Will RMAF Hawk Fleet Get Their Mid-Life Update?

KUALA LUMPUR: THE story below is self-explanatory. However, the RM402 million contract also opened a can of worms. While the Hawk engines will be overhauled it remained to be seen whether or not the government will fund the fleet mid-life update or Service Life Extension Programme (SLEP).


As Malaysian Defence had mentioned before the Hawks was supposed to undergo a midlife update, among others new avionics and even new radars (for the 208s) so most of the fleet could be reconstituted as a light attack squadron with the arrival of the 339CMs. However, the economic crisis has ruined that plans. The new contract for the engines revealed that the Adour engines would no longer be serviceable without an overhaul programme. And of course it is cheaper to just overhaul one part of the aircraft instead a complete SLEP.

Yes, its cheaper of course. They did the same thing in the late 80s and 90s for the Nuri fleet, an incremental overhaul and modernisation programme which continued to this day. Its cheaper in the short run of course. If they had the foresight, a full SLEP programme for the Hawk would definitely been better. It will expensive in the short term, but the Hawk fleet will be relevant for the next ten years.

Malaysian Defence could be jumping the gun here, the actual SLEP may well be in the works and will be signed during Lima09. But I doubt it, the value of the engine contract is quite high already. Based on history, it would have been the easy way out for both the Treasury and Defence ministries especially in these trying times….

Rolls-Royce secures £75 million contract to support Malaysian Adour fleet
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Rolls-Royce has signed a £75 million MissionCare™ contract with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) to support the Adour engines which power its fleet of Hawk aircraft.

The five-year contract covers the overhaul of the fleet of 26 Adour Mk871 engines, an annual training programme for RMAF engineers and the calibration, maintenance and re-certification of the Adour test bed located at the Kuantan Air Base. The RMAF will also be supported by an in-country technical representative and have access to the Rolls-Royce Operations Centre for 24/7 technical support.

The RMAF operates both the trainer and light combat variant of the BAE Systems Hawk and is a leading operator of the Adour Mk871, accumulating over 43,000 flying hours on the engine.

Commenting on the new MissionCare agreement Benjamin Downing, VP Customer Business at Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace, said: “This long-term MissionCare contract has enabled Rolls-Royce to provide the RMAF with improved support and capability and the additional benefit of a predictable budget cycle.

“The Adour has been a hugely successful engine and we believe that there are great opportunities for Rolls-Royce to further improve the support and performance of the installed fleet by partnering with customers like the RMAF to develop innovative solutions.”

General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Azizan bin Ariffin, Chief of Royal Malaysian Air Force commented: “Rolls-Royce has been instrumental in assisting the RMAF to adopt the most suitable solution for its Adour Mk871 engines. We are confident this excellent partnership will continue towards generating a genuine ‘win-win’ situation for the coming years.

“Rolls-Royce has made a major contribution to the Malaysian aerospace industry. The longstanding professional relationship between the RMAF and Rolls-Royce has seen many significant achievements and the long-term effects have been outstandingly beneficial to both parties.”

Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2187 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Couldn’t the hawk just be assigned to the army for its air to surface operations and area point defence? Agreed that with a little bit of upgrades it would still be useful, no need for attacck heli i guess, the hawk can still do the job for anti armour operations though it does not have hovering ability. Updated/graded radar could allow it to fire Sparrow missile, can work for medium range air defence for the army up to 25km….

    Marhalim: with a SLEP work, the 208s were supposed to be upgraded with Selex AESA radar and other bits which will allow it to be used in anti-armour and ground attack using precision munitions and with the FLIR equipped 108s as wing-mans….but I guess the cost was too much in these trying times….

  2. Good to know that TUDM plans to fly the Hawk for some time longer (can’t guarantee the same for the Fulcrums). The Hawk is one of my fav aircraft. A full MLU would indeed be better.

    Marhalim: From the fact that the Hawk engines had accumulated 43,000 hours of service, it probably mean that the fleet is about 5 years old, on average. I believed the aircraft has another 13 years (airframe and avionics service life) more to go without a full SLEP. I guess thats the reason they chose the cheaper update programme. Based on delivery date, the aircraft has been in service for the last 13 odd years or so. Since the Hawks are not used for high-G maneuvers, the airframe and other components will not have aged as much as the Fulcrums which I believed should average about 9 or 10 year old on average versus the 13 year of in-service date. The Hornet fleet average age will also be around the Fulcrums due to the higher stresses encountered by a supersonic plane and plus the fact that they are only eight of them in service. They are about ten year old based on in-service date.

    I guess the RMAF will by now have a comprehensive data on whether or not its cheaper to maintain Western made airplanes (more expensive to procure) and Russian made ones by now. It will remained an OSA item for the foreseeable future for obvious reasons of course….

  3. As mentioned before, the Hawk 100s in RMAF service have suffered a very high arittion rate. Of 10 delivered, about 6-7 have been written off. Some of the earlier problems were due to high humidity. When deployed to Labuan, servcibility rates were low due to a lack of support infrastructure. In the early 90’s, tenders were also issued for a airborne jammer for the Hawk 200s.

    Marhalim: As with trainers, one can expect a higher attrition rate as they are used to train new pilots in the art of flying combat AC. Note that the RMAF fast jets community had had lesser attrition rate due to pilot error, most of it which were blamed for the Hawk crashes apart from the single crash at Labuan when a Hawk crashed after it ran out of fuel. The drop tanks had fuel but the connection was corroded hence the pilot was unable to get it into the main tanks. The AC crashed just within the perimeter of the airport. The tower had told the pilot to eject but he stayed too long on board……

  4. Granted Marhalim, one can expect a high attrition rate from trainers. But what is very worrying is the very high number of Hawk 100s written off, almost 50%…. I’m not sure if the TNI-ALs Hawk 100 fleet has been similarly effected. In the years to come, it will be interesting to see how the RAAF and IAF Hawks fare. In the past, it has been reported that BAE Systems had worked with the RMAF to overcome initial problems due to high humidity. In 1995 the chief of the RMAF said that problems effecting the Hawks were a higher than planned utilisation rate and a lack of trained support personnel. The RMAF was also the launch customer for the Hawk 100s and 200s, with their glass cockpits. Remember the incident at Buterworth when a man was killed when the ejection seat was activated by mistake. I wonder if that Hawk is still in a hangar or flying. What puzzles me is why the MBB339 was selected for the LIFT role instead of additional Hawks. Apart from the pricing, it could be the MBB339 is easier/less complex to mantain than the Hawks.

    Marhalim: Unlike our 108s, I was told by Indon air force officials way back in 1993 that their double seaters are not used to qualify new twin seater crews but basically to fill the 109 slots, ours were to fill the Hornet slots. Most of our crashes occurred during low level flight either in bad weather, basically controlled flight into terrain, as far as I know at least one 108 and two 208s crashes due to CFIT. I remember the unfortunate incident at Butterworth, if I remember correctly it was an 108, the ejection seat was armed when the unfortunate technician handle/touched the ejection button when conducting training to squadron newbies. It was not a mistake, the late technician was supposed to show the ejection handle/button to the newbies as part of their training routine but he was also supposed to make sure that it was not armed. I was told later that the aircraft was returned to service shortly thereafter after undergoing a rather expensive repair.

    On why the 339CM was chosen I am also perplexed. I was also told that the CM was cheaper the Hawks, even though the Alenia had stopped producing the 339 several years ago. There are many theories out there, some technical and some of course, involved the usual National Interest…

  5. I sure hope that our Hawks aren’t going to have the same fate as similar to its Indonesian’s counterpart. It is rather sad to see such fine machines being neglected or left behind without proper maintenance and upgrade.

    Anyway,what happened to the pilot Marhalim? Did he survived?

    Marhalim: Unfortunately, he was killed, his ejection seat apparently fired whether accidentally or not, when the plane impacted the ground…

  6. Marhalim, what about the Hornet that the pilot ejected from during landing at Kuching a few years back? Is it flying now?

    Marhalim: I am not too sure about that one but since I counted 8 Hornets during LIMA07 (flying and tarmac) apparently all are ok…

  7. The Hornet in question is M45-08. It had an uncontrollable landing incident on 30/3/03 due to burst tires on landing and pilot(s) ejected. It was confirmed repaired and returned to service some time later

  8. Dear Sir,

    The information gathered here is from (Ejection-History.org.uk).

    There were 5 x Hawk 108 and 5 x Hawk Mk 208 incidents in the RMAF. Thus what remains in the RMAF inventory should be 5 x Hawk MK 108 and 13 Hawk Mk 208.

    Therefore there are 20 x Adour Mk 871 fitted to the aircraft and there must be 6 x spare engines.(Rolls-Royce.com)

    On any given day a 100% fleet serviceability will allows the RMAF to have the 20 Hawk 108/208 available at the flight line with 6 spare engines. Unfortunately due to wear and tear, repair, overhaul, inspections and major maintenance there will be about 14 aircrafts at the flight line with 6 on repair, inspections and overhaul. That means 14 engines at the flight line and 12 engines can be used as spares. Also over the years the contract between RMAF and the Rolls Royce to provide repair, overhaul and supply of parts to keep the engine operational remains current which has cost Malaysian Government a sizable chunk also. And taking the cost of a new Mk 871 engine based on the Australian Government price about 4.55 million GBP pound., the cost to overhaul a Mk 871 engine should not be more than GBP 2 million pound. So let’s see if the RMAF has to overhaul 20 complete engines within 5 years it would cost 20 units x 2 million pound x RM 6 (inflated exchange rate) = RM 240 million. Let say the overhaul cost RM 3 million pound, the Malaysian Government has to pay RM 360 million. Leaving approximately RM 42 million of contract value. See now the layman thinking why military contracts are expensive?

    What makes this subject interesting is that the Adour MK 871 is a modular engine. It is a good engine and economical for the operator. The engines are broken to major modules and these major modules are overhaul at Rolls Royce in Eastkilbride Scotland, or Bristol in UK. The whole engine is never sent as a complete assembly for overhaul unless special case such investigation or special incident. That is why Malaysia has an Uninstalled Engine Test Facility or an Engine Test Cell in Kuantan Airbase (Rolls-Royce.com. The RMAF assemble and disassemble the Adour MK 871.

    What I would like to highlight here is that over the years the cost for the Adour Mk 871 repair, overhaul, inspection, technical services, spares and support should never exceed RM 60 million.

    So five years approximately RM 300 million only. So there should around RM 102 million left from the contract. So taking a flat commission rate of 5 percent from the total contract the Agent will be smiling at RM 20.1 million over the 5 years period, which translate to RM 4 million a year.

    This is based on commercial observation.

    Thank you.

    (The five-year contract covers the overhaul of the fleet of 26 Adour Mk871 engines, an annual training programme for RMAF engineers and the calibration, maintenance and re-certification of the Adour test bed located at the Kuantan Air Base. The RMAF will also be supported by an in-country technical representative and have access to the Rolls-Royce Operations Centre for 24/7 technical support).

    Marhalim: You must remember that the Government never signed directly with the OEM but it signed with a local agent, a Sdn Bhd company due to the equity (national interest) requirements. Of course those involved in these deal want to make as much money as possible, they need to have second, third and four wives, bungalows on top of a hill, vacation homes in London, Cayennes, Mercedes, Ferraris,Maserattis and such……and of course they need to pay the kind deeds…..

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