Typhoons, F-35 or Super Hornets, Plan B

Typhoon and the moon

SHAH ALAM: Typhoons, F-35 or Super Hornets. Actually one could add legacy Hornets as well but that’s a mouthful for a headline. As you are aware the French Air Force (FAF) is sending three Dassault Rafales for a tour of Southeast Asia in mid August or early September.

Apart from Indonesia and Singapore, these Rafales will also make a stop in Malaysia together with their escorts. The fighters are flying back to Middle East via the region after taking part in Exercise Pitch Black being hosted by Australia.

One of the two Rafales on display at LIMA 2017.

What you did not know is that a group of enterprising Malaysians have ingrained themselves into the Rafale campaign to meet the RMAF long outstanding MRCA requirements. But didn’t the Rafale team already got their local agents? Yes, they did and they are probably still there but the new campaigners are said to be part of a second front for the Rafale. And they are supposedly to be close with the current government.
RAF Eurofighter Typhoon. Crown Copyright

Why are they doing these one may ask, didn’t the government says it has no money? Of course but didn’t we signed for the NGPV just a year after 1998 financial crisis? The Scorpenes were contracted for in 2002, for that matter.
Another set of undated pictures showing KD TAR at sea recently.

By the way, I was told that the Najib administration had apparently selected the Rafale for the MRCA back in 2013. However before the details could be finalised, whether to buy eight or twelve for the first batch and subsequent batches, the fall in oil prices in late 2014 scuppered the deal.
The then Treasury Secretary General Tan Sri Irwan Serigar Abdullah being strapped into a Rafale for a demonstration flight at LIMA 17. NST picture

Through-out the last three years, they tried everything to justify the deal but the low price of commodities including oil made the calculations rather tricky. The government I was told need the crude oil price to remain steady at US$70 dollar per barrel or higher for at least six months before it could fund the program. The dithering continue well into LIMA 2017 where the FAF sent two Rafales in the hope of finally securing the deal.
Dassault Rafale display at LIMA 17

The French even send the then President Francois Hollande to Putrajaya to meet with Najib shortly after LIMA 17 hoping to persuade the former to sign the Rafale deal. It was not good enough apparently.
Advanced Super Hornet. Boeing photo

So what’s does that got to do with the current campaign then? Ah, didn’t you read recently that the French is cooperating with the Scorpene investigation.
Two US Marines F-35Bs were on static together with two F-22 (not seen) at Singapore Airshow 2018.

As for the RMAF, it’s current priority is for the LCA. If the MRCA is funded instead it will be a quite juggling act to absorb a new fighter type as well as preparing the people for it. And the rojak cometh…

–Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2203 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Talking about future Scorpene subs, can we safely assume there will never be a KD Najib Razar? Let’s get the Kuwaiti Hornets to make a full squadron and 8 Rafaele. 2.5 cukuplah.

  2. “new campaigners are said to be part of a second front for the Rafale. And they are supposedly to be close with the current government.”

    “Ah, didn’t you read recently that the French is cooperating with the Scorpene investigation.”

    Why does it smells like nothing’s changed and this is a G-to-G ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’? Sigh…..

  3. @Tom Tom
    Safe to say, it might just stop at 4 (if ever). Or perhaps 1 more SSK, and the 4th naming will go to MRSS as the TLDM flagship.

  4. We shouldn’t be wasting time with these so called double agents who due to their promises of close contacts with the current administration will add nothing of value except to increase the all in costs of the MRCA programme. Can’t we just stick to the FMS route of purchase devoid of middlemen? Also I’m keen to get the Batch 3 of the Super Hornets as an immediate stop gap measure to replace our F/A-18Ds until we can get our finances right post 1MDB. At least we can economise on our support and spares without investing in new supply chain.

    The current PM is famously unkeen on buying military planes from the US. We can be thankful that there is no Russian plane in the MRCA program….

  5. No to expensive brand new MRCA.

    Yes to cheaper brand new LCA.

    New MRCA now would screw up TUDM royally circa 2030.

    Expensive brand new MRCA now would also give the current opposition plenty of ammo to attack the new government, as this would be clearly against frugal sepending and asking the people to donate to help pay debts.

  6. Heh he, if we wait another 10 years, maybe Australia might donate its Super Hornets!! Taking about the Aussies, do you know more about the recent spare parts donation and the planned AUD 22 million dollar gift upgrade to RMAF Butterworth, Marhalim?


  7. “So what’s does that got to do with the current campaign then? Ah, didn’t you read recently that the French is cooperating with the Scorpene investigation.”

    hurray….lets dig deeper and deeper into our own hell. if this going through then it just another stupid thing to do. really???rafale??why??as far as i know one of reason IAF choose rafale because they keep fail making ICBM for nuclear option so french opt the plane to be nuclear capable launch. but we,why?

    i maybe the only one on this but i rather we choose F35 for 5th gen aircraft compare to typhoon or rafale but only after 2022 onward. please new govt. dont make mistake,just choose the kuwait hornet,upgrade the fleet(hercules and hawk) and save the money for 5th gen. if not then we can only pray.

  8. @Maharlim
    “We can be thankful that there is no Russian plane in the MRCA program….”
    Yet. But if the new administration indicates their forgiveness and to forget about MH17 without the guilty party admitting fault, then we will know Malaysia also has a “road to the current World Cup”. Wink wink.

    F 35 is way way to expensive for us and its unreplenished range is a concern. Neither would Uncle Sam authorise us for this if SG were to make noise. Then again, if Anwar were to helm the Government….

  9. What sort of Transfer of Technology or Local Industry Participation or local economic stimulation argument could be used for the MRCA program? The NGPV wen thru in the late nineties using these as the main factors in proceeding with the program.

    They claimed that they are partnering with local people to set up an engine shop etc. Its the same thing like the A400M TOT, they set up the Sepang Aircraft Engineering as part of the offset obligations. After 10 years, the local partner or partners cashed out. The same thing would have happened for the NGPV TOT if not for the LCS deal.

  10. “The current PM is famously unkeen of buying military planes from the US”

    Didn’t we buy the FA-18Ds during his watch, not to mention C-130s and Tigereyes? I suspect he would be open to competitive bids from anyone.

    Yes he did but very reluctantly. I am not saying he won’t buy from the US but if he got the choice I believed he won’t.

  11. https://www.minister.defence.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-releases/australia-invest-rmaf-base-butterworth

    “…During the meeting, Australia also committed to:

    continue to support the development of Malaysia’s Urban Combat Training facility;
    increase the number of Defence scholarships offered to Malaysia for study in Australia each year from five to eight;
    and provide further F/A-18 spare parts to assist with the sustainment of Malaysia’s fleet.”

    parts for our existing hornets and for additional legacy hornets (ex-kuwait) maybe?

    If we actually buy those ones

  12. Well the kuwaiti hornet deal is something the government can sell as not buying from the US, just like canada not buying F-35 and Super Hornets but buying legacy hornets from australia instead. In any case, US approval is required.

    The same thing can be said if we seek additional Su-30 from india instead of russia.

  13. @ joe

    “F 35 is way way to expensive for us and its unreplenished range is a concern”

    Joe, please check what is the operational range of F-35A. Compare it to F/A-18 and F-16s. Of course none of them can compare with the Su-30MKM range.

  14. I agree with Fadiman above. Get the Kuwaiti Hornets and Omani Hawks to tide us over, then look towards the FC31 or KFX as the MRCA candidates.

    The F35s will need to have the range of MKMs if it were to be our MRCA. Unless we give up our claim on Spratlys.

  15. @ joe

    No other western fighter has the unrefuelled and without drop tank range of the MKM. Probably F-15E but even that needs conformal tanks plus drop tanks to have such range.

    As i said before, getting everything 2ndhand now will cause a very high risk in 2030 as there could be a possibility of not having the budget to replace both hornets and hawks at the same time.

  16. Now singapore would announce its F-16 replacement plan anytime soon, we have to look past Tyhoons and Rafales and plan for 5th gen fighters too.

    With our limited budget, my babling here would be our best bet, just replace FC-31 there with the 5th gen fighter of your choice (if up to me I would still stick to FC-31, in that time Tun M wont be around to say no LoL)

  17. @…
    Something nearer to MKMs range. At least able to reach and patrol Spratlys. F35s is mainly a carrier platform plane, hence its shorter range is of no consequences to its main user (USN, Marines). The other nations with interest in it doesn’t have such long range requirements as we do. I’m hoping the KFX, FC31, JFX(maybe), have longer range due to their twin engine config. These would certainly be more suitable for our MRCA needs.

  18. @ joe

    Twin engine does not equal longer range. Most fighters are medium sized, without the internal fuel range of the MKM. But they can carry drop tanks, instead of bombs and missiles to extend the range, as is in flight refuellings.

    Fighters the size of MKM are the F-15, F-22, J-20, Su-35 and Su-57.

    If we do retire the MKM (probably in 30 years time) it would probably be without replacement.

    BTW MRCA is NOT to replace the MKM, but for the hornets and MiG capability (of which the MiGs capability would be replaced in short term probably with additional used hornets). The new MRCA would probably operate side by side with the MKM for about 20 years into the future to around 2045-2050.

  19. I think we should get the Kuwaitis Hornets, replace its engine with GE F414 ones used on super hornets, new AESA radar (grumman apg-83 SABR or raytheon apg-84 RACR) both these radar is easily swap with legacy hornet radar in a day. Plus the f414 is buit from the hornets f404 with same dimensions which will give extra 20% thrust for f414-400 model and extra whopping 40% thrust for f414-EPE model. Add on the ’25X standards’ upgrade (atflir pods, jhmcs helmets) and now we have a ‘super hornet block 2’ capable hornet. What do u guys think?

  20. @ luqman hakim

    The main reason to get legacy hornets is to save money for 5th gen MRCAs, as a stopgap use up till around 2030.

    So why spend so much to modify legacy hornets to super hornets standard? Who is going to pay all those R&D to certify the F414 in the legacy hornets?

  21. If we indeed get a “5th gen MRCA around 2030,” we will still need a less expensive fighter to handle less demanding missions, for which the MRCA will be overkill.

    In very general terms, this platform will have to be capable of operating in a high intensity conflict, on account that we won’t be acquiring sufficient numbers of MRCA to handle every mission in such a conflict. There will have to be some overlap in capability at the higher end of its envelope so that it can stand in for the MRCA on some missions.

    I’d love to know if such a fighter is what the RMAF is looking for in the LCA. Thus far we haven’t seeen any info on the program criteria and can’t conclude if they want something like a Gripen or a Hawk.

    As for the choice of platform, sustainability dictates they will have to be new or close to new. Legacy Hornets can serve in the immediate term and address our lack of airframes. But no matter how lightly used, they can only be a stopgap as they will be 40 years old by 2030.

    I have been told the likely candidates for LCA are the T/FA-50, M346 and the latest Hawk. It is not a program of record yet that’s why we have not seen any official statements on the aircraft. Who knows perhaps the Gripen would be offered if it comes to that. The first priority is of course to replace the CMs.

  22. @ AM

    Of course the legacy hornets would be a stopgap solution, to be used up till 2030. Canada has planned to use them to 2032. US marines to 2030.

    The LCA shouldn’t be a fighter that is capable of high intensity conflict, but an economical one for daily peacetime duties such as CAP and QRA, with wartime point defence and CAS capability. The other important point is this platform should be able to perform LIFT economically. So just 1 type of fighter to take up the tasks of mb-339cm, hawks and MiG-29s

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