The Long and Winding Road

RMAF Sukhoi Su-30MKM M52-02. Note the red cover over its cannon on the wing root. Zaq Sayuti.

SHAH ALAM: The long and winding road. In a post on the LCA, I commented that RMAF is not getting any new fighters at least until 2035. And today Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu told parliament basically the same thing. He also said in the near future, RMK12, the plan is to concentrate on the procurement of the MPA, UAV and the LCA.

He was answering an oral question on the proposal from Russia to buy back the MIG-29s for two squadrons of MIG-35s.The proposal was made only recently. As usual the answer to the question is convoluted but in the end he said the proposal was still being considered. Again as it must be noted that the plan to sustain the Sukhoi Su-30MKM and Boeing F/A-18D Hornets are part of the RMAF Cap 55 plan which has been confirmed in the soon to be published, Defence White Paper. The DWP supports the CAP 55 plan and it is likely that the Russian swap proposal will not be entertained though it must be noted stranger things had happened before.

RMAF Sukhoi Su-30MKM seemed to hang in the air at the Singapore Airshow 2018

From Air Times. I will post the original transcript from the Hansard once its available usually tomorrow.

Two Hornets flies in formation with a Flanker over South China Sea. Note the ACMI pod on the wingtip rail of the near Hornet. RMAF picture

KUALA LUMPUR, 21 Nov – Menteri Pertahanan, Mohamad Sabu menyatakan perkhidmatan jet pejuang F/A-18D Hornet dan Sukhoi SU-30MKM akan dikekalkan sehingga tempoh Rancangan Malaysia Ke-13

“TUDM akan terus mengekalkan pesawat pejuang F/A-18D Hornet dan Sukhoi Su-30MKM untuk tempoh RMK-12 dan RMK-13,” jelas Mohamad ketika sesi soal jawab di Dewan Rakyat.

RMK merupakan rancangan pembangunan kerajaan Malaysia untuk tempoh 5 tahun. Tempoh RMK-12 adalah pada tahun 2021-2025 manakala RMK-13 adalah pada 2026-2030.

Terdahulu, Mohamad menjelaskan perolehan pesawat rondaan maritim (MPA) dan pesawat tanpa pemandu aras altitud sederhana (MALE UAV) adalah keperluan yang diutamakan pada masa kini.

Beliau menambah, Kementerian Pertahanan Malaysia pada ketika ini memberi fokus kepada perolehan aset pertahanan bercirikan kawalan, rondaan sempadan dan rondaan sempadan maritim bagi menghalang pencerobohan asing.

“Keperluan terkini adalah perolehan MPA, Male UAV dan pesawat keupayaan tempur ringan serta latihan juruterbang melalui program Light Combat Aircraft (LCA),

“Walaupun perolehan jet pejuang baharu tiada dalam perancangan Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM), Kementerian Pertahanan masih meneliti tawaran kerajaan Rusia dari pelbagai aspek termasuk aspek ekonomi dan kewangan yang perlu diteliti,” ujarnya

Selain daripada itu, beliau turut menegaskan aspek penyelenggaraan dan baikpulih (MRO) diambil kira dalam sebarang perolehan jet pejuang pada masa hadapan.

Pada masa yang sama, beliau menjelaskan bahawa pihaknya berusaha sebaik mungkin bagi memastikan pesawat sedia ada mempunyai penyelenggaraan yang baik bagi menjamin tahap kesiapsiagaan pesawat.

Beliau menambah, tahap kesiapsiagaan jet pejuang Sukhoi Su-30MKM telah mencapai tahap 75% dan diselenggarakan oleh syarikat tempatan, ATSC dengan perbelanjaan sebanyak RM 200 juta setahun.

Menyentuh tawaran oleh kerajaan Rusia, beliau menyatakan pihak kerajaan masih meneliti tawaran tersebut.

RMAF Flanker armed with four R-77 and two R-73. It is unclear whether the picture, published by RMAF, of a Flanker operating out of Labuan for the exercise.

With no money allocated for the Su-30MKM and Hornets replacement in RMK13, it is likely that their replacements would only be commissioned into service, at the earliest, in the 2035 to 2040 period. I was told to ensure that the MKM remained in service until that time, the government planned to double the money for its MRO for the next two RMKs. The Hornets could be supplemented by the ex-Kuwaiti ones if the deal to buy them could be implemented, which at the moment, remained a long shot.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2227 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Why oh why people (and the menhan) keeps thinking that the Su-30MKM needs replacement anyway? It is just freaking 10 years old! It is a very important point that should be stressed!

    Our neighbour, Thailand, just upgraded its 40 year old F-5 tigers with BVR missiles, new radar and datalinks to be used for 15 more years!!

    The wording should be our current MRCAs does not need replacment before 2030 period. I dont see any problem for the MKM to fly until 2040. What we need is hornet replacement around post 2030 for a higher spec 5th gen fighter, as a counter to the perceived profilation of 5th gen fighters in our region at that time.

  2. Is there a chance the mig winning d lca contract?

    The MIG swap proposal is a stand alone offer and got nothing to do with the LCA. Whether or not, if accepted, will have any effect in the LCA deal, I have no idea at the moment. But it doesn’t jive with the DWP and the CAP 55 though.

  3. If d Russian willing 2 set up their Mro centre here why not d mig. He3.Imagine if we have 36 mig together with 36 sukhoi n hornet .lmao. forgive me for dreaming this.wakaka

  4. @Marhalim
    “the ex-Kuwaiti ones if the deal to buy them”
    Sorry but is this the Menhan opinion or yours? If this is the Government’s opinion, then that’s great to hear as I was pushing for that. We should wait for 5th gen tech to mature and more 5th gen fighter designs to come out before we take the plunge but in mean time we need more F-18s to tide us over. However, early retirement for the MKMs is pure bonkers. TUDM shouldn’t be disillusioned with the maintenance cost of the MKMs as any other heavyweight fighter would be just as costly. They shouldn’t be akin to buying a BMW and expecting Kancil servicing cost.

    Not my opinion but it is what the DWP is addressing

  5. Those additional MKM and Hornet is necessary to cover for holes left by Migs. LCA, while should have much diverse role than MiG-29, can never truly replace it as our go to interceptor and air superiority aircraft (not to mention that we’re short on airframe even before the migs were retired). Not when Singapore and especially Indonesia is beefing up their air capability. Should’ve give us enough headroom whenever some of the birds is under maintenance

    Ideally we should have
    >18+4 MKM
    >8+4 F/A-18D (+ 2 more as spares)
    >36 LCA
    and 18 LIFT

    There is no plans for MKMs as they are practically still new, additional Hornets are needed as the fleet is already 20 years old and their numbers are smaller

  6. @Ujang
    MIG is not part of the LCA equation. Russia’s representative is the YAK-130.

    IF we do get the YAK-130s and so happens the MIG swap, we could effectively have a Russian air fleet. That would then make selecting MRCA much more straightforward (SU-57).

  7. if can,just sell the MIG for money and add the money for LCA program…no need to add another type of jet fighter. and i really hope we can get Kuwait old hornet to add for our hornet fleet.

    cant wait for DWP to be present at parliament…

  8. The trade in calls for all our Mig-29 in exchange for 4-6 MKM so might as well get more MKM. At the very least we have additional airframe to go around. If we sell them for cash there’s no way we can get the same value as said 4-6 MKM. We’d be lucky if we can get 100 million dollars out of all our migs (and all the associated parts and inventories)

    No lah the trade in offer, the one offered by Putin was for the Migs to be exchanged with two squadrons of Mig-35. The trade in for the MKMs for the MIGs was offered earlier at Lima 19 and before that. The swap for the Mig 35 supersedes the Mig to MKM deal

  9. About the ex-Kuwaiti Hornet.


    “Not my opinion but it is what the DWP is addressing”

    Glad to heard that, at least there was an offical move by government to get those Hornet.

  10. In the interim, more hornets to expand the fleet with spare aircrafts to replace those under MRO and rotating the extra aircraft would increase the lifetime of the remaining hornets.
    The best short term solution

  11. anyone got info one our MKM will write off beyond repair?that one in langkawi during LIMA19 and bring back from there using logistic haulage company..If not mistaken 02..

  12. Yeah to get additional hornets is the most logical and viable option for us to expand hornet sqdn to become full sqdn..i mean full sqdn with 22 jets per sqdn..In short just buy all the hornets that kuwaiti willing to sell to us(the good condition one)..Same goes to mkm sqdn..Cuz new mrca is still long way to go..expanding mkm sqdn is also a achievable target. just trade 10 migs with 4 or 5 mkm better than the migs gathering dust in their hangar.So we got what..22 hornet + 22 mkm until 2030+ plus more or less 24 lcas, 2 mpa and 3 male uav.Till then get all the needed airframe and system to accept 5th gen service when the time is come like awcs etc.

  13. Just get the M346. They are cheap, apparently and can do training, air to air (even with medium range missiles), air to ground and even anti ship with MARTE ER. They are also twin engine and have refueling probe. Small and nimble. Really cheap to run or so they say. What else do we need? Sure the Gripen is a better LCA because it’s closer to medium MRCA but the cost is much higher. Go with Leonardo and get a deal thrown in for ATR 72!

  14. hello marhalim, is there any clues how the mig29 swap deal would be? is it a straight swap i mean an FOC transfer or those mig35 will be at a discounted price?

    I have no idea of the details

  15. Go for the Ex-Kuwait Hornet to expand the Hornet numbers plus replace the Mig-29N a better option and more cost effective. More over better service and maintenance support from US compare Russia.

  16. In any event, I hope we keep one MiG for a future museum. Hopefully a proper, covered, indoor one that provides for dignified rest.

    The MiG might not have had the best possible career with us or be a particularly illustrious or exotic aircraft by world standards, but it is a fairly curious and striking airplane to the eye.

    The RSAF has several A-4s at their museum and while at the last RSAF open house, I noticed several more A-4s and F-5s kept away in a hangar. Perhaps they represent the various upgraded configurations in RSAF service.

  17. @ tom tom

    You have a kancil. There is another kancil 5km in front of you. Both are going at 110kmh. So how can you catch up with the kancil in front of you?

    The same principle works for QRA that was the task of MiG-29s. It is decided that the MiG-29 tasks will be taken by the LCA. QRA works if you can catch up with the plane you need to chase. If M346 and airasia A320 has the same top speed then how can you catch up with the airasia A320? Why the LCA needs to have supersonic speed, which is actually said as the requirement back in 2017, when we first hear about the LCA requirement from TUDM personnel.

    @ choo
    The LCA is the one going to replace the MiG-29 tasks. Still getting more hornets will improve the fighter availability of the air force.

    @ AM
    Sadly malaysians does not care about history. I hope we do save a few MiGs.

    On the general overall CAP55 plan.

    CAP55 plan is to basically just maintain the size of current TUDM fighter force. Meanwhile many of our neighbours are actually planning to increase their fighter fleet by 2030. Indonesia for example, by 2024 is planning to have 4 F-16, 2 Flanker, 2 T-50 squadrons, each with at least 16 aircraft, plus 1 CAS squadron with super tucanos. Its fighter force would consist of
    65+ F-16
    32 Su-27/30/35 flankers
    36 T-50i golden eagles (for LIFT)
    23 super tucanos

    That is all in just 5 years away.

  18. Buying Russian looks good on paper but clearly they are not giving away something for nothing. We just aren’t being told openly what they want.

    Also there is all that stuff about maintenance costs and so on.


    M346 is quite underpowered.

  19. Out of topic. Want to find out. Is the Nuri upgrade taking place after all.
    Sorry for this unrelated question

    At the moment all quiet on that front

  20. As for mkm 02 it was transported via barge and overland to gong kedak base and is undergoing repair.thats the info i got.

  21. No more wet dream….it”s all clear. No new fighter before 2035. It means RMAF must depends on 8 hornets+18 MKMs for MRCA role. The only aquisition for jet is LCA/LIFT for training and daily task. An addition of used hornets ex kuwaiti is the only hope to add RMAF fighter.

    The good things is government has time to save some money to buy 5th gen fighter in 2035. If…i said if government is willing to save US$200 mio/year then in 15 years there is $ 3 billion which is enough to get a lot of 5th gen fighters. Buying 4/4.5 gen fighter is not worth anymore unless RMAF has a need for MMRCA

    The bad news is RMAF will fall behind compare to RSAF, TNI AU, and RTAF in the next decades. Looking at CAP55 plan, it is known that in 2055 RMAF strength will not change in combat capability as today. 2 sq of MRCA and 3 sq of LCA/LIFT. That is it. Unless there is a change of plan as the closest neighbours (sg,ind and thai) are keep building their muscle.

    Although RMAF will also buy UAV,MPA and AEW&C but there will be no much impact in combat capability compare to the neighbours. They will also equip their AF with UAV and AEW&C and they already start buying them.

    AEW will only be in play by 2030 or 2035

  22. Chua – “Buying Russian looks good on paper but clearly they are not giving away something for nothing”

    The politics aside; the main problem in buying Russian has been the lower MTBF/TBO of the radar, gear box, landing gear, engine nozzles and various other complements in comparison to Western equivalents. Thus in the near term although buying Russian is cheaper due to units costs; in the long run its more cost effective to buy Western. Another major problem is that the RMAF will definitely require some level of integration for non Russian parts; this requires time and money (the OEM’s cooperation is also needed as well as money for certification) – drives up the overall costs.

    Another issue is the Russian way of doing things. Buying the Fulcrums and dealing with the Russians was a major schlock for us; especially given the chaotic conditions the Russian industry was in following the end of the Cold War. The Russians have come a long way since then of course but their way of doing things can still be an issue: even with customers with deep pockets and who have decades of experience dealing with the Russians and who are willing to pay on time. To be fair support issues faced with the MKMs was largely our fault; the funds for depot level maintenance and spares being delayed.

  23. FC-31 is quite unproven though. It’s a private project, carries only 4 large and 2 small missiles internally, and reportedly its engines are very underpowered. Its avionics would certainly be nowhere near F-35 too.

  24. @ marhalim

    If we plan to buy AEW by 2030 or 2035, we probably cannot afford it together with 5th gen MRCA. Even by 2030, at least 3 countries in ASEAN will have AEW (Singapore, thailand and indonesia)

    My planned timeline and budgeting i cut and paste from my previous post here (which IMO will need more tweaking after the DWP is released). The budget is about USD1.6 billion per 5 year rancangan malaysia, as that is what IMO the government can afford. The AEW is a pared down and lesser capability version of the SAAB globaleye, basically just the Global 6000 business jet with the SAAB Erieye NG radar installed.

    RMK11 16-20 1.1bil
    A400M payment 600mil last 1/3rd payment of the USD 1.8 billion contract (This IMO is probably wrong, the contract is around USD750 million for the 4 aircraft)
    28 F/A-18A/B(used Aussie) 100mil 12 F/A-18A, 8 F/A-18B, 8 F/A-18D, 8 F/A-18A spare. 18Skn + 12Skn. (need to move this to RMK12)
    12 EC-225LP(used) 120mil (need to move this to RMK12)
    SU-30MKM overhaul 150mil (budget not to be in DE but OE)
    12 Ecarys ES15 UAV 120mil 4 systems with 3 uav per system (need to move to RMK12)

    RMK12 21-25 1.6bil
    40 TA/FA-50M 1300mil 16 TA-50, 24 FA-50. Hawk/MB-339CM replacement 2 operational Sqn, 1 FLIT Sqn
    6 CN-235 MPA conversion 140mil
    1 GroundMaster GM403 radar 30mil (probably already approved in RMK11)
    SU-30MKM overhaul 130mil (budget not to be in DE but OE)
    -3+1 C-130H Avionics Upgrade 0mil Sell of 3 long fuselage Hercules to fund the Hercules upgrade. Buy 1 short fuselage Hercules (the one in AIROD) and convert to special forces support aircraft with air refuelling, FLIR, DIRCM, ESM system, SATCOM, armour and extra fuel tanks.

    RMK13 26-30 1.6bil
    2 A400M 320mil partly used spain/UK/Germany allocation
    8 PC-24 80mil multi-engine training, Medevec, utility, VIP, special forces
    2 A319CJ 100mil Used aircraft to replace leased A319/20CJ
    C-130H-30 upgrade 100mil 8-blade propeller, engine, SATCOM upgrade for rest of the fleet.
    3 G6000 Erieye ER AEW&C 600mil
    1 G6000 HAVASOJ EW 150mil 1 EW jammer,
    2 G6000 (used) 50mil 2 VIP/training (used) to replace Global Express and Falcon 900
    5 GroundMaster GM403 radar 150mil

    RMK14 31-35 1.6bil
    32 FC-31 1400mil MRCA part payment (or KF-X, any 5th gen fighter that fits the cost)
    2 GroundMaster GM403 radar 60mil

    RMK15 36-40 1.6bil
    FC-31 1200mil MRCA part payment
    24 New Basic Trainer 300mil Replacement for PC-7 MkII

    RMK16 41-45 1.6bil
    12 New Tactical Transport 800mil Replacement for C-130
    6 New MPA 800mil Replacement for CN-235MPA

    It must be noted that the DWP only cover the next 10 year period from 2021 to 2031. Most of the planned equipment buy will be left out of the document. I am told funding for the period is basically the same amount during the current period. It will not be pegged to the GDP, it will be 6 percent to the annual budget, basically

  25. For interceptor role, L15 seems to be the best buy.
    Add weapon compatibality wise its J17 as it is design to use both western Russian and chinese
    Gripen is totally out, pricey. Tejas has isnt even operational yet. Yak 130 and m345a too slow for interceptor roles.

    So top 3 contender are j17,t50, and l15.With j17 in the lead and others respectively.

    Yak 130 – mach 0.8 – 15m USD
    M346FA – mach 0.9 – 20m USD
    t50 – mach 1.5 – 30m USD
    J-17 – mach 1.6 – 25m USD
    L-15 – mach 1.4 – 15m USD
    Tejas – mach 1.8 – 28m USD
    gripen – mach 2 – 120M USD

  26. @ marhalim

    If the budget is the same as RMK11, even my very tight plan could be impossible. I am hoping RMK12 and forward to at least provide USD5 bil in development expenditure for every 5 years. So that it can provide USD2 billion budget for TLDM, USD1.6 billion budget for TUDM and USD1.3 billion budget for TDM.

    Indonesia, its new MENHAN is requesting the defence budget to be increased from current 0.7% of GDP to at least 1.2% of GDP annually. Currently that stands at USD8.9 billion. At 1.2% GDP that would stand at USD15.25billion.

    Our annual budget for 2019 stands at just USD3.7 billion, of which just USD0.7 billion is for development expenditure.

    The future certainly looks bleak…

    Unfortunately the Army is getting the bulk of the money in the next 10 years. Both the navy and air force got what they wanted really by trying to follow the party line by coming up with a 30 year development plans which the government gladly accepted, as it did not entail a higher increase of development expenditure in the short and medium term. Basically both asked for the same expenditures to be invested in the same way that had been given to them for the last 30 years without any sense of urgency and mission

  27. If we can get our hands on those Kuwaiti hornet I hope the gov postpone the lca buy in the rmk 13 n buy d AWACS instead.36 twin engine (hope fully) n 12 lca is good enough for me. We cannot compare ourselves with d Indonesian since they have almost 9time our population. We can go bankrupt

    Just change d plan a little bit n buy d rest of lca in rmk 14.starting from 2035 retire d hornet n buy d 5gen.There u go 😁😁😁

    About d kfx from what I know d early version will only be 4.5gen not 5gen plane so we still have some time .Better we wait for d European plane 2 mature n buy from them.Is anyone here know if d Indonesian still in d kfx program. D last time i check d Korean r now finding a new foreign partner.

  28. @ marhalim

    Without increased budget, how is the army is going to get anything? We know from the TLDM wishlist in 15 to 5 plan, the navy is planning to around USD2 billion per RMK. If we follow the current DE budget, for 1 RMK the total goes to just around USD4 billion. So that is just USD2 billion to share among the army and air force. With that amount, it is really going to take 2 RMK just to buy LCA/LIFT, and we are surely going to be the least capable air force in ASEAN by 2030. In the timeframe of 2020-2024, indonesian air force is planning to spend something like USD4 billion in additional F-16, SU-35, AWACS etc. I am struggling to plan effectively with USD1.6 billion self imposed budget, with just USD1 billion surely TUDM will regress. Come on malaysian political and military leaders! To those who reads this, what kind of future you want to leave your children and grandchildren?

    Well the government never said they will increase the budget, they were more interested in the process of procurement to ensure the military got they wanted. I was told the people involved tried to get an increase in the budget but this was rebuffed. One of the reasons I believed is that the military failed to get the urgency across to the powers that be. Just looked at the navy and air force plans and you will see that

  29. Hey guys, I have done some internet research and this may be interesting. If we want a supersonic LIFT LCA, the the Kai 50 is the obvious choice. It can carry the KEPD 350 K2 which is only shorter than the original 350 but everything inside is the same, apparently. The KEPD can have an antiship option too.
    So, if the RMAF wants a supersonic LCA than can do training, AA, air to surface and antiship, the KAI 50 is a possible option! There certainly are option if they just bloody make their minds up!

  30. I quiet agree with ujang in some part mentioned there, we need required what we can affords, to acquire the ex Kuwait AF F/A-18C/D is good choices to supplement an additional our F/A-18D and set to another 2sqns. But at least we can get 2 AEWs from SAAB or Ex-US Navy. Should we can upgrades them with another 10 more years. I support the AF to get 36+ LCA and MPA. And one thing the RMAF shuold consider setup another by at least 1 fighter sqn at Sarawak.

  31. Out of topic.

    Just saw that the french navy starts to experiment on having dual crews on surface ship. Specifically the fremm.

    I know that the french does employ dual crews in ther submarine service for each boats.

    Do our RMN have this system on usage?

    And what do you guys think, is it a good system to be use on either subs or surface ships?

    Thank you.

  32. @ nihd

    Even TLDM do have 2 crews for its submarine. IMO this concept would enable ships to be on station longer but with better living conditions for the crew (more time at home with families). Probably MMEA could inplement this on its OPVs.

  33. Judging from what’s being thoroughly discussed here, I’ve come to the abject conclusion that the politicians in power don’t actually care about air defence nor do they want to know the requirements of TUDM! Of course, we’ll go along with that till shit hits the fan…like China invading Layang-layang or worse, Labuan! My Dad has a saying years back, ‘thanks to the idiot in charge!’

  34. I think they going LCA due to BAU operation for routine flight are cheaper than the heavyweight. The gist from few years indicate they are quite struggling even to maintain upkeep and flying hours.

  35. “like China invading Layang-layang or worse, Labuan! My Dad has a saying years back, ‘thanks to the idiot in charge!’”

    Years back, we were not faced with such threats. The emphasis was on internal security and we were rightly focused on that. Even so, more was done during Doctor M’s time than any other administration to garrison and claim our offshore possessions.

    It was of course wrong to have put national interests ahead of the MAF’s needs, but because of the external security environment of the time, we got off easy for doing so. Obviously we live in different times now.

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