums “as part of the aircraft retirement celebration”.

Indeed it will be the last air-to-air photography session for the Fulcrums but it will not be the last hurrah for the aircraft.

No 17 Skuadron Fulcrums - M40-10- and M40-16 - taking part in the rehearsal on Feb 25, 2016.
No 17 Skuadron Fulcrums – M40-10- and M40-16 – taking part in the rehearsal on Feb 25, 2016.

During a visit to Kuantan airbase on Monday, one Fulcrum conducted a demonstration flight while another five were seen at the dispersal shed. The squadron is expected to take part in Cope Taufan 2016 expected to be held in mid-July.

Mig-29N M43-03 flies together with a USAF F-22 Raptor at Cope Taufan 2014. 03 is one of the most pictured Fulcrum instantly reconigsable for its colourful fins simbolising the 17th Squadron,
Mig-29N M43-03 flies together with a USAF F-22 Raptor at Cope Taufan 2014. 03 is one of the most pictured Fulcrum instantly recognisable for its colourful fins simbolising the 17th Squadron,

Apart from the Fulcrums in the dispersal sheds, several more including the famous 03 were seen inside a hangar though unfortunately no pictures were allowed to be taken.

The Bat of the 17th Squadron is proudly displayed on Mig-43-03.
The Bat of the 17th Squadron is proudly displayed on Mig-29 43-03.

The 03 was undergoing maintenance and will probably feature prominently when the air-to-air photography session is conducted.

— Malaysian Defence

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16 Comments

  1. Actually a lot of other equipments were canibalised from the AM to the CM, including the ejection seats. Right now what could be done is to salvage equipment from the crashed CM and transfer it to one of the stored AM airframe. The Rolls Royce Viper turbojet is no longer in production and all Mb-339 models use that engine, no other engines are intergrated with the Mb-339.

    The mig-29 could still be used if the engines is given its periodic overhaul. That is the current limiting constraint that would cause the mig-29 to be retired, the unwillingness to spend money to overhaul the engines. To take it into perspective, even the hawks would have to be retired if wasn’t the decision to overhaul their engines a few years ago.

    I think now is the right time to sell off the Mb-339, hawks to private military contractors that already uses those types (draken and air usa) while it is still usable, and get a common fighter for lift and lightweight fighter roles. This should be the current priority instead of the mrca.

  2. Labuan AB shared runway with Labuan Airport, dunno when RMAF will get its own dedicated AB (like Gong kedak) in Sabah@Sarawak. Anyway, since the SKN had moved to its new home, “selamat datang ke labuan”. Hope contractors tasked to support the airframe can give quality of service like what in the former AB.

  3. “Labuan AB shared runway with Labuan Airport, dunno when RMAF will get its own dedicated AB (like Gong kedak) in Sabah@Sarawak.”

    No benefit from that. All our RMAF bases are single runway, and all but one have no hardened aircraft shelters. Even in a world without precision guided munitions, unless the bases are hardened, having a dedicated air base does not make it more survivable than a shared air port.

    However, PGMs are making even hardened bases more pointless. You should be looking more at dispersed operations and rapid runway repair capability.

  4. Is there any plan to get new trainers? T/A-50 would be nice replacement to hawk and aermacchi

    Reply
    I think there is but it has not been articulated yet as other programmes probably goes higher in the rank of importance

  5. Question, would it be better off having a layered SAM/AA capabilities than having a hardened shelter for an air force base if PGM would render hardened shelter pointless?

    Reply
    All three is the best solution but beggars cannot be choosers…

  6. Nimitz – ”Labuan AB shared runway with Labuan Airport”

    RMAF Kuching and Kuantan is also on land shared with airports.

    Kamal – ” than having a hardened shelter for an air force base if PGM would render hardened shelter pointless?”

    Having hardened shelters is good but pointless if the aircraft inside them escape damage but can’t take off because the taxiways and runways are destroyed or damaged. The key is to having reconstruction teams with the needed gear, including fast drying cement, to quickly perform repairs; as well as hardened shelters and adequate dispersal areas.

    …… – ” That is the current limiting constraint that would cause the mig-29 to be retired, the unwillingness to spend money to overhaul the engines. ”

    There are also other issues. The main issue is off course the overhaul of the RD-33s but if the Fulcrums are remain operational for a while more; other stuff also had to be ideally replaced.

  7. After inspecting the MBB-339As [at no cost] Aermacchi found them to be in good condition; requiring an upgrade. For various reasons, including the costs involved and the fact that the air frames were 30 years old, we decided no to upgrade them. The fact that the Viper Mk 632s are no longer in production is a fact but what is important is that Rolls Royce is still supporting the engine. The MBB-339CMs are at present the closest thing we have to a LIFT and if we do intended to sell them; we first need a replacement. Same goes with the Hawks.

    The good news is that we have been steadily ordering more PC-7 Mk2s to replace the Mk1s. Granted, it’s MRCAs that give people adrenaline rushes but equally or more important is the basic trainer
    fleet and the need for a dedicated LIFT, which the MBB-339CM is not.

  8. Wonder if the Russian offer to swap MiG29n for Su30MKM discount still stand? Buying more Su30MKM or F18C/D/E/Fs might be more feasible then buying new types…

  9. Might surpise you Kamal. Good to have ur own system But I told SAF air defend missile sistems will deploy in West Malaysia if require under FPDA and not just Butterworth. Ter is already a 350 to 400 km plus range high altitude and low altitude bubble 24/7 over Sg and West My thank to My radars and Sg AWAC, radars on land and sea and air. Much info is share btw Sg and My. It hard not be seen to pierce this bubble and have RSAF and RMAF jets coming at you.

  10. RMAF need to buy 24 new light attack aircrafts.
    For example: Bae Hawk AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer)
    or T 50 Golden Eagle from Korea.

    600-700 million $.

  11. I believe almost all airport/airfield in British Borneo was built for military either RAF or RNAS. Then civilian aviation came in,sharing the facility. Kuching Airport Terminal was on the current AB Control Tower area before DCA moved to its own installations just across the runway. Looking back to the airport trend for the last 50years, it is DCA who get to go to new airports, leaving behind existing runway to RMAF if it was shared land. I think in the immediate future,we can’t see RMAF flying off from its very own runway based in mainland Sarawak&Sabah.

  12. I don’t see any issue with shared use bases. The runway is the only object that is shared, everything else is completely separate. Why are you bringing this up?

    Sharing runways lets us use the budget for other things and arguably gives us more bases than we would otherwise have.

  13. There’s nothing wrong with runway sharing, considering the limited amout of assets RMAF has. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong also in pointing it up for argument.

    Lahad Datu air”port” (which is more like an airfield) saw more use by the military/LE agency, which otherwise wouldn’t be able to justify its existence from commercial flight (chartered helos mainly and some ATR-72)

  14. There are dozens of locations in the world – if not hundreds – that see land and facilities shared between the military and civilian sector. The PAF’s largest base and the country’s aviation hub, Clark, is also an international airport; as are dozens of places in the U.S. which sees facilities shared with the military.

    Nimitz,

    You’re right.

    Over on the Peninsular; everyone knows that Kuantan and Butterworth were RAF bases but few are aware that Gong Kedak – if not a full fledged base – was also used by the RAF in the pre war period. For that matter, before it became a full fledged base; Gong Kedak had a dirt strip that was used by the RMAF for training by various – not fighter – aircraft and was also used for tri-service jump training. Taiping also had a dirt strip that was used by Caribous during the 2nd Emergency.

    Hazwan – ”Buying more Su30MKM or F18C/D/E/Fs might be more feasible then buying new types‚Ķ”

    Apart from the fact that we won’t buy any big ticket Russian items due to obvious reasons [at least until a certain matter is resolved]; I doubt if the RMAF has a requirement for additional MKMs. Nothing wrong with the actual fighter per say but the RMAF is more used to and prefers dealing with Western suppliers. Also, the intention now is clearly to acquire a current generation Western made platform along with an associated network centric capability. Given a choice between additional MKMs and Super Hornets; it’s obvious which the RMAF would choose.

    kuala – ”RMAF need to buy 24 new light attack aircrafts.”

    No …….. The RMAF needs a dedicated LIFT. Ground attack is a secondary function.

  15. RMAF should bought ex-RNZAZ MBB339C which were available after New Zealand abandon their fighter jet services. A total of 17 out of 18 still in good condition when they were retire in 1999. Although 2nd hand, RNZAF barely use it and it was used for less than 10 years!

    Reply
    those Macchis are gone now.

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