Options for RMAF Cap 55

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SHAH ALAM: Options for the RMAF CAP55 Phase 1 2021-2030. During the recent 62nd anniversary of RMAF, its RMAF chief Gen Ackbal Samad in his speech announced that the RMAF CAP55 plan that is to start next year is to be divided into 3 Phases. Phase 1 is to be from 2021-2030, Phase 2 2030-2045 and lastly Phase 3 2046-2055. The 3 phases is to be planned separately from each other.

As stated in RMAF CAP55, basic planning (asas perancangan) needs to consider:
1. Kemampuan (affordability)
2. Tepat pada masa (timeliness)
3. Efektif (effective)
4. Realistik (realistic)

Saab GlobalEye

I have created a very basic plan (it is just something i created in my free time basically) for RMAF CAP55 Phase 1 2021-2030 that takes into consideration of all the 4 points above. The most important thing in my opinion is for the plan to have a clear focus of the operational outcome. The operational outcome for RMAF CAP55 Phase 1 2021-2030 should be:

1. Fighters – To have 24h QRA capability for both west and east Malaysia. Clear CAS, Strike, Maritime Strike and Air Superiority capability goals.

2. C4ISR air – Information superiority and sharing from the air; of the air, marine and ground domain. Ability to jam and degrade enemy radar and communication ability. A subset of this capability would be MPA, UAS, AEW&C and EA. For MPA we should be able to find a small-boat sized target anywhere in Malaysian EEZ within 24 hours. For UAS, we should be able to deploy 2 continuous orbits of MALE UAV. For AEW&C and EA we should be able to deploy this within a reasonable amount of early notice.

3. C4ISR ground – clear 24h information picture of Malaysian airspace. Seamless connection with civilian ATC system. Able to deploy QRA to intercept unidentified flying objects in Malaysian airspace and EEZ.

4. Helicopter – CSAR and SF capability. Most transport duties and VIP helicopters passed to Army PUTD.

5. Transport – Strong airbridge between east and west Malaysia, ability to support deployment and sustainment of PARA forces.

RMAF EC-725 fleet is maintained by BHIC Aeroservices Sdn Bhd, BHICAS is a joint venture between BHIC’s subsidiary BHIC Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd, Prestige Pillar Sdn Bhd and Airbus Helicopters Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Below is my plan for RMAF CAP55 Phase 1 2021-2030 with the development expenditure allocation of maximum of USD1.6 billion for each of the 5 year Rancangan Malaysia’s (RMK12 2021-2025 and RMK13 2026-2030). As I written here before, I feel that USD1.6 billion is a level that is logical and can be realistically funded by the government. Basically this is a tweak to my previous posts here, taking into account all the latest situation and updating the plan accordingly.

RMK12 2021-2025 USD1.56bil
40 TA/FA-50M $1350 billion 16 TA-50, 24 FA-50. Hawk/MB-339CM replacement 2 operational Sqn, 1 LIFT Sqn, 1 Adversary/Display Sqn

6 CN-235-220 MPA conv $40 million plus trade in 3 B200T MPA, 4 with USA MSI grant.
4 Su-30MKI (used india) trade-in 12 MiG-29N, plus overhaul IAF C-130J in Airod
12 Bayraktar TB2 MALE UAV $70 million 3 systems with 4 uav per system
6 EC-225LP(used) $50 million Free transfer of 5 from Boustead MHS (as a concession to approving additional RM1.4billion budget for the Gowinds) plus 1 bought. Upgrade all to mil spec radios.
1 GroundMaster GM403 radar $30 million
11 PC-7 MkII (used s africa) $20 million Include upgrades and SCAR Pods for observation use in ESSCOM. Future fleet to consist of 32x PC-7 MkII.
-3 C-130H-30 $75million Sell 3 C-130H-30 to fund C-130 fleet upgrade + buy 1 short fuselage C-130H for SF support. Future fleet to consist of 6x C-130H-30, 4x KC-130H, 1x C-130H-MP, 1x C-130H SF.

RMK13 2026-2030 USD1.56bil
12 FA-50M $450 million
3 G6000 Erieye ER AEW&C $600 million
1 G6000 HAVASOJ EW $120 million
2 G6000 (used) $40 million VIP/training to replace Global Express
2 A400M $300 million Partly used Spain/UK/Germany allocation
2 GroundMaster GM403 radar $50 million

Priority list
1. MPA/ISR
2. MALE UAV
3. Additional EC225LP as partial nuri replacement
4. LCA/FLIT
5. AEW&C/EW

Just for a comparison
TUDM 1997 fighter fleet consisted of – 14 F-5E/F-5F/RF-5E, 18 MiG-29N/NUB, 8 F/A-18D, 18 Hawk 208, 10 Hawk 108, 10 MB339AM – around 78 fighters
Current TUDM fighter fleet (2020) consists of – 18 Su-30MKM, 8 F/A-18D, 13 Hawk 208, 5 Hawk 108, 7 MB-339CM – around 51 fighters
TUDM 2030 fighter fleet could consist of – 22 Su-30MKM, 8 F/A-18D, 52 TA/FA-50M – around 82 fighters

Phaseout timeline
– MiG-29 retired
– Hawk 108/208 2025-2028 (35 years old)
– Aermacchi MB339CM 2023-2025 (20 years old)
– F/A-18 2035-2038 (40 years old)
– PC-7 MkII 2043-2045 (45 years old)
– C-130H 2041-2043 (60years/50years old)
– CN-235-220 2043-2045 (40 years old)
– SU-30MKM 2051-2055 (50 years old)
– EC725/225 2051-2055 (40 years old)

Airbus A320Neo military

TUDM Skuadron 2030
1 Skn 6x A400M – Subang
2 Skn 1x Falcon 900, 2x Global 6000 – Subang (Agong Flight, PM Flight)
3 Skn 5x EC120 (2FTC) Alor Setar
4 Skn 3x Global 6000 Erieye AEW&C, 1x Global 6000 HavaSOJ EW – Gong Kedak
5 Skn 6x EC725, 3x EC225LP – Labuan
6 Skn 16x FA-50M – Labuan (standing QRA East)
7 Skn 8x PC-7 MkII – Lahad Datu (ISR and CAS operations)
8 Skn (MECU) – Subang
9 Skn Inactive – reserve for 5th Gen MRCA squadron
10 Skn 6x EC725, 3x EC225LP – Kuantan
11 Skn 12x Bayraktar TB2 – Kuching
12 Skn 22x SU-30MKM – Gong Kedak (4x detachment Labuan)
14 Skn 6x C/KC-130H – Labuan
15 Skn 12x TA-50 (3FTC) – Butterworth (LIFT)
16 Skn 6x CN-235-220 MPA, 1x CN-235-220 – Kuching
17 Skn 16x FA-50M – Kuantan (standing QRA West)
18 Skn 8x F/A-18D – Butterworth, future 5th Gen MRCA squadron
19 Skn 8x TA/FA-50M – Kuantan (Adversary/Smokey Bandits Aerobatic Team)
20 Skn 6x C-130H-30 – Subang
21 Skn Inactive
22 Skn Inactive
1 FTC 24x PC-7 MkII – Alor Setar
Transfer
2x S-70 VIP to Army PUTD

The Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk helicopter. A version without the ASW equipment is also available. (PRNewsFoto/Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.)

Some explanations of the points above

– Additional Su-30
We could get like 4 more Su-30 used from IAF. This would be bartered by giving IAF 12 of our retired MiG-29N, plus offering IAF to pay for the overhaul of their C-130J fleet at Airod. A win-win situation IMO for both IAF and TUDM. The target would be to have 12 operational Su-30MKM at Gong Kedak, 4 Su-30MKM detachment at Labuan, leaving 6 Su-30MKM as standby reserve and in maintenance.

– UAS (MALE UAV)
IMO there is 3 affordable ways for this. One is getting US EDA (excess defence article) Predators. Second is the Ecarys ES15/Patroller. Third is the Bayraktar TB2. All 3 are capable platforms, with Bayraktar TB2 is looking like a good choice for TUDM. With 12 airframes, we could set up 2 operational orbits (24hr on station) of 4 airframes each. The remaining 4 airframes to be used for training or standby.

– LCA/LIFT
We should think of a long term plan for both the LCA/LIFT and also for our future 5th Gen MRCA requirement. My opinion is that we should sign a long term government-to-government deal with South Korea for both LCA/LIFT and also for MRCA. What we could do is to sign contract for the FA/TA-50 (52 units) together with the order for the KFX (32 units) post 2030. The should be some manufacturing of components (such as probe for drogue type air-to-air refueling, weapon pylons, composite doors, control surfaces etc.) for both FA/TA-50 and KFX, and probably some joint development for KFX, taking over some of the Indonesian share of the project. I am looking at around USD1.8 billion for the FA/TA-50 (USD450 mil for 16 TA-50, and USD1.35 bil for 36 FA-50, budget in RMK12 and RMK13), and around USD2.8 billion for the KFX (budget in RMK14 and RMK15), with say USD0.6 billion for development and USD2.2 billion for the rest of the 32 aircraft. Payment would be in the form of hard cash, LPG and Palm Oil.

– MPAs
We should concentrate our MPA efforts into converting the 6x CN-235-220 into a capable MPA platform, and forget about other more expensive and more capable options. 4 of the upgrades are to be partially paid for by US MSI (Maritime Security Initiative) Grant, with 2 more paid for by Malaysian government, plus additional budget by trading in our 3 B200T to IPTN. I would propose the CN-235 MPA to be equipped with:
– ISD Merlin Maritime Mission Suite
– Sentinent ViDAR optical surveillance system
– EO turret (FLIR/L3 Wescam/Etc)
– Leonardo USA Osprey 30 lightweight AESA radar
– Leonardo USA SAGE ESM
– AIS transponder
– CAE MAD-XR
– air droppable SAR survival kit.

The overall Malaysian airborne maritime surveillance capability would be covered by a combination of RMAF MPAs, MMEA MPAs and various UAVs from RMAF ,TLDM and MMEA.

A MIg-29N M43-04 flies in formation with Sukhoi Su-30MKM M52-10 and US Navy Super Hornets. Picture credit US Navy

– AEW&C and EW capability
The plan is to have Erieye NG radar on Bombardier Global 6000 airframe, basically a “Globaleye Lite” with only the Erieye ER radar system. It would have datalink capability to communicate with fighters, ships and land units seamlessly. One Global 6000 would aslo be equipped with the Aselsan HavaSOJ Electronic warfare and jamming system. This along with ground and naval based EW systems, also with MKM’s Knirti SAP-518 systems would provide a comprehensive EW warfare capability that could be a big game changer in future conflicts.

– Helicopter
Reduction to only 2 helicopter skuadrons and the unplanned retirement of the Nuri means that a lot of the helicopter tasks that is currently borne by TUDM will need to be taken up by Army’s PUTD. This would also mean that VIP helicopter tasks should also be passed on to PUTD. An all blackhawk PUTD transport fleet of around 18-26 units (including former RMAF VIP whitehawks) would be an adequate support to the 18 EC735/EC225LP fleet of TUDM. Plenty of sources of used Blackhawks (Brunei, Australia, USA, Jordan to name a few) and is a low cost solution to replace all retired Nuris in Malaysian service.

PAF FA-50 model armed with mock-ups of the Maverick missiles, bomblet dispensers and Sidewinders.

– Conclusion
Hard times needs tough decisions. We really need to plan within what level of budget that is realistically have to be for a force like RMAF to be a credible air force in the region. We would probably see neighbours getting 5th gen fighters before 2030, but we need to stick to our priorities and get things that can give us a real increase in our overall defence capability. Proper planning could create a much more capable RMAF in 2030 compared to what it is right now in 2020.

* the views expressed above are those of the author, and not of Malaysian Defence.

— Malaysian Defence

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