Will We?

Kuwait AF F/A-18C Hornet. USAF

SHAH ALAM: In the post yesterday, we know that Indonesia has bought twelve ex-Qatari Air Force Mirage 2000-5 for US$745 million (RM3.44 billion). The figure is about RM800 million short of our own buy of 18 brand new Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 FLIT/LCA.

So, the question here is whether we will spend some RM3.4 billion on a dozen or so of used fighter jets? The question is relevant as Malaysia has expressed interest in buying 33 ex-Kuwaiti Air Force Boeing F/A-18 Hornets.

Will the Kuwaiti Hornets costs as much as Qatari Mirages then? I have been told it will be much cheaper, but no figures have been bandied about.

I am guessing here but if the cost of purchasing and upgrading the Kuwaiti Hornets reached more than RM500 million, I do not think it will go ahead. The bean counters at the Finance Ministry and even RMAF will balk at spending so much money on a fleet of aircraft that will be 35 years old in ten years time. And it will cost a bomb to maintain them for that period.

As an example, the ministry cancelled the chance to buy the Brunei Black Hawks when it was revealed that we had to pay for them and after that the maintenance costs. The funny thing about this is now we are paying more money to lease four Black Hawks. That said its cheaper than leasing four AW139s.

In my opinion, rather than spending so much money on the Kuwaiti Hornets, it will better for RMAF to buy the second batch of FA-50s. What say you?

— Malaysian Defence

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47 Comments

  1. Yes, just buy 2nd batch of 18x FA50s along with cruise missiles, ASMs and AMRAAMs.

  2. Personally i would prefer to bring MRCA acquisition forward. But if that’s not an option then Fa50 is a fine choice.

    The classic hornets is capable but the fa50 is not too far behind.

  3. I understand that the FA50 block 20 is a capable aircraft and suits our needs, but I am abit concerned because it’s merely an LCA and not a heavyweight air superiority fighter the likes of the SU30 or F18.

    With the ongoing war in Ukraine, it seems unlikely that our flankers will soar the skies until the 2030-40 new MRCA timeline, and though it is a borderline crazy idea to even propose considering the unlikelihood of such an event, but what if Malaysia comes under attack during that time and all we have are the FA50 and small number of Hornets to defend and contest our airspace? Are the Golden Eagles capable of achieving air dominance in our own airspace? And let’s not drag our friends within the FPDA just yet, obviously if such an event did take place they will have to do the most work. Of course this is a hypothetical and fictitious situation but still, what if?

  4. Better get second batch of FA-50 and get few more additional missile like BrimStone and ASSRAM as MDBA to offer them to us during LIMA23.

  5. Assembling the F-50 locally is a very bad idea, it is going to be LCS air force version, and will ensure there will be no second batch for the F-50.

  6. If the MRCA will be delivered before 2040, yes, if a reasonable amount of Kuwait F-18s can be had for RM500m (e.g. 8 to 12). It will be a decent stop-gap measure if it allows for the retirement (partial or full) of the SU-30 – just to improve readiness and potentially reduce operating costs. As-is we say we have 18 SU-30, but how many are fit to fly? However, if the RMAF’s MRCA is delayed into 2040s (e.g. delivery in late 2040s), then just order more FA-50s today – since there is an outstanding requirement for another 18 jets anyway. No point attempting to fly the F-18s into the 2040s. Old is still old and the F-18s will be reaching half a century by the 2040s.

  7. TUDM purchasing Hornets (a hardware we already operate and familiar with) will always be much more cheaper than Indonesians buying Mirages (everything from training, support, spares etc to be done from scratch)

    The FA-50MY Block 20 with AESA, targeting pod and BVR missiles will still be much more capable than the old Mirages.

    If you compare Qatar Mirage and Kuwaiti Hornets, the Hornets are also of more capable with targeting pods and a much more advanced radar.

    Best case scenario
    – 20-30x F/A-18C/D ex Kuwait before 2026, 18x FA-50 batch 2 before 2030
    – 12x KF-21 batch 1 before 2035, 12x KF-21 batch 2 before 2040

    Realistic scenario
    – 18x FA-50 batch 2 before 2030 (USD 0.9 bil)
    – 12x KF-21 batch 1 before 2035 (USD 1 bil), 12x KF-21 batch 2 before 2040 (USD 1 bil)

  8. The Indonesian can always choose more f16 or FA50 block 20. Both are far more capable then the mirages while carrying significantly lower price tag. But that would put their AF highly reliance on US and thus would jeopardize their neutrality in foreign policy.

    KFX & TFX are also SK & Turks attempted to reduce US dependency & like the ID mirage’s it would carry higher cost with less capabilities then just getting a F35s. Since we had increased our reliance with FA50 block 20 & possible used hornet acquisition I don’t see why RMAF would wanted neither KFX or TFX.

    Speculation wise, RMAF MRCA 1st choice would be F35 or if it’s not politically favourable then GCAP.

  9. The only way I’d favor FA-50 as a natural replacement for F/A-18 is when the korean finished working on their single seat, improved F-50, complete with a brand new F414 engine

    It’s basically a Gripen E equivalent

  10. @ dundun

    FA-50 will not be a replacement of the Hornets, which will be replaced eventually with a 5th Gen MRCA.

    The FA-50 is a replacement for
    – mb339 and hawk for LIFT task
    – hawk for LCA duties
    – MiG-29 task of QRA and air policing.

    I am of the opinion that the FA-50 does not need a single seat version. The rear seat can be left empty if not needed, similar to how RAAF is using their F/A-18F super hornets. Yes the Aussies did not buy a single seat super hornet version.

  11. Zaft – “The classic hornets is capable but the fa50 is not too far behind”

    It’s 2023 not 1968 and the efficacy of any platform is measured by how it’s deployed; we’re in the systems centric era.

    Zaft -“KFX & TFX are also SK & Turks attempted to reduce US dependency”

    You are conflating things and making erroneous claims again. There are slightly different reasons behind why respective countries do what they do.

    Kel – “As-is we say we have 18 SU-30, but how many are fit to fly”

    Whether it’s a BF-109 or a F-22 at any one time a portion of a fleet will be in inoperable for whatever reason; whether squadron level or depot level maintenance.

    Laying posts in paragraphs rather then in a single blob makes it easier for others.

    NL – “Yes, getting another batch of FA-50 is a better option”

    There is no “better option”. LCAs will be good for detain operational circumstances but at times a MRCA will be needed. There is no one size fits all solution.

    … – “The‘ FA-50MY Block 20 with AESA, targeting pod and BVR missiles will still be much more capable than the old Mirages”

    That’s on a platform basis. Would a “ FA-50MY Block 20 with AESA” and a fully active operating on a platform level be more capable than an aged Mirage 2000 with a PESA and a semi active AAM but with a AEW in support? Nothing operates in a vacuum as you well know …

    Has the RMAF actually confirmed the “MY” destination

  12. are you sure about the price the indonesians paid ? seems a bit high for 2nd hand aircrafts. Wouldnt France sell them cheaper even without integrating them in the rafale deal ? agree with you fa50s are a better option.

  13. ID buy the ex Qatari AF include training, tools, spares and weaponary. The price tag is $734 Mio.
    How much will MY pay for the Kuwaiti hornets will depend also on that. We can not compare with ID experience because we don’t know the value of training, tools, spares, and weapons which ID Will get also.

    Latest news, the Kuwaiti is going to upgrade and use their hornets for years to come so we can say goodbye to them.

    Batch 2nd FA-50 is the only option RMAF has.

    Which one is better used Mirage or FA-50?
    I will say FA-50 is even better than F22 for rookie pilots training and policing.

  14. ” but with a AEW in support? Nothing operates in a vacuum as you well know … ”

    Currently both Indonesia and malaysia has no AEW.

    Indonesian government has approved foreign loan of up to usd800 million to buy 2 AEW aircraft. The contract needs to be signed by December 2024 or else the approval will expire.

    Why I would prefer the RMAF plan and budget to buy 12 brand new medium lift helicopters in RMK 13 2026-2030 to be used instead to get AEWs. RMAF should leave major heli ops to PUTD.

    As for the Indonesian Mirage 2000 deployment.

    It will be delivered to Indonesia 24 months from now. That means mid 2025. It would be deployed to Lanud Supadio, Pontianak, Kalimantan Barat. Basically a replacement for Hawk 209 currently based there. Pontianak is about 209km away from Kuching, Sarawak.

  15. Azlan
    “There is no “better option”. LCAs will be good for detain operational circumstances but at times a MRCA will be needed. There is no one size fits all solution”

    Low observable jet would eventually be needed but the question at hand now is the gap fillers between now & when a low observerble entered service.

  16. … -“Currently both Indonesia and malaysia has no AEW.”

    My comments were in general and no way were they related to Indonesia or Malaysia …

    Again, would a F/A-50 with a AESA and a fully active radar AAM be superior to a Mirage 2000 with a PESA and a semi active radar AAM? On paper the Mirage 2000 would be at a severe disadvantage but what if the Mirage 2000 had a height advantage or was networked to a ground radar? What if the F/A-50s AESA was degraded by EW? Nothing’s written in stone.

    … – “major heli ops”

    What pray tell does that mean? We’ve been through this before. The RMAF needs helis for mostly service centric tasks. Now whether or not it has a need for “X” helis is another matter and academic. For more than a decade certain rotary tastings have already been handed over to the Army Aviation Corps.

    By right all rotary assets should be in a “Joint Helicopter Command” like how all MALES eventually should be in a “Joint UAS Command” but way early days; haven’t reached that level of jointness yet.

    Zaft,

    Again. LCAs will be good for detain operational circumstances but at times a MRCA will be needed. There is no one size fits all solution.

    Self explanatory.

    Romeo – “I will say FA-50 is even better than F22 for rookie pilots training and policing”

    Naturally but the F/A-50 will do more then just “pilots training and policing” and questions overall about which is “better” have to be seen in context.

  17. Hulubalang:
    “Basically a replacement for Hawk 209 currently based there”…

    It is more than that. The used Mirage is really a stop gap for TNI.
    Their all latest F16 C/D need to be upgraded (viper standard) soon to keep them flying which will take years to complete. Their Sukhois are like ours which effected by Russia-Ukraine war. Getting Spare parts is harder. In 2026, they will rely on their newly upgraded old F16 A/B and not more than 6 units Rafale will be received in the same year.

    Azlan:
    “the F/A-50 will do more then just “pilots training and policing”

    They will, the other option RMAF has is the hornet (MKM?). They are only 8 units and sadly to say that the Kuwaiti will keep theirs.
    RMAF really need a new 4.5 gen MRCA. Looking at RTAF and ID experiences, They all rejected by the US to get F35 due to their lack of experience and facility. They all asked to get 4.5 gen first.

  18. Per plane the legacy Hornets still outperforms LCA so its a matter of choosing between capability or sustainability.
    If we want something that could still take on future adversaries but will need to be replace sooner than later, get the Hornets.
    If we want something we can maintain and use long term but cannot go head to head versus future fighters, get more LCAs.
    The LCA tasking aren’t really a match or replacement for the Hornet & MKM duties so comparison for both are moot.
    Personally, why even talk about 33 Hornets, when we only have 8 on hand? We should only get 8-10 that we needed and pay far less than for the entire fleet. RM 150mil is far more palatable than RM 2.4Bil.

  19. Romeo – “RMAF really need a new 4.5 gen MRCA”

    It needs various things that’s the problem but certain things have to wait. We’re doing things belatedly and in small numbers.
    The downside is that even if we got F-35s: until or unless we get a AEW platform we will be unable to fully exploit albums he capabilities on offer.

    Romeo – “They all rejected by the US to get F35 due to their lack of experience”

    Yes. Wasn’t because of security issues as others pointed out in a different thread; was because of a variety of reasons. Countries normally request to acquire something and see whether export approval is granted.

  20. The decision to sells f35 to foreign countries at the end of the day is a political consideration by the US senate & thus there’s a long list of reasons why they would or won’t want to sells it & even if they would sells it, they would likely comes with a long list of demands from the host country and some of those demands may go beyond military matter and into politics & economics factor as well.

    Personally I am not surprised that US rejected ID & TH request to purchase F35s. Its not in the US best interest to sells it to them at this point in times or in the near future.

  21. As explained before by others. US will only sell F-35 to countries where 1) It deems the risk of the technology (and the plane) falling into the hands of the wrong countries is low. 2) Will not sell to a country that it deems lack the financial ability to maintain the the F-35. 3) Will not sell to countries having certain Russian and / or China military equipment. In other words, there are maturity, financial ability, and alignment considerations when deciding if a country is allowed to buy the F-35. In the region, only Singapore has demonstrated maturity (professional and well run defence force able to protect the F-35’s secrets), financial ability (able to sustain the F-35 fleet properly), and is aligned to the US militarily (does not operate Russian or Chinese military equipment). For example, financially, each F-35 pilot’s helmet is custom fitted – cannot be shared. Each helmet costs at least US$400,000 to make which is RM1.8million. If each year Malaysia qualifies 3 pilots to fly the F-35, over a 5-year period it will need to spend RM27 million for 15 customised helmets. Multiply the requirement to a 36 plane buy (i.e. 2x MRCA squadrons), operating over 30-years. That’s a lot of money just for helmets (e.g., RM270m over 30-years at a rate of 5 new helmets a year). Its not all conspiracy theories.

  22. Why are we worrying about F35 it’s not like we’re buying one anyway. Besides by the time we’re looking for MKM/hornet replacement there are other 5th gen aircraft to select, from KFX to TFX to even Swedish Gripen replacement

  23. Kel – “is aligned to the US militarily (does not operate Russian or Chinese military equipment”

    It’s the only regional military which can operate at a certain level with the U.S. military but it’s not “”aligned” per see… Officially Singapore is not even an American “ally”.

    Kel – “That’s a lot of money just for helmets”

    Well we’ve reached a stage where the cost of everything has risen. Modern fighters have more electronics which in turn require test support equipment and a higher level of skilled manpower; all equates to increased costs …Nothing is cheap anymore.

    Paragraphs. Not hard.

    Zaft – “Personally I am not surprised that US rejected ID & TH request to purchase F35s. Its not in the US best interest to sells it to them at this point in times or in the near future”. You realise that for many years

    Nonsense. Why would it not be in American interests? There are reasons but not the one you think it is. You realise why Venezuela for many years was the only South American country cleared for F-16As/Bs. Ask yourself why.

  24. @dundun

    Because our hornet would reach 30 years old in 5 years times and F35 is the most cost & operational effective answers compared to more old hornet or FA50.

    Another reason is because our main security patner is OZ and having the same jet as OZ which allows OZ to forward base their jet here without much difficulty increase the deterrence factor for us

  25. Azlan
    “Officially Singapore is not even an American “ally”.”

    Officially SG is not an American ally while TH is a major non NATO aliies. But in reality SG get to purchase F35s While TH couldn’t.

    What’s written on paper is as valuable as the paper it’s printed on. Afterall There’s are no permanent friends or enemies only permanent interest.

    “Nonsense. Why would it not be in American interests? There are reasons but not the one you think it is. You realise why Venezuela for many years was the only South American country cleared for F-16As/Bs. Ask yourself why.”

    The American renegade on the emiratis F35s deal sighting Huawei as a reason. At the end of the day the decision to sell or not is a political one made by the US capitol & not the pantagon.

    There’s are no good reason for US to allow countries to eat their cakes & eat it too by having both strong economics relationship with China but also strong security relationship with the US. Eventually as LHL said one would eventually have to choose between the two. But hopefully as he continues not anytime soon.

  26. “Why would it not be in American interests?”
    Uncle Sam had used the F35 sale as a political club before. The approval and later cancellation of the F35 to Turkey is an example. Thai Junta is proving to be unpopular with the powers in USA and they cannot be seen to support them so USA is taking a wait & see approach. ID is not a traditional USA ally and have been embargoed before which they then turn to Russian weapons. Uncle Sam is more than happy to sell them older legacy planes whilst not risking to compromise its secrets to a higher bidder.

    @Zaft
    “having the same jet as OZ which allows OZ to forward base their jet here”
    We don’t need to have the same planes and equipment as them for RAAF to base it here. The Poseidon is regularly in Butterworth and used there despite us not having the same plane.

  27. @joe

    They had operated their F35s here previously. But for a high tempo operations it would safe a lot of time & money if theres existing infrastructure, facilities,technicians, spare parts & so on locally here so they don’t have to send their birds back & then comes back here.

  28. From the time Sukarno was overthrown and Indonesia severed ties with China; it has always been cultivated by the U.S.; went in hand with Cold War dynamics/politics then. The extent of how close the 2 countries became was determined by Indonesia not the U.S. which was ever willing to take things to the next step.

    Fast forward to 2023 the U.S. seeks good ties with Indonesia as a means of further reinforcing its presence in the region in the face of an increasingly assertive and more powerful China.
    I have no idea if Indonesia has even made a formal request for the F-35 but approval will be based on a variety of factors; not just security related ones. I’m aware that arms sales are an extension of one’s foreign policy but thank you guys …

  29. Didnt SG helped funded f35 development? maybe Thats why they can get the f35 and not ID or thai or even us..Back when the f35 still with codename join strike fighter,JSF with sg flag on f35 prototype?..Granted Turkiye also presumably helped the f35 development but then they bought S400 which ofcourse doesnt sit well with whitehouse..

  30. In all terms and condition apply when buying US product to the extent user need US permission to use it in conflict.

    F35 is fully networked platform so all the jet ability can be exploited. This is ID and TH case. MY will face the same rejection if trying to get F35 today. Building a networking environment is a must before buying any gen 5 fighter. MY is rather slow in this, so when F35 is available to be sold for “friends of US” we still have problem to buy it.

    Looking at ID massive procurements, they not just buying platform, they are building a network defence system’ too.

    Azlan:
    “The extent of how close the 2 countries became was determined by Indonesia not the U.S. which was ever willing to take things to the next step”

    Lack of trust. ID feels US has “betrayed” them not just once. The 1999 embargoed is not the first time.

  31. It really is more of how Indonesia wants to define its position and role globally. Do not see Indonesia as a regional power because it is on the path to play globally. 4th most populous country, in the top 20 largest economy. If Indonesia seeks to position itself as a champion of non-alignment and neutrality, it will play both sides (US and China) and buy equipment from all suppliers (Russia, China, US). Then it will not get the F35 or 6th gen US fighters. But from the choices they have been making lately, seems clear where their preference lies with. Or maybe they are just copying the Singapore model.

  32. @Firdaus
    “Didnt SG helped funded f35 development?”
    I believe no. Developer nations gets 1st picks to buy, funders gets 2nd priority, but SG buys were very late and they bought less than a handful before putting a 2nd buy, so I doubt they had ever funded it. The reason why they could buy while ID & TH could not is simply because they are close Uncle Sam and Israel allies.

  33. F35 is currently the only VLO jet with sensor fusion available anywhere. The only jet in the making that would comes close to F35 is the GCAP & that’s would only be available from 12 in the future & would only be competent in 22 years times. Meanwhile TFX,KFX & J20 while being low observerble doesn’t have sensor fusion.

    Thus in marketing terms, whole everything has a price the F35s sit in a seller market categories & thus US can pick any price (in term of dollars or favor) they wanted. Thus in ID & TH case it’s not that the US rejected their offers to buy but rather the purchased price (in favor & policy) that the US is asking is likely too steep for them. For example. In UAE case abandoning economics relationship with PRC by banning Huawei is a price too steep for them.

    Its likely the same for us, it’s not that we like TH & ID would get an automatic denial but rather what would the asking price be? is too steep? & would we be desperate enough and still willingly pays for it?

  34. Romeo – “F35 is fully networked platform so all the jet ability can be exploited”

    All come contemporary combat platforms are intended to be operated at a systems level in order to fully exploit their capabilities.

    Romeo – “Lack of trust. ID feels US has “betrayed” them not just once”

    Was much more than that. Internal politics; the prevailing geo political environment; non alignment; etc, all played a part

    Keil – “Or maybe they are just copying the Singapore model”

    Find it hard to see how you reached this conclusion given the many dissimilarities.

    Kel – “Do not see Indonesia as a regional power because it is on the path to play globally”

    Before it becomes a global player it has to be a regional one and it’s too early days. Ambition is one thing; ability something very different. Indonesia has inherent issues which aren’t going away anytime soon; at one time Brazil was set to be a global player.

    Paragraphs makes it easier for others to read.

    Zaft – “Its likely the same for us, it’s not that we like TH & ID would get an automatic denial but rather what would the asking price be”

    The “asking price” would be host of issues; namely our ability to operate it; not to cut corners or compromise with issues or security; etc. To buy anything; whether a fighter or a missile system would entail us meeting various criteria.

  35. We have 18 su30mkm and upgrade it to super sukhoi standard.
    IAF already starting doing it.
    Same time RMAF can make changes to hardware during upgrade since IN have 1their preference as same with us.
    Technical expertise, cost and others can be worked out both parties.
    On Top of that,we can ask IN to built additional 18 su30 frm them probably with Palm Oil as payment.
    MY have option to upgrade to NG Bramos in future.
    This would save MY frm cost, time and etc until we move to 5/6 gen fighter.
    So Ka50 could perform LCA job function.
    Just my 2 cent lol

  36. What they can do is… Sell/pass their used flankers to us and they build new ones for themselves as a replacement.

    Payment could also be in the form bartering of overhauls for IAF C-130J in Malaysia.

    On missiles for MKM, i would prefer integrating NSM or Roketsan SOM standoff cruise missiles rather than Brahmos.

  37. Nor sell them to another customer without Russian agreement. An arrangement like the ones we have with Russia. Furthermore, why should RMAF accept a Flanker variant which is older than ours?

  38. Given the political situation I really doubt we’d be willing to obtain any Russian kit; even if it was obtained via a 3rd party or produced under license by a 3rd party. There is also the pertinent question of whether at this stage – due to certain factors – the RMAF would want any more Flankers.

    As far as upgrades go; unless something changes; the intention is merely to keep the fleet flying/operational until it can be retired.

    The most practical/pragmatic solution would be to just focus on the follow on batch of F/A-50s under the next Malaysia Plan.

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