Now You See It, Now You…

AN/TPS-77 long range air surveillance radar. Lockheed Martin.

SHAH ALAM: In a previous post I mentioned that the Defence Ministry and the services in general are very reluctant to talk about their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment. Apart from radars and EO equipment, other items include MSA, MPA and anything that fall in between – things like drones etc.

And the social media team of politicians should be aware of this. However, as they are humans they sometimes make mistakes. For example, Defence Minister DS Khaled Nordin posted on its social media his visit to the RMAF Skuadron 323 on Bukit Lunchu near Johor Bahru late in the afternoon of January 11. Bukit Lunchu, which has an elevation of some 200 meters, is located several kilometers, north from the Johor Strait which divides Malaysia and Singapore.

Defence Minister DS Khaled Nordin (in black shirt) talking with Squadron 323 personnel. Note the support legs of the radar to the right. DS Khaled Nordin.

Among the pictures he posted was the radar operated by the skuadron. It looked innocent enough as it was a group picture of the minister and personnel from the squadron with the radar in the background. However, as the ministry and services frowned upon such pictures, the images with the radar were deleted several hours later. The post:

Seterusnya, saya mengadakan lawatan ke Skuadron 323 TUDM Bukit Lunchu.
Saya telah dibawa meninjau aset pertahanan seliaan Skuadron 323 serta diberikan taklimat oleh Pegawai Pemerintah, Mejar Mohd Dzul Helmy bin Mahat TUDM mengenai pengoperasian dan pentadbiran termasuklah hal-hal kebajikan anggota.
Skuadron 323 TUDM Bukit Lunchu memainkan peranan penting dalam mengawasi ruang udara di bahagian selatan Semenanjung Malaysia dengan mengumpul maklumat yang diperolehi melalui radar.
Lawatan ini, antara lain bagi tujuan bagi menilai aset ketenteraan yang dimiliki oleh TUDM, selain memberi penghargaan saya buat para anggota yang setia berkhidmat demi memelihara kedaulatan negara.

The pictures posted by Khaled (ones not deleted) showed that the radar at Bukit Lunchu is not placed under a radome. RMAF on its website stated that the radar there is a mobile version which can be moved to a another site if needed. From TUDM website:

TUDM BUKIT LUNCHU
PENGENALAN DAN SEJARAH
Penubuhan skuadron 323 TUDM Bukit Lunchu berkuatkuasa mulai 15 Julai 1999 dan akan memberi pengawasan kepada ruang udara selatan semenanjung Malaysia. Sebelum ini ruang udara kawasan selatan Semenanjung tidak dikawal oleh mana-mana radar tentera melainkan kawalan terhad oleh radar awam Jabatan Penerbangan Awam Malaysia (JPAM) di Senai. Keadaan ini menjadikan ruang udara di selatan Semenanjung terdedah kepada risiko pencerobohan pesawat-pesawat asing. Skuadron ini dilengkapi dengan Pertahanan Udara Nasional(NADS) yang memerlukan intergrasi di antara unit-unit radar, markas serta unit-unit tempur. Penubuhan Skn 323 ini juga sejajar dengan keperluan organisasi TUDM.

Skn 323 TUDM Bukit Lunchu bertanggungjawab mengawasi ruang udara di bahagian selatan Semenanjung Malaysia dengan mengumpul maklumat yang diperolehi melalui radar. Maklumat berkenaan akan disalurkan ke Markas No. 1 Divisyen Udara samada untuk arahan misi pemintasan atau lain-lain arahan. Di dalam konteks Sistem Pertahanan Udara Nasional (NADS) semasa perang, Skn 323 TUDM Bukit Lunchu akan menghubungi skuadron-skuadron pesawat tempur di Kuantan dan Butterworth untuk tindakan pemintasan apabila radarnya mengesan kemaraan pesawat musuh. Radar di skn ini adalah jenis mudah alih (mobile) dan boleh digerakkan dan ditempatkan di kawasan lain apabila diarahkan.

Defence Minister DS Khaled Nordin inside the radar control room. DS Khaled Nordin.

I have not heard of any plans to replace the Bukit Lunchu radar with a new one. Perhaps it is under RMAF plans but so far no funding has not been reserved for it in the next few years. At least not one I have heard about, of course.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

22 Comments

  1. Well, Khaled is a politician. Barking and wagging are all in a day’s work. Others work for a living. Politicians, well, …

  2. The photo in the control room, the two graphic prints on the wall which could indicate the strength of the radar look even more innocent enough 😅

  3. We need to keep in mind that although politicians in the U.S; Thailand, Singapore, Philippines and other places tend to have military experience this is not the case here. Also, was he briefed by his people prior to the event? Not uncommon for a cockup to occur because the politician was not briefed. Remember Badawi’s statement on the number of air crews we have? Another angle to take note that at times certain decisions made are not actual policy but the decision of various commanders.

    Years ago the owner of a now defunct defence site posted a pic of a Flanker shelter which was originally posted by the RMAF. He got a call from a frantic RMAF officer asking where he got the pic and to please remove it. Various others incidents can mention.

  4. Ed – ” the two graphic prints on the wall which could indicate the strength of the radar look even more innocent enough”

    Probably indicating rosters or something as mundane like technical reminders; nothing ‘hush hush’.

  5. He is hardly the worst of publicity hungry minister in this Govt. There are far lot worse, the transport minister for one.

    Anyhow its no secret if its open to Google Earth. It would be a big no no if he took it within the radome. As for the control room its nothing confidential on control consoles. If the Armed Forces doesnt want to talk about radars they bought and such its looks like the silence is only limited to them for whatever reason, as they seen no issue of MOD issuing statements.

  6. it is in public domain that the radar in bukit lunchu is an Alenia RAT-31SL/E
    http://www.radartutorial.eu/19.kartei/02.surv/pic/img1101.jpg

    Ed is right, the 2 graphs on the wall is a detailed radar vertical coverage diagram (left, near to menhan head) and radar horizontal coverage diagram (right). vertical coverage scanning is by electronic means, while horizontal by mechanical means.

    No need to hush2, as if our neighbours or potential enemies does not know about this fixed radar location.

  7. … – ”Ed is right, the 2 graphs on the wall is a detailed radar vertical coverage diagram ”

    Maybe but such things are also kept in ring binders which are kept close.

    … – ”No need to hush2, as if our neighbours or potential enemies does not know about this fixed radar location.”

    They ”do” know but that’s not the point now is it? What they would like to know are frequencies; how often the radar goes off air so to speak; how often it’s down for maintenance; etc. All of that can’t be ascertained even if a thousand pics were taken from various angles.

    ”Anyhow its no secret if its open to Google Earth. ”

    Indeed and just to add government’s can and do pay to have certain things obscured by Google Earth but of course it won’t be radar locations.

  8. “can and do pay to have certain things obscured by Google Earth”
    For those that uses American GPS of course, you can even ask Google to hide your house, but there is also the EUs Galileo, Russki Glonass, & China BDS. No Govt can fully hide from all of their services. These days there are no hiding fixed locations on bases.

  9. They hide the GAPU base in Bera in Google Earth and maps. Of course if you can afford to download satellite images you can see them.

  10. ”For those that uses American GPS of course, you can even ask Google to hide your house”

    You mentioned Google Earth; thus my comment that ”government’s can and do pay to have certain things obscured by Google Earth”.

    ‘also the EUs Galileo, Russki Glonass, & China BDS. No Govt can fully hide from all of their services.”

    First of all; hiding from whom : government’s or ordinary citizens? Secondly at times the intention is not to ”hide” per see but to ”obscure”. There are also things worth ”hiding”/obscuring” and things not worth the effort.

  11. @ marhalim

    Bera? I can see them even with free apps. BTW recently GAPU had their new CO. With all the new constructions around Bera camp, it is safe to say that they are planning something big for 34 RAD GAPU, which is equipped with the obsolete Jernas system. Hopefully preparing for MERAD incoming in the near future
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/GGV1ZPzXgAE2evs.jpg

    @ azlan

    ” They ”do” know but that’s not the point now is it? ”
    That is exactly the point. No need to hush2 with pictures when what is important is what you listed, which cannot be ascertained with just pictures.

  12. … – ”With all the new constructions around Bera camp, it is safe to say that they are planning something big for 34 RAD”

    ”Safe to say”? ”All the new constructions” could simply mean new administrative buildings or living quarters …

    … – ”That is exactly the point. ”

    No it isn’t because your statement that ”No need to hush2, as if our neighbours or potential enemies does not know about this fixed radar location” doesn’t hold. ”Our neighbours” are interested in other things; not the location which BTW any ESM will clearly indicate; plus the fact that the location of the said radar is public knowledge.

  13. … – ”With all the new constructions around Bera camp, it is safe to say that they are planning something big for 34 RAD”

    ”Safe to say”? ”All the new constructions” could simply mean new administrative buildings or living quarters …

    … – ”which is equipped with the obsolete Jernas system”

    Technically it is ”obsolete” given that MBDA no longer produces it? Luckily it’s still – for now – operable – and spares are being produced. Also, despite it’s vintage Rapier/Jernas is/was quite a capable piece of kit in some regards but being British engineered was/is found win some areas. GAPU’s preference then was Crotale but water under the bridge now.

    … – ”That is exactly the point. ”

    No it isn’t because your statement that ”No need to hush2, as if our neighbours or potential enemies does not know about this fixed radar location” doesn’t hold. ”Our neighbours” are interested in other things; not the location which BTW any ESM will clearly indicate; plus the fact that the location of the said radar is public knowledge.

  14. We could probably put Jernas on Layang2 island after MRSAM acquisition is complete

    Wouldn’t hurt to add Skyguard on the island too while GAPU could replace them with Sky shield

  15. Also, have we scrapped all them Sibmas yet? Because we could probably station few of them on the island just like Vietnam did with their WWII relic T-34

  16. To become rust buckets? If we want to put a SAM system is must be something inside a tube already so it can kept under storage until needed.

  17. dundun – ”We could probably put Jernas on Layang2 island after MRSAM acquisition is complete”

    That’s assuming Jernas is till operable/supportable in a few years and whether GAPU has the excess manpower to operate Jernas and the new system which replaces it. Also, placing Jernas on the reefs for an extended period will lead to corrosion issues.

    dundun – ”Because we could probably station few of them on the island just like Vietnam did with their WWII relic T-34”

    We could but as has been pointed out why would anyone want to directly assault it when they can isolate it by denying us sea and air access? Also, a turret mounted cannon is great but it’s very vulnerable to return fire and are the FCSs in the turret [which BTW are mostly scrap now] still operable?

    dunndun – ”Wouldn’t hurt to add Skyguard ”

    Wouldn’t hurt to add Freyas and Wurzburgs too if we had them but what would Skyguard be supporting and in a few years will it still be operable? The 1st batch was bought in 1988/89. Also note that in 1982 Argie Skyguards were easily jammed and I’ve heard some stories about it here during exercises. Why don’t we add barrage balloons whilst we’re at it?

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