The Final Curtain

Hawk M40-04 from 15 Skn at the Firepower Exercise in Gemas on May 22, 2017. Note the rockets pods on the outboard pylons. Malaysian Defence.

SHAH ALAM: The final curtain. It appears that the end is near for RMAF Bae Systems Hawk fleet. RMAF chief Gen Ackbal Mohd Samad told a press conference today that the Hawk fleet will not be upgraded.

Based on this it appears that the Hawks – the 108s and 208s – will be retired once the RMAF got its new light combat aircraft (LCA)/fighter-lead-in trainer (FLIT) within the next five years. Initial funding for the LCA/FLIT, according to Ackbal had been approved by the government for next year.

RMAF Hawk MK108 (front) and MK208 (behind). RMAF

It had been RMAF plan to withdraw the Hawks once the LCA/FLIT are introduced into service. This is inevitable once the new aircraft enter service as the LCA/FLIT are meant to do the same jobs as the Hawks.

Two RMAF Hawks flying over Penang at the recent 25th Silver Jubilee. TUDM

Ackbal did not reveal the number of LCA/FLIT to be funded but RMAF has proposed that 18 aircraft be procured from 2021 (RMK12) with another 18 to be bought in RMK13, for a total of 36 as envisaged under the Cap 55 plan.

Yakovlev Yak-130 Mitten performing a display at LIMA 2019. Zaq Sayuti.

He said the procurement for the LCA/FLIT will be further discussed with Defence Ministry officials and it will likely go through an open or a qualified tender. I am assuming that it will be a qualified tender as RMAF is likely to have identified the candidates from the eight aircraft submitted by the manufacturers from the RFI issued in December 2018.

RMAF M30-14 C-130H Hercules landing at Subang after conducting the 2016 Merdeka Flypast.

As for the other upgrades, Ackbal confirmed that the C-130H fleet will be upgraded though he did not reveal whether it will be the same one as contracted out in 2014 but never started.

As for the Nuri replacement, a tender (likely a qualified tender also) to lease its replacement was issued in 15 October and closed on 17 December. He declined to give the basic specifications for the helicopters being sought for lease apart from saying that it will be used for utility purposes only to reduce the cost.

RMAF Nuri carrying the 60th anniversary flag as a drone operated by RMAF PR flies much closer to the photographer than the helicopter itself.

Ackbal said RM60 million allocated for the maintenance and support of the Nuri will be used to lease the replacements.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2205 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. great!

    Good news is that the LCA/LIFT is greenlighted.

    the unknowns is the actual budget amount for LCA/LIFT.

    Best aircraft for this IMO would be the FA/TA-50, more so now with air refueling probe is being integrated and paid for by KAI.

    We need to get this in the numbers enough for both east and west malaysia.

    In the meantime it would be a good idea to offer those hawks to american adversarial training companies. They would like the advantage of a comparatively low cost fighter jet equipped with a radar like the hawk 208.

  2. Is it a wise decision tho? Even if the contract is sign next year it will take at least 3 to 4 years for the plane to arrive and as much time for the entire fleet to achieve FOC and that’s assuming it’s a smooth sailing throughout

  3. Although positive, they (RMAF) hasn’t released information on any shortlisted candidates? and the number of aircraft to be acquired?

    I hope this would be something substantial, maybe 40 – 50 aircraft instead of the measly 18 like they usually got in the past.

  4. The Hawks will soldier on for the next few years, but without even announcing a replacement candidate? Genius.

    The LCA/FLIT is the chosen candidate, we known about that for two years now. In a perfect world we would already know the aircraft type.

  5. ASM – “ and the number of aircraft to be acquired?”

    That information has long been released. There is a long term requirement for 36 (as per FAP 55 assuming the plans stays intact) and under the next Malaysia Plan funding is supposedly being provided for an initial 12.

  6. The LCA/LIFT contract IMO should be signed off by end of next year for the aircraft to be delivered by 2025.

    We desperately need a fighter with high enough performance to do QRA and CAP, but with low enough operating costs for us to regularly fly them from both east and west malaysia. We need them in the quantity that we can base them and operationally fly them on both east and west malaysia. We cannot have a LCA/LIFT fleet of just a token quantity.

    Right now we have high performance and high operating cost, with low performance and low operating cost on the other side of the scale.

    If I am the one who is planning for it my plan would be for 36 FA-50MY and 16 TA-50MY.

    for RMK12 2021-2025 to pay for 24 FA-50MY (USD900 million) and 16 TA-50MY (USD450 million)

    another 12 FA-50MY (USD450 million) paid for in RMK13 2026-2030.

    1x Fighter Sqn in Labuan (QRA east) – 6 Skn Cakra (16x FA-50MY)
    1x Fighter Sqn in Kuantan (QRA west) -17 Skn Bats (16x FA-50MY)
    1x LIFT/OCU Sqn Butterworth – 15 Skn Black Panthers (12x TA-50MY)
    1x Adversary Sqn Kuantan – 19 Skn Smokey Bandits (4x TA-50MY, 4x FA-50MY)

    Or no adversary sqn and 18 aircraft each in fighter sqns and 16 aircraft in LIFT/OCU sqn.

  7. Dundun- “Is it a wise decision”

    Not the most ideal arrangement but one the RMAF has to work with.

    What’s really flawed is the current decision to get only an initial 12. By the time follow on ones arrive; the first batch will already be several years old; that’s even assuming follow ones are ordered without any delays; as per the plan.. On top of that the RMAF will have to juggle with a mere initial 12.

    ASM – “measly 18 like they usually got in the past”

    That was based on 2 factors.

    – Our policy of just spending the bare minimum to have some level of capability.

    – The number of fast jet pilots we have and the number that make it past FTC3 annually. As it is; only a limited number of pilots are accepted annually and of that a much smaller number are streamed for fast jets. Even if the government decided it wanted to order say 36 or a larger number of jets; it would us a while to acquire the plots and ground support people.

  8. Let buy Chinese, L-15, up todate cockpit equipments, supersonic and double engine.
    Not only it is a trainer but also it can be use as ground supporr to release ordnance and do “air policing” work.
    The best things maybe if we ar adventurous enough,to modified further t to installed air refueling probe.These plane are cheap and hopefully bang for every penny.
    After all we have bought china LMS,why not do rhe unthinkable by all rhe neighbours BUY CHINA OR TURKS.
    Our naratives of buying things are easily read by all our neighbours and thus easily being countered by “many means”.

  9. @ redsot

    ” Our naratives of buying things are easily read by all our neighbours and thus easily being countered by many means ”

    Then what? zero visibility of plans? Probably a move to North Korea would suit you.

    L-15 is a good aircraft. yes.
    But to have it as our most numerous fighter aircraft? Lots of things need to be thought about. It also does not have the advanced training systems (to train fighter pilots it is not just about the aircraft only) of ground based simulators, training aids etc, to the in built synthetic training systems in TA-50 cockpit (virtual air to air and air to ground training in the air). You would also need chinese weapons to come with that for operational sorties.

    Not to say we couldnt get other chinese equipments. I would say Chinese 155mm howitzers and SPH; and loitering missiles would be a good addition to malaysia.

    On turkish equipment. I have commented on this many times before

  10. No, enough with the Chinese things. The LMSes were forced by the gov to the Navy, they never wanted those ships at the first place. Hence no Chinese manufacturers for the 2nd batch of LMS

    The Adnan IFV is of Turkish design.

    ” Our naratives of buying things are easily read by all our neighbours and thus easily being countered by “many means”.”

    This sentence doesn’t make sense. What is “narrative of buying things”?
    If they can “easily counter us by many means” then it’s the same case for us too. Spending money to buy items to counter our neighbours’ equipment will have us ending up lots of rojak things and a bloated supply chain.

  11. RedSot – “Let buy Chinese, L-15, up todate cockpit equipments, supersonic and double engine.”

    Buying an aircraft entails taking into account various immediate and long term factors: relating to commonality; support costs (including long term); training, etc, etc – not just technical specs as stated on paper.

    Some air arms are better suited for non Western types; some aren’t – the RMAF falls in the latter category and there’s a reason why.

    RedSot – “Our naratives of buying things are easily read by all our neighbours and thus easily being countered by “many means”

    So what? Are we in a state of tensions with our neighbours? Even if we did what you suggest; whatever we buy will still be eventually “countered” …. In this case we are talking about a light attack/training for platform; not several S-400 Regiments; a profound indifference if others can predict what we’re going to buy ….

    … – “The request is for 18 in RMK12, with another 18 in RMK13”

    Yes that’s grand but whether the decision makers agree to 18 as opposed to 12 remains to be seen. The RMAF would like 18 at minimum but even if it has been told that only 12 will be funded; as part of the game 18 will still be requested.

  12. “In a perfect world we would already know the aircraft type”
    No that’s not a perfect world, that should be the norm. In a perfect world, the replacements are already in before we officially inform of their retirement.

  13. @dundun
    I like the Leonardo M346FA. Mature aircraft. 3 ton payload. Minus points: it’s a transonic aircraft (@800mph), not supersonic like the KAI FA50. But if we’re looking for a LIFT airplane with refuelling probe, 2 engines and a modern multimode fire control radar, this is it. Better than buying its Russian clone, the Mitten.

  14. Seems like a lot of people in other blogs, forums, FB that is rooting for the Yak-130. That is almost impossible for us due to CAATSA.

    I am also not keen on non-supersonic LCAs. It might be fine for a LIFT trainer, but for QRA mission, a subsonic fighter will not have the speed needed to intercept even a normal airliner flying at high altitudes.

    There might be good platforms for LIFT, there might be good platforms for LCA, but there are not many that could excel in both.

  15. Looks as though IMHO it’s going to be a package of ATR 72 and the 346!

    It will be a hard sell for the M346 with its twin engines despite the offer to buy back the Macchis

  16. To those who are for subsonic LCA.

    If you rerun the MH370 scenario, and put in a QRA intercept, could those subsonic LCA intercept the MH370 on time?

    If it cant, might as well dont bother for a new LCA and just keep our subsonic hawks.

  17. … – “To those who are for subsonic LCA”

    If a platform is going to be assigned QRA duties ideally it would be a supersonic platform to cater for all manner of contingencies – this is the most ideal arrangement.

    However; whether or not a QRA platform having a supersonic capability is dependent on the operational circumstances; i.e. is the aircraft which has to be intercepted a slow flying airliner; is it heading towards or away from the QRA aircraft or is it a fast mover whose speed will enable it to leave our airspace before the QRA aircraft arrives.

    … – “If you rerun the MH370 scenario, and put in a QRA intercept, could those subsonic LCA intercept the MH370 on time”

    It all depends on whether an order to launch was given in time and geography. The key to any successful intercept is detection and launching the QRA at the right time.

    I have no idea behind the exact circumstances behind MH370 but I do know there were a pair of fighters on QRA duty that night (as there are 365 days all year around – eventhough it’s a huge strain on already stretched resources). As for whether a QRA being supersonic would have made a difference had it been launched; it depends on when the decision to launch it was made; whether QRA that night assigned to Kuantan or Butterworth (QRA duties are not the responsibility of a sole squadron) and the exact location of MH370 at that particular time.

    Again : Ideally an aircraft assigned for QRA duties should be supersonic (to cater for every contingency) but whether or not the supersonic ability actually makes a key difference depends entirely on the operational circumstances of the intercept; namely when the QRA was launched; geography (early warning/timing is everything); the type of aircraft being intercepted, it’s heading relative to the QRA; etc.

  18. … – “If it cant, might as well dont bother for a new LCA and just keep our subsonic hawks”

    The question is; which comes first in the order of RMAF priorities? Yes the RMAF seeks a LCA; a platform which a light attack capability; as well as an air to air one and also a dedicated LIFT platform but which comes from when it comes to fulfilment?

    I suspect the priority is for a LIFT; in that the selected platform’s ability as a LIFT comes first; notwithstanding the “LCA” designation. All the contenders have a LIFT and combat capability but each from a technical perspective will be slightly more ideal for one role but not neccesarily both. The light attack/air to air role is desired and vital but might come in secondary.

    The Hawk (what few 100s we have left) is not a dedicated LIFT and it’s getting a bit old. On top of that the last publicly announced contract for an Adour overhaul and for a spares package was way back in the 2007 period. Making things worse from a training perspective is the sorry state of the MBB-339s (or rather the engines) which anyhow are advanced/intermediate trainers but not a LIFT per see.

  19. @Taib
    We have plenty of fast jets but not that many trainers… scratch that, with the Hawk retirement we have NO trainers. The LIFT requirement is more the need than LCA requirement. Which IMHO I concur that M346 is the better option.

    There’s no guarantees even if we had supersonic QRAs, it would have made any difference to MH370. The radar was not turned on so they had no warnings to scramble. A supersonic jet on the ground means nothing vs a subsonic one.

  20. @joe
    Thanks for the last comment. I’d add that Leonardo M346FA isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s possibly the ‘only’ aircraft out there that is a compromise with LCA+LIFT capabilities. I disliked the thought it flies transonic, not at Mach 1+. But Honeywell already has a good engine + afterburner rather that the F124 currently offered powering the M346FA. The F125 series. They last offered IAF the F125s to re-engine their Anglo-French Jaguars. If I’m not wrong, the F125 powered the Taiwanese FCK Chungkuo fighters. Maybe Honeywell and Leonardo can ‘up’engine the M346FA with F125 engine(s) to make it palatable to smaller air forces. It’s a thought though it may only see testing and introduction well after 2025…

  21. @Taib
    Despite being transonic, it has what others don’t have, an LO upgrade kit giving it somewhat stealth capabilities. It also has a cockpit system to mimic 5th gen fighter capabilities.

    As for putting in supersonic variant engine, I’m unsure if the airframe itself is designed to be supersonic, hence I will not comment on that.

  22. For M346AJT/FA vs TA/FA-50 argument

    Both have version to be used for LIFT as well as LCA and a version for something in between.

    The advantage of T/FA-50 platform is that it use the same engine as our hornets so some engine parts can be interchanged between them as well as simplifying maintenance. Its speed also make it a more suitable (not the most ideal) candidate to replace Mig29 previous role. Plus 3 of our neighbors choose T/FA-50 over other competitors for their recent purchase to replcae their older trainers and light attackers so that’s pretty self explanatory.

    M346 advantage is that it is a twin engine so everyone gets that idea. If we get the ATR72 as MPA we could leverage this and maybe get a discount on them if we also bought the M346.

  23. @ luqman

    The M-346FA so far has only 1 customer, reputedly turkmenistan for 6 aircraft. The M-346FA as a LCA has less speed, less weapons load, less range, less capable radar (the radar is a Grifo with reduced size to fit the tiny nose. the max range for the M-346FA radar is only about 90km. FA-50 radar has 150km maximum range). At best the M-346FA could be as expensive as the FA-50 but with all round less performance.

    Also the cost of both M-346AJT/FA and TA/FA-50.

    The LIFT M-346AJT is comparable in spec to the TA-50 (south korea) and the T-50i. The LCA M-346FA is comparable in spec to the FA-50 (south korea), FA-50PH and T-50TH.

    The cost

    8x M-346AJT for poland cost USD383 million, additional 4x for USD143 million

    12x M-346AJT for Singapore USD410 million

    No info on 6x M-346FA reputedly for Turkmenistan

    16x T-50i for Indonesia for USD400 million

    12x FA-50PH for Philippines for USD420 million

    4x T-50TH for Thailand for USD110 million, additional 8x T-50TH for USD260 million.

    @ joe

    Both M-346 and T-50 has similar level of cockpit advancement. The T-50A for us T-X was even fitted with wide area displays similar to F-35. Both also has In-flight Embedded Tactical Training Simulation (ETTS)

    @ tom tom

    Sweden is to use its Gripen D for LIFT. It is doing so because it has plenty of them, and will also be getting Gripen E for front line use. Which is why sweden not buying the Gripen F.

    The lifecycle cost of the T-50 is said to be 1/3rd of the Gripen C/D, as detailed in the KAI sales pitch to Botswana.

    Anyway a good collection of FA-50PH pictures, including simulators and also virtual reality training systems. So for USD420 million, Philippines air force is getting a lot of value for its money.

  24. @Luqman
    commonality with our classic Hornets is moot if we are going to retire them by 2030. Our LCA should be fully modern and able to keep modernising for the next 20-30 years of use.

    Having more similarities to 5th gen fighters is the bigger advantage for me, and IMHO the M346 is setup to be that bridge. While European makers still without 5th gen plane, they have a pretty good idea what goes in as they are currently developing their own respective planes.

    With regards to regional users, the most important, SG, is are using M346 and others like Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar selected the Yak130 clone. That is 4 countries. Regardless whether coupled with ATR72, the M346 offer could stand on its own advantages over T-50.

  25. @ joe

    Do you think european makers know more about 5th gen fighter than lockheed martin (which co-designed the T-50 with KAI)? Also KAI is now in the last mile to complete the KF-X prototype in just a few months time. How can you say that the M-346 is closer to 5th gen fighters when compared to T-50? If we seek to look to the europeans for 5th gen fighters, all of them are still just paper planes, and if you see just how expensive rafale and typhoon is, i dont think we can afford any of the european 5th gen fighters. The most affordable future fighter for us around 2030 when we need to replace our hornets would be the KF-X by a large margin, so why should we go for italian?

    Anyhow in there, there is some comparison of M-346AJT and T-50

    If you see the engine power of M-346 and T-50, the difference is only about 1k lb of thrust, but M-346 cannot go supersonic. Surely the fuel consumption of 2 engines is bigger than just 1, and T-50 surely use less power to go subsonic compared to M-346 even with full power just can go subsonic.

  26. @…
    I know for sure that LM has restrictions to sharing 5th gen tech with others, something that is not applicable to EU makers.

    I also know for sure KFX is NOT YET 5th gen as they still lack in key technologies, technologies that surprise, surprise, LM refused to share.

    With such dysfunctional relationship, the Italian offer (from a single OEM) provides a more harmonious path to 5th gen fighter training and a more direct upgrade path.

    Again let me emphasize, better airspace awareness and correct usage of resources and proper homing to suspicious targets can negate a supersonic plane that is sitting on the tarmac waiting.

  27. The way it look firm favourite is going to be FA50 pretty much have all the rmaf requirement cover, LCA/LIFT and QRA

    But what if saab offer gripen c/d package with erieye/globaleye? We hv long wanted for aew/awacs hard to resist hehe.

    Saab cannot offer the GlobalEye package for the tender as it will cost more.

  28. … to FA50 fans, it’s agreed it’s the only supersonic LCA around with a Western pedigree. I do concede it’s trainer versions can do LIFT. I have said before it’s probably the one plane that’s going to be selected barring last minute political interventions. But it has Israeli Elta ELM 2032 radar incorporated into the aircraft. If MinDef is willing to overlook ‘that’ well, so be it.
    Then again, Leonardo is also upgrading the M346FA now with the Grifo M radar. So perhaps, we’ll be seeing the 2021 M346FA flying with the newer (AESA) Grifo E Scan radar. Whatever the near future holds for TUDM, I hope we’ll get the FA50, or the M346FA (plus perhaps, 2-3 discounted ATR72 MPAs). Who knows …

  29. I think everyone agrees it’s likely to be TA50 or 346 for the LCA/LIFT. Both are in the $30 m USD ballpark. Gripen is too expensive, around $90 m per plane if we go by RTAF figures.

  30. Lets just wait it out..i could be wrong but i believed we can predict what our future mrca based on these LCA procurement..If we indeed choose fa50/ta50 or m346 then our future mrca will come from west but if our LCA is Yak130 well…

  31. To put MRCA in perspective when compared to a LCA/LIFT buy.

    Recently Greece has signed a contract with france for 18 Rafales (12 used, 6 brand new) for a total cost of USD2.35 billion. This is not including weapons, with additional USD400 million to buy BVRAAM.

    My proposed LCA/LIFT plan is for 36 FA-50MY (USD1.35 billion) and 16 TA-50MY (USD0.45 billion) for a total cost of USD1.8 billion.

    Basically we could get 52 brand new LCA/LIFT at less than 3/4 cost of 18 mixed used and new Rafales. Say operating costs of FA-50 is 1/2 of gripen, that is say 1/4 operating costs of rafale. So operating 52 LCA/LIFT is still less than 18 rafales.

    For serious situations we can always launch our MKM or Hornets, but for everyday QRA and CAP, can we afford to fly Rafales (instead of LCA/LIFT) everyday? Even south korea, a well equipped and funded air force with F-15, F-16 and F-35, actually uses the FA-50 for its daily CAP mission.

    @ michael

    T-7 still havent reached production stage. The LCA version still needs to be developed. At best it would probably be ready at around 2028-2030. If we are willing to wait, then it can be an option.

  32. @Michael
    For the trainer role, I really do prefer the Boeing’s T-X, it having won over T-50 & M346. But it doesn’t come with LCA config as yet, and I’m not sure if there will be one. If there’s any indication it will come, then my selection would be the T-X. Our priority is LIFT first then LCA, so we could make do with getting the LIFT variant while waiting for LCA ones to be built.

    As of today, my preference would be M346.

    ROKAF can make do using FA-50 as frontline fighters since KPAAF are primarily Cold War era planes with the Mig-29 their best one. Our regional adversaries are far more advanced, not to mention China.

  33. @ joe

    So, in your own words. Our regional adversaries are far more advanced compared to south korea, not to mention China… By that reasoning we should not use the supersonic FA-50 but use the subsonic and with inferior radar M-346FA???

    i dont understand your logic…

    Track formation range: > 50 NM
    Look-up detection range: > 60 NM

    LIG Nex1 TA/FA-50 radar
    Air-to-Air detection and tracking range up to 80 NM.
    Air-to-Sea detection, tracking and classification up to 160 NM.
    Air-to-Ground mapping, High Resolution Mapping and surface target detection up to 80 NM

  34. Please don’t get me wrong and pardon my saying so, we don’t have regional adversaries, unless we’re going down the track of seeing Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore as such. We have a China that’s currently under the current president, intend on exerting it’s influence somewhat ‘physically’. All we need is to assert our presence positively, by any means that can avoid further conflicts. This doesn’t mean we must buy the best, just enough to be seen ‘tough’. It is ludicrous to say the least we buy the best and yet being unable to arm our men, APCs, tanks, planes and ships adequately.

  35. @joe
    “Having more similarities to 5th gen fighters is the bigger advantage for me, and IMHO the M346 is setup to be that bridge.”

    I will repeat the same question that @
    .. asked, what 5th gen similiraties that M346 has that is not on FA50? AESA radars? I am aware that 4th gen fighters do have AESA radars.

    “I also know for sure KFX is NOT YET 5th gen as they still lack in key technologies, technologies that surprise, surprise, LM refused to share.”

    1st. It is not LM that refused to share but the US gov.

    2nd. The technologies refused to shared by the US are F35 AESA radar, its jammer, IRST and targeting pods.

    3rd. The korean is developing the 1st 3 techs that i mentioned above and their AESA radar is nearly completed

    4th. Technology other than the 4 that US do not want to share excludes the radar absorbent coatings which meant KFX will have stealth capabilities.

    5th. For targeting pods they can just use Sniper ATP

    6th. Does IRST and targetting pod considered as 5th gen? F22 does not have either of them so i gues u dont consider F22 as 5th gen as well…wink wink

  36. @…
    If your speed limit is only 110kmph do you still need a Ferrari to reach 110kmph? No because your slower Persona can also reach 110kmph. The same logic applies here, not yours. Our regional air forces are far more advanced than what KPAAF can throw to ROKAF, hence why your logic about using FA-50s as frontline fighters doesn’t ring with us.

    Others have explained this before, the LCA, while necessary for peacetime use, would be relegated to supporting roles in war time.

    We have to budget and plan where necessary, we couldn’t possibly hope to take on a superpower like China. We can go for a qualitative edge but the numbers we buy are too few to make that work. At best we can give them a bloody nose and delaying action.

  37. FYI, from what I recall, Leonardo built the AESA radar for JAS39. That particular radar is similar to the AESA radar that’s going into newbuilt M346FA. Heard it’s sometime this year but no news yet since Italy’s also facing Covid19 pandemic. Yes, the current M346FA has the Grifo M mechanical version. So it’s somewhat moot saying FA50 is flying with an Elta AESA radar and M346 isn’t. Perhaps Leonardo is just watching if orders are coming in before fitting a new nose to the upgraded M346FA. And BTW, I can’t remember the Mig35 with a dedicated new AESA. It’s considered a Gen 4 fighter too, in some circles.

  38. Taib – “Please don’t get me wrong and pardon my saying so, we don’t have regional adversaries”

    Spot on.

    We don’t have “adversaries” per see and are not in a state of tensions with anyone. Sure we have overlapping claims with others but these claims aren’t new; we just have to continue managing them as best we can in line with our military and diplomatic means.

    Traditionally; our policy has been to have a “minimal” self defence capability and not to get too left behind technologically by any of our immediate neighbours.

    When discussing possible scenarios – whether a limited or all out conflict – with anyone (despite how unlikely; we have to also take into account not just the actual capabilities of the MAF but also our stocks of fuel, spares and other essentials; as well as the immediate economic effects of a conflict.

    Against a more powerful adversary; our planners are under no illusions that our “deterrent” capability might actually “deter” others; especially those with far more resources than us (i.e. we sink 4 ships; they’ll send another 8: we sink those; they send another 16) but we do what we can in line with our resources and military means are intended to be pursued in parallel with diplomatic moves: which is we we participate in various relationships/consultations/engagements with various regional and non regional actors.

  39. @ joe

    whatever floats your boat.

    The facts and figures dont lie. the M-346FA as a LCA has inferior everything compared to the FA-50

    – more expensive
    – not even used by the manufacturer country as a LCA
    – less capable radar
    – less speed
    – less range
    – less maximum weapons load
    – less climb rate (FA-50 needs about 70 seconds to reach 45,000 ft, M-346 needs about 130 seconds to reach 45,000 ft). If you are chasing a 900kph airliner at 45,000ft, that is a difference of 15km, and as your M-346 and airliner is similar speed, how are you going to chase that airliner? So what persona are you talking again?
    – less sustainable turn rate G
    – no internal gun
    – no emergency tailhook for runway arrestor gear

    @ taib

    Nobody, i repeat, nobody (at least not me) is saying FA50 has ELTA AESA radar.

    The biggest issue is – the nose is very small. The M-346 does not have a normal Grifo M. It is a custom modified Grifo with a smaller T/R module. Yes that custom Grifo-346 is even smaller than the normal Grifo.

    When you direct compare the current M-346FA radar with current FA-50 radar, the performance of the Grifo-346 is very underwhelming.

    The orders already in for 6x M-346FA for Turkmenistan, Why it has designed and flown the Grifo-346 in July this year.

  40. @ azlan

    ” not to get too left behind technologically by any of our immediate neighbours ”

    By 2030 if we just get 2 gowinds, just subsonic m-346fa as our most numerous fighter etc etc, we will be left behind technologically, even by the Philippines. Even if we double our budgets, we still will be left behind by the likes of indonesia, which will significantly increase their forces in borneo as their capital will be in borneo by 2030.

    so is it okay for sabah and sarawak just having 12 m-346fa against whatever rafale, typhoon, f-15, f-16 that Indonesia will surely base in kalimantan? why do we even want to choose the m-346fa when the cheaper FA-50 is much more capable?

  41. @Luqman
    Here is what M346 has:
    1) modular digital avionics system, modelled on latest generation Gripen, F-22 Raptor and Typhoon 2) latest generation glass cockpit and compatible with NVG 3) voice command system 4) Embedded Tactical Training System (ETTS) 5) radar cross-section reduced to a single square meter by installing a low-observability kit 6) Defensive-Aids Support System (DASS) which includes (RWR), (MAW) and (C&FD) 7) high-end, net-centric communication suite

  42. @Luqman
    1. Doesn’t matter. As long US don’t allow it LM won’t allow it.

    2. The Koreans are developing no doubt but slow. As it is, KFX is not yet 5th gen. Period.

    5. External targeting pods defeats the purpose of being stealth, no?

    6. Nope. MKMs has both, so your point meant MKMs is 5th gen? wink wink. F-22 is meant for air superiority not ground attack while the F-35 has integrated EOTS making do without a external pod.

  43. Here is what M346 has

    1. FA-50 has that too. Even MKM has digital modular avionics, which is why it can be fitted with western avionics modules.

    2. All 4th gen fighters has NVG compatible glass cockpit. even our hornets and MKM. The T-50A even installed the cockpit wide area display, similar with F-35 which is not in the M-346.

    3. FA-50 also has this

    4. FA-50 also has ETTS–CsnltE/Vjd2ndDXabI/AAAAAAAAnsA/gcdELoivkEM/s1600/ds15_t50th_2.jpg

    5. Our current F/A-18D has a RCS of 1 m2. Our MKM 4 m2. F-16 is about 1.2 m2. The super hornet with extensive stealth features are about 0.1 m2. F-35 is 0.0015 m2. So why is this M-346 with stealth kit getting 1 m2 is so special?

    6. FA-50 also has this

    6. FA-50 also has this

  44. ” As it is, KFX is not yet 5th gen. Period ”

    As it is, there is no 5th generation european fighter except just preliminary concepts. Period.

    KF-X first prototype roll out is planned in April 2021. That is less than 120 days away.

  45. @joe
    “commonality with our classic Hornets is moot if we are going to retire them by 2030. Our LCA should be fully modern and able to keep modernising for the next 20-30 years of use.”

    RMAF intend to use hornets up to 2035 as reported by Mahalim which is a good 10-12 years of commonality for the FA50 engines. FA50 is and will be modern for the next 20-30 years unless you want to turn it into a 5th gen fighter using the same airframe.

  46. …. – “By 2030 if we just get 2 gowinds, just subsonic m-346fa as our most numerous fighter etc etc, we will be left behind technologically, even by the Philippines”

    Not really. Remains to be seen if the Philippines is able to sustain and maintain what it’s doing. The AFP is a larger organisation than the MAF and has been a victim of neglect for a very long time. It has a even longer and long delayed shipping list than the MAF and is under a far less advanced state of development in many key areas.

    Like us; their politicians also have a tendency to shift priorities and a lot of buys are politically driven.
    On top of that; unlike the MAF the AFP still faces a longstanding internal security issue; a lot of resources and attention (especially in the part of the army) will still go towards internal security.

    Also; there’s a difference lagging in actual capability and technology wise. No disrespect to the AFP (prior to the MCO I’ve been spending almost half my time in the Philippines and after the MAF; its the AFP I try to keep up to date with) but token buys is subs and Brahmos (no matter how impressive on paper) only become “effective” when the user also acquire the key enablers which are so vital and needed.

    Back to us; I was merely pointing out that our longstanding policy has been to acquire a minimal self defence/deterrent ability (based in our abilities) and ensure we don’t get too left behind technologically.

    … – “”why do we even want to choose the m-346fa when the cheaper FA-50 is much more capable”

    You best direct that question to someone else. I’ve made no mention of the actual platform; not any technical specs or my preference. For me; it’s not so much what we buy but how we employ it and the other capabilities that go with it.

    … – “o is it okay for sabah and sarawak just having 12 m-346fa against whatever rafale, typhoon, f-15, f-16”

    If we’re not willing to make the needed long term investments; wherever they do is something we’ll just have to live with a d is dependent on whether we adopt a threat or capability driven acquisition approach.

  47. @…
    SG picked M346 ahead of T-50. Whatever you see on paper, I’m sure SAF have better knowledge to know which is truly better that guided their decision.

  48. @ joe

    SG isnt using its M-346 as LCA.

    Singapore picked M-346 in 2010 beacuse those planes are being based in europe (cazaux, france) so an european product would be much more easier to operate and maintain in europe.

    As i said previously, both M-346 and T-50 is similarly adequate for FLIT.

    But we need them also as a capable LCA, clearly M-346FA isnt a capable LCA when compared to the FA-50

  49. @…
    “much more easier to operate and maintain in europe.”
    That is quite a bit nonsense. Are you saying LM/KAI is incapabled to provide equal and adequate servicing for T-50s elsewhere other than Korea or USA? So should we stick with Asian weapons and not go for USA or European ones? SG certainly don’t think that way. None of the regional countries do.

  50. @ joe

    So you just wanna pick on that rather than the elephant in the room, which is RSAF isnt using the M-346 as LCA?

    So you isnt going to comment on all the M-346FA deficiencies as LCA?

    Dont you want something the best for malaysia?

    We should stick on what we can afford, and must pick the best possible equipment within our budget.

    I dont really care if we get european, american or korean. I want the best LCA/LIFT combo we can afford.

    For LCA i want a supersonic fighter to able to do QRA comfortably without many deficiencies.

    As what we discussed will be here for many years to come, we will see if your M-346FA or FA-50 would be the best LCA/LIFT for malaysia.

  51. @joe

    “The Koreans are developing no doubt but slow. As it is, KFX is not yet 5th gen. Period.”

    As it is KFX is not even flyable ‘yet’ so its not a 1st gen either. As it is the only 5th gen we can buy on the market is f35 and su57.

    “External targeting pods defeats the purpose of being stealth, no?”

    True. But the external hardpoints/external weapons/external aim9x on F35 defeats the purpose of being stealth, no? Even F22 can be fitted with external hardpoints.

    “Nope. MKMs has both, so your point meant MKMs is 5th gen? wink wink. F-22 is meant for air superiority not ground attack while the F-35 has integrated EOTS making do without a external pod.”

    MKM is 4th gen as it does not have high degree of stealth. Thank you for clarifying that F22 without any targeting pod is a 5th gen fighter. Even without targeting pod F22 still could carry bombs. I stand correct that KFX even without the internal targeting pods can still be considered as 5th gen. What i meant is KFX does not need all those 4 technologies restricted by LM to make it 5th gen. Understand?

  52. I dont know..maybe cuz the sg got like 60 f16 thats why they dont need to use m346 as a lca..Or maybe thats why they stationed their m346 abroad..

  53. Can you trust italians to come out with a future 5th generation fighter?

    The M-346 design is almost 100% ripped off from yakovlev Yak-130.

    The new M-345 design is just a rehash of the old SIAI S-211, which in RSAF use has serious wing fatigue limit problems that has that retired prematurely.

    The KF-X first prototype is to be launched in April 2021. To reduce development risk, and to get the aircraft into service earlier (targeted mass production by 2028), it was conciously decided to remove the internal weapons bay for the first block. Testing internal weapons release is very time consuming, to make sure the weapons can release cleanly in whatever airframe movement. Why we see the F-35 even tested missile release when it is upside down. The lack of internal weapons carriage is the only thing that is stopping the KF-X from being called a true 5th gen fighter. When the full testing is completed, the internal weapons carriage should be a function that can be enabled with all KF-X.

    KFX Block 2 would add internal weapon bays. Present plans call for Block 1 would be compatible with the bays, and hence upgradeable to Block 2 status, but Block 1 planes wouldn’t begin with internal bays. The fighter’s size and twin-engine design offer added space compared to a plan like the Gripen, but this feature will still be a notable design challenge. Additional tolerance and coating improvements are envisioned to reduce stealth to the level of an F-117: about 0.025 square meters.

    KFX Block 3 would aim for further stealth improvements to the level of the B-2 bomber or F-35.

  54. When thinking about our own airforce, you need to know about what other airforces in our neighborhood is doing too.

    singapore with their small airspace, does all their training overseas. what they buy also depends on what defence relationship they had with their training needs

    singaporean fighter pilots after doing their basic training with the PC-21 in Australia, will either go to 150 SQN in cazaux france, or go to 61 stormo in italy, or NATO jet flying training in Canada or ENJJPT USA. Then they will go for OCU in F-16 in Luke AFB or F-15 in Mountain Home AFB.

  55. @…
    I think I’m not the first to say that you comparing paper specs is fine and dandy, but that doesn’t mean the end all be all. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and certainly it isn’t so clear cut otherwise EVERYONE would have went for T-50/FA-50 if they went by paper specs, moreso SG.

    I don’t care which beats which in what areas but what I want is TUDM identifying the advantages that each brings onto the table and go with the platform that ticks most their of boxes even if it loses out in the majority others.

    If TUDM were to get KFX, it should be after some years being used by ROKAF where product maturity levels are reached. Not now.

  56. M346 and T/FA 50 is in the same league with the later has better capability at the moment.

    3 asean nations indonesia, thailand, and philippine pick T/FA 50 over M346, only Singapore uses M346. That gives us clue, doesnt it?

    What future MRCA is beyond us. If T/FA 50 is chosen for LIFT/LCA it doesnt have to be KFX. Although KFX block 1 is still a 4.5 gen fightet but I must admit the KFX has a much better future than others 4.5 gen fighter exist such as F15, SU35, Rafale, Gripen or Typhoon. It due to the design itself. The first important thing about stealth fighter is design.

    Lets see how KFX will perform.
    The question is if the future MRCA is KFX and should be bought from indonesia, will that be accepted?

    AFAIK Indonesia has not been given the exclusive rights to sell the KFX. Anyhow Indonesia will be selling the IFX their version of the KFX.

  57. @Luqman
    5th gens are actually more than the sum of their parts, as seamless integration of each key tech and translating that to the pilot in order to enhance its combat effectiveness are the key difference between it and 4.5 gen. Other than LO-shaped body, there aren’t any much difference between a 4.5 gen and 5th gen but it takes the integration game to a whole new level. Having (or in F-22 case, not having) the ability to effectively target ground isn’t the key differentiator. F-22 is a 5th gen but focused on air superiority, it may have some ground attack capability but its not meant for that role. Meanwhile F-35 is a 5th gen with MRCA role, which is why it got integrated with EOTS.

    With that said, omitting certain key techs would make it NOT 5th gen per se, but its arguable since there isn’t a clear cut definition of what makes up a 5th gen plane.

    “3 asean nations indonesia, thailand, and philippine pick T/FA 50 over M346”
    and 4 ASEAN nations SG, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar picked M-346/Yak-130 over T/FA-50. What clue does that tell you? Nothing is clear cut as on paper.

  58. @ joe

    i am not comparing just paper specs.

    First and foremost is our unique requirements. We need a single platform that can do both LCA and LIFT effectively.

    Currently no other country except South Korea has the exact same requirement as us. South Korean air force uses the TA-50 as LIFT, and FA-50 as LCA.

    Singapore just uses M-346 purely as LIFT. As is italian air force.

    Thailand uses Gripen as MRCA, and T-50 as LIFT.

    All other ASEAN nations that uses YAK-130 also uses them for LIFT. Nobody is using Yak-130 or M-346 as QRA/CAP aircrafts.

    FA-50 is used for QRA/CAP by its own manufacturing country, South Korea. So what clue does that tell you then?

  59. @joe
    “With that said, omitting certain key techs would make it NOT 5th gen per se, but its arguable since there isn’t a clear cut definition of what makes up a 5th gen plane.”

    This sentence contradicts itself. Clearly emphasize on NOT but then say its arguable. The fact is still clear out there that F22 does not have all the 4 techs that you mentioned and is cosidered as 5th gen. Fullstop.

    “4 ASEAN nations SG, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar picked M-346/Yak-130 over T/FA-50.”

    I would not bundled up M346 and Yak-130 toegther as they are internally very different. Vietnam and Myanmar chosen Yak-130 because majority of their assets in service are of russian origin. It makes sense that they would choose Yak-130. If M346 that you so support is so great, why Vietnam and Myanmar did not choose M346? Why would you not support Yak-130 as potential candidate for RMAF as well? Dont buch those 2 aircraft together just because they share similar development history. So in a nutshell, 3 ASEAN nation choose Yak-130, 1 nation choose M346 and 3 ASEAN nation choose T/FA-50. Clearly M346 is on the minority side here.

  60. @…
    We see the need for LCA to make up the lack of better fighters but this may not apply to others. Did you forget in what these air forces consist in their fleet? Let’s see shall we:

    VPAF has 20+ SU-22s and over 40+ SU-27/-30s to which they have available for use as QRA, they see no need for a lightweight plane when they have that many heavyweights available at the moment. They are exploring to get F-16s but even this is far more “heavier” than the LCA we intend to get.

    Myanmar AF has 6+6 SU-30s, 30+ Mig-29s, 20+ Mig-21 clones, and 6+10 JF-17s which would be their LCAs. They have more fighters at their disposal than we do.

    Lao AF has no other jet planes so the M-346 would be their most modern plane in their inventory. The see no need for any fighters up to date so having QRA/CAP is moot.

    As for SG, their fleet is primarily F-16s, F-15s now and soon F-35s. They see no need for a “lighter” plane than F-16s for their QRA/CAP. And following your logic, since nearly all are American planes they should have went for LM/KAI offering instead of going Italian. Were they wrong?

  61. @ joe

    ” We see the need for LCA to make up the lack of better fighters but this may not apply to others ”

    Exactly! Your first sentence is already a plus point for me, which is why what singapore gets does not apply to Malaysia for its search for LCA.

    So remind me again how in the world does you long tirade is a reason for malaysia to get the M-346FA?

  62. @joe
    “And following your logic, since nearly all are American planes they should have went for LM/KAI offering instead of going Italian. Were they wrong?”

    They are not wrong. Their training squadron is located in France since 1998 with their a4 jet trainers. It seems that SG wanted to stay in France a little bit longer. It make sense to choose M346 as thier trainer because of easier maintenance & support they can get from Italy which is much closer than Korea. T/FA-50 is maintained by KAI, not LM.

  63. Let me rephrase it…

    How does getting a M-346FA instead of the FA-50 (the M-346FA with lesser all round performance than the FA-50) is the best LCA for malaysia to make up for the lack of better fighters?

  64. @…
    Again you see “lesser” specs based on paper but it real world it may not be “lesser” you as make it to be. Again let me reemphasise, there would be certain advantage and disadvantages both planes brings despite your propensity to stress paper specs on one of them otherwise NOBODY would consider other options than your T/FA-50. Again let me reemphasise, I don’t care which is “better” than which on paper but what matters is which ticks the most boxes in TUDM’s requirement even if majority else it loses. Understand?

    KAI can ride on LM global network for service, seeing as LM is their key technical partner and in fact LM partnered with KAI for T-X bid. Again setting up servicing centers by piggybacking on established networks isn’t something uncommon or difficult to do as this is very common in the logistics & automotive sectors.

  65. everybody can read back all the comments in this topic for many2 years to come and can clearly see who is the one who really understands what is the best for malaysian LCA/LIFT requirements.

  66. Recently, PAT in his speech has outlined a few things that is very important in planning the future of our armed forces

    – we need plans with a realistic capability list (about time in my opinion), and not just a wishlist. we need to have rightsizing, which is to have the right size for the capability that we need.

    – the need to plug capability gaps. for LCA/LIFT, we need to plug the gaps in our QRA mission, and also our fighter pilot training capability.

    – To avoid the trap of “Hollow Force Syndrome”. There is no use of getting a system that we cannot fully use, or is not suitable for the tasks that we need to do.

    – To transform our forces that is versatile, lean and mean and effect-based.

    – Need to be fit for purpose. For our LCA/LIFT, we need a platform that is fit for the purpose of both LCA and LIFT, not just one of the two.

  67. @joe
    “KAI can ride on LM global network for service, seeing as LM is their key technical partner and in fact LM partnered with KAI for T-X bid. Again setting up servicing centers by piggybacking on established networks isn’t something uncommon or difficult to do as this is very common in the logistics & automotive sectors”

    If thats the case then KAI can definitely do that for Malaysia as well

  68. @ marhalim

    Yes, I agree that we dont have the money to join the R&D stage, but we could sign LOi to buy the KF-X when it is completed, together with a large G-to-G deal with south korea for LCA/LIFT and other things.

  69. @Luqman
    I never said they can’t do that for us. But someone has implied they can’t do the same in Europe. Strange.

    Exactly my point. Its not that we are rich and got tonnes of money to throw into some development with limited markets. If we got that much money to spare, I’d rather we throw into boosting food production until self-sufficiency without dependence on imports. Starving a country is also a war-time tactic.

  70. @…
    If officially Indonesia pull out of the KFX then the Korean must buy at least 170 KFX because initial agreement is the Korean will buy 120 units and Indonesia 50 units.
    Another way is the Korean find a new partner to replace Indonesia. Failed to do so will cause the price tag per unit increases sharply.

    IMO, let’s wait and see. Join the project to replace Indonesia is not in malaysia capacity. No money nor local Aero industry as capable as Indonesia PTDI.

    If the price tag of KFX is somewhere near F35A, the is no point of looking at this fighter.

  71. @ romeo

    The planned export price for the KF-X is 80 billion won, or USD73.5 million each.

    That is a bit cheaper than the Gripen E.

    Lets just round it up to USD80 million. A buy of 32 aircraft, to equip 2 squadron worth would be around USD2.56 billion. That can be afforded by us, to be paid for in 2031-2040, in RMK14 2031-2035 and RMK15 2036-2040.

    So TUDM fighter plans

    36x FA-50MY and 16x TA-50MY

    32x KF-X

    On other countries that can be a potential buyer

    By 2030 i can see plenty of countries that is currently using F-16, F-5, Mirages that cannot get approval for F-35 and does not want russian or chinese fighters will go for KF-X. Countries such as Colombia, Chile, South Africa, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, etc.

  72. @…
    “The planned export price for the KF-X is 80 billion won, or USD73.5 million each.”

    Romeo raises his concern on the increase of price of KFX if Indonesia pulls out. The question is if Indonesian pull out and the program is short of usd1-1.4 billion, will KAI able to maintain the usd73.5 million without any increase in price for an exported KFX?

  73. Addressing concerns by some commenters that the capability gap of RMAF vs it neighbors circa 2030 and beyond with SG getting their F16C/D upgraded to Vipers and Indonesiawith plethora of latest 4th gen fughters (they are considering F16, F15, F18, Rafales and Typhoons as of now) i would like to propose a solution to mitigate some of this capability gap in the fighter department.

    Aquire upgraded FA-50 for LCA. Basically FA-50 airframe with

    – GE F414K engines for increased thrust, acceleration and speed and commonality with KFX parts (if we eventually buy KFX)
    – FA-50’s current radar electronics but with KFX’s smaller AESA antenna with 700-800 TR modules.

    These 2 upgrades might not necessarily make FA-50 superior to F16 Vipers but would definitely close the capability gap between them. Of course the price of upgraded FA-50 would increase as well by at least usd5-10 million.

  74. @ luqman

    Even if indonesia pulls out, when people see the real thing rolls out in april 2021 and flies in early 2022, I believe there will be other countries that will order the KF-X even before 2025. Why I propose we sign an LOI for the purchase of the KF-X with the purchase of FA-50, even if we cannot afford to join the R&D stage now to replace Indonesia. I see the KF-X to be a plane with even better sales in the future than say the Gripen is right now. So I dont see any issues of KAI able to stick to its target price.

  75. @ luqman

    That is not the solution.

    The solution is to have better situational awareness compared to our opponents, not modified FA-50s.

    Just look at how IAF failed miserably against PAF in the balakot strike, when their fighter communications are jammed and did not manage to send their MKIs up to the front.

    PAF on the other hand has better situational awareness with ERIEYE AWACS in the air, and secure communications.

    We have for much longer than india focused to have secure jamming resistant software-defined radios (SDR) for our armed forces, even down to soldier level, while india does not have SDR radios for even its most advanced MKI (our MKM as built fitted with Rohde and Schwarz SDR radios)

    What we now need for the next 10 years, to have AWACs and airborne jammers in our arsenal.

    Why I have proposed for Global 6000 based ERIEYE ER AWACs, and also Global 6000 based HAVASOJ jammers.

  76. Luqman – “Aquire upgraded FA-50 for LCA”

    Whether anything is upgraded or not: we’ve reached a stage where it’s the “systems” rather than the “platform” which matter. It’s not so much the platform but how one manages to integrate and coordinate its use: in order for one to get the most out of the capabilities it offers.

    Unlike previous gen fighters; current ones are designed from the onset to be operated as part of a fully networked environment; each asset complementing each other and each maximising and minimising respective strengths and weaknesses.

  77. The trick is not only to have superior SA but also the needed coordination; plus the ability to do things faster or to disrupt the enemy’s cycle; whilst making less mistakes. A lot depends not only on the hardware/software but also the command structure. We need less bloated but more effective and efficient command set ups.

    On fighter combat; the need for SA hasn’t changed since WW1 – just as important is battle management; i.e. a fighter – courtesy of an external source – able to take full advantage of superior SA by also placing itself into a advantageous tactical position to initiate an engagement.

  78. Luqman,

    Please I have said it before and I will keep repeating myself, it’s Indo, not Indon.

    Indon is a derogatory word and this is a well respected forum so please.

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