Still Waiting For You

Kuwait AF F/A-18C Hornet. USAF

SHAH ALAM: Still waiting for you. Malaysia wants to buy Kuwaiti Air Force (KAF) Boeing F/A-18 Hornets but has yet to negotiate with the government of the Middle East country for the deal, Deputy Defence Minister DS Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz told Dewan Negara today.

He said the planned purchase would – lock, stock and barrel – involved 33 airframes, both single-seat, C, and D, twin seaters. According to him, the KAF Hornets had clocked less flight hours than the eight F/A-18Ds in RMAF service. He did not say whether RMAF will fly all the airframes if we did get to purchase them.

Kuwait F/A-18 C Hornet. Flickr

There is no word also whether Malaysia has gotten permission from the US to make the purchase as it was necessary to do so for all US made weapons. I was told that there was an initiative to do so, three years back but as usual it fell on the wayside.
Two Kuwait AF F/A-18C seen here with a couple of F-16s. Internet.

Ikhmal Hisham said KAF Hornets will be decommissioned following the deliveries of new fighters including the Boeing Super Hornets. He said the planned procurement of the KAF Hornets was waiting negotiations between the governments of Malaysia and Kuwait. He did not say when the negotiations will take place, however.
Kuwaiti Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon. CGI Leonardo

KAF is retiring its classic Hornets as part of its modernization drive which started in 2016 with an order for 28 Eurofighter Typhoons, 22 single seaters and six twin seaters. In 2018, Kuwait ordered 28 Super Hornets of which 22 are single-seat F/A-18Es and 6 two-seat F/A-18Fs.
A Block III Super Hornet. Boeing.

All of the KAF Super Hornets have been delivered to the US Navy – its an FMS deal – in September, this year, though their delivery to KAF remained unknown. Apart from the Super Hornets, KAF is also getting 28 Eurofighter Typhoons, two of which arrived on December 14 in Kuwait. The rest are expected to be delivered progressively within the next few months.

— Malaysian Defence.

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31 Comments

  1. Nego tactic lah! They talk 33 to keep the Kuwaitis interested but they ‘actually wanted the 8 D variant, and if a couple of Cs thrown in to sweeten the deal, all the better’ is what they expecting. If they are sincere, just send Hadi & H2O to get it done.

    As for US permission, I foresee no problems since these jets are somewhat backdated compared to ours, the real numbers won’t be significant, these are only supported for the next 10 years, and our relationship with US is no way strained for them to block.

    I’m more concerned if we back out without a proper explanation, what is Kuwait’s response. To the Arabs, a verbal deal is as good as ones honour.

  2. If its cheap why not? If we fly more than 18 Hornets it will be a big strain on RMAF really unless they hike the funding for them. I am not sure we can also have that many people to operate more than three different types of fast jets at the same time

  3. @Kamal
    The 33 used Hornets have higher capabilities compared to 36 whichever LCAs. If purely on cost vs performance alone, it is a nobrainer.

  4. Presumably we are expecting the Kuwaitis to be generous and sell them for a nominal 1 USD. Otherwise there’s no point even talking about it.

  5. No way we in the short term have the funds to sustain a fleet of that size. Getting the pilots and support personnel will also take time. possible but it will be a huge undertaking.

    As for U.S. approval; approval is not the issue but the fact that it can take years.

  6. it also has to be a win/win situation for the Kuwaitis; the buyer takes everything or nothing. We also cannot assume that all the support equipment will be thrown in; the Kuwaitis might retain them for the Super Hornets; compatible. There’s also the question of what changes/modifications [even the bare minimum] are needed plus the fact that we’ll have to buy ordnance.

  7. kamal – ”Rather use tbe money to buy full 36 lca now rather than buying the old but low hours hornet.”

    Yes but 2 different issues which should not be conflated.

    – The LCAs/LIFTs serve a purpose and are needed. The RMAF has zero LIFTS and the Hawks are past their prime.

    – The pre owned Hornets [if we do get them – will take years] are to take some pressure off the Hornets and Flankers but will not be supportable for more than a decade. Not written in stone/holy writ that they will indeed by a stop gap measure and will be replaced on time.

    It’s a matter of deciding what to place priority on. I’ve been told that the RMAF is reluctant [for reasons which have been done to death here – not just this year] and that it’s mainly a political decision but even that has no actual firm commitment yet. Viewed objectively and in totality the LCA/LIFT requirement is actually more pressing.

    Just as vital; something people tend to overlook – for a air arm with a limited number of pilots; a limited number being inducted annually and no LIFT; getting the needed pilots will take time – not as easy or fast as some would believe. There is also the operating costs; as it is we barely have enough for the little we have.

  8. Azlan “No way we in the short term have the funds to sustain a fleet of that size. Getting the pilots and support personnel will also take time. possible but it will be a huge undertaking”

    It is also going to cost much more than what we pay for the jets alone. What condition are the jets in and how much must we spend to bring them to a decent level of capability? The Kuwaitis’ sunset date has been known to them with a fair level of certainty for years. They would have adjusted their funding for upkeep and upgrades accordingly. There are also personnel costs and the cost of stores and support equipment that the Kuwaitis are keeping that we will have to buy for ourselves. Not specific to the Hornets, but we will have to commit to additional base infrastructure because Butterworth and Kuantan combined won’t hold them all.

    If we can commit to a certain level of capex and opex funding, we can talk about sending a team to assess the jets and other items and at least have some idea of what we’re talking about. Only then can we decide if the jets will provide a worthwhile level of capability for the money and the effort it takes to keep 30+ year old airframes in frontline service.

  9. Just what I mentioned b4, exKuwait legacy hornet will be the interim fighter choice for temporary services until MRCA project start in the futures, at least can set up 2 sqns, 1 will be bases at Sabah or Sarawak..

  10. 33 used hornets assuming buy dirt cheap say USD 65 mil just like what Canada paid for Aussie hornets,, (the canadian also teportedly spending another usd500 mil forupport packages). For that amount wouldnt better pay for full 36 lifts or even 8 superhornets that can be used for another 30 years at least.

  11. Far – “Just what I mentioned b4,”

    As I mentioned before, it remains to be seen what eventually happens. It’s the goverment which is pushing it, not the RMAF and we haven’t officially informed Kuwait or Uncle Sam yet.

  12. Kamal – ” For that amount wouldnt better pay for full 36 lifts or even 8 superhornets”

    Different requirements for different reasons. For the RMAF the LCA/LIFT requirement is a priority and funding is only approved for 18.

  13. Looking at things realistically, LCA decision is pushed back until dunno when and even after that funding to start will take some more time. In tandem, the MRCA plan will also be delayed further until godknows when. In the meantime, the burden of frontline fighter are on the 8 legacy Hornets & the 18 MKMs with questionable uptime? Unless we can vastly improve the MKMs readiness, an impossible feat, the only realistic course of action is to bolster the legacy Hornet fleet to ensure we have sufficient numbers always available.

  14. Watch your six’ as there are other nations wanting the Kuwaiti Hornets as well, namely Tunisia. For Geo-political reasons, Kuwait may give Tunisia first choice should they want to buy the Hornets. Tunisia, however, may not take all the airframes. If this is the case, we hope what there is left (available for RMAF) the Hornets are in good condition. The Kuwaiti’s Legacy Hornets may be low in flight hours, but dessert conditions can shorten the life of the frames and engines. The Hornet is a very capable aircraft, but recent sales pitch has failed to confirm any new orders. Concern is spares for the Legacy Hornets will be hard to percure, making it difficult to mantain. As such, should the RMAF miss the opportunity in getting the Kuwaiti Hornets, i would look at other fighters. Would not consider the Finnish or Swiss AF Hornets as their Hornets will only retire once their F35’s are delivered.

  15. @Kamal
    If we buy those 8 SH now, in 30 years we’d be the only ASEAN power nations that still using 4.5gen plane at frontline while others have moved onto 5th/6th gen. We don’t buy big ticket stuff regularly or in large numbers so whatever we buy must be futureproofed and deciding to get 4.5gen now is bonkers when more affordable 5th gens are just 10 years away. If everyone is getting onto the 5th gen boat, we mustn’t miss it.

  16. According to Wikipedia, Kuwait’s F-18 fleets consists of 27 single seat C, and 7 double seat D variants. The D’s are used as trainers. Does it mean their D’s are not the same spec as our D’s, therefore require conversion?

    By considering both C and D, will the F-18 force structure change to 1 sqd of F-18D and 1 sqd of F-18C.

    I guess the real holdup is whether the govt is able to get Kuwait to donate the planes to Malaysia and whether Washington pays for any conversion costs.

    Probably the best time to lobby Washington given their latest PR blitz across ASEAN.

  17. A major factor in deciding whether to acquire the Hornets would be the number of flight hours remaining on the jets before major life extension activities become necessary. We are very unlikely to perform these because it would be silly to spend so much on an aging platform and because they are expensive and take the jets out of service for long periods -counterproductive because the point of an interim platform is to save money and have something to operate.

    At a components level the RMAF will have to evaluate how costly and maintenance intensive it will be to support these items against the level of capability they can provide. Then it can decide whether cash should go towards replacing these components with newer ones or towards supporting them to the end of the jets’ lives with us.

    Ultimately the government has to give the RMAF what it has long done without- a retirement date for the asset. Doing so will give the RMAF an idea as to how much to spend on upgrading or keeping them in service. If the government fails to provide a retirement date or fails to pay for replacement jets when the time comes, we cannot decide on a proper level of funding, crewing and infrastructure for the jets and in a worst case scenario we will have jets indefinitely non-operational or not fully operational without a replacement in sight.

  18. AM – ”A major factor in deciding whether to acquire the Hornets would be the number of flight hours remaining on the jets ”

    Hours is what they have and is not the issue. AN issue is that we like to spend as minimum as possible and will do so with the Hornets; if acquired. Anything beyond that is wishful thinking. It’s also not often realised that part of the Kuwaiti Hornet fleet has spent time over Yemen. Buying them ”cheap” is the easy part; the not so easy part are the other angles which also have to be looked at.

    AM – ”fails to pay for replacement jets when the time comes, we cannot decide on a proper level of funding, crewing and infrastructure”

    Yes it only becomes a ”stop gap” when the government actually say with certainty tat a replacement will be there before the Hornets are no longer supportable.

    AM – ”we will have jets indefinitely non-operational or not fully operational without a replacement in sight.”

    A concern and possibility I have brought up in the past.

    AM – ”At a components level the RMAF will have to evaluate how costly and maintenance intensive it will be”

    The RMAF will have to figure out how costs will rise as they age further and require more post flight maintenance.

  19. kel – ”I guess the real holdup is whether the govt is able to get Kuwait to donate the planes to Malaysia and whether Washington pays for any conversion costs.”

    A bit more to it than that…. On a political level there is still indecision and lack of commitment; amongst other things. for the RMAF it has major concerns [mainly to do with operational/maintenance costs] and priority are the LCAS/LIFTs.

  20. There is no plans whatsoever for the US to pay for the upkeep of the Hornets even if we get them. Infact the US Marines also has an interest on the Kuwaiti Hornets actually though as time goes by, the interest is getting lower

  21. kel – ”whether Washington pays for any conversion costs.”

    Must as well bet an Niger buying F-35s or Bhutan buying Aster 15. Why on earth would Uncle Sam chip in for former Kuwaiti Hornets acquired by Malaysia?

    kel – ”Probably the best time to lobby Washington given their latest PR blitz across ASEAN.”

    It might takes years to gain approval and by that time we might not be interested anymore. Not only the Defence Department but also the State Department and other entities need to give their approval.

  22. Charlie – ” namely Tunisia”

    Tunisia has dropped the plan.

    Charlie – ”Concern is spares for the Legacy Hornets”

    Which are still available provide the customer is willing to pay.

    Charlie – ”we hope what there is left (available for RMAF) the Hornets are in good condition”

    Irrespective of the fact; certain things will have to be replaced; either for our specific requirements or other reasons.

    Charlie – ”As such, should the RMAF miss the opportunity”

    If we do indeed miss the opportunity I doubt there will be political interest/will to look at other sources.

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