58 And Wanting

Will the 58th Air Force Day see the full retirement of the MiG-29N?

2016 has seen the Royal Malaysian Air Force lose two of its valuable assets – a CN235 transport aircraft, and a MB-339CM lead-in fighter trainer. To top that, there is still no announcement of a stop-gap measure to replace the MiG-29N.

The shortfall is very noticeable especially among observers whom have noted that in regional exercises, the RMAF would normally commit four fighters per squadron while a neighbour could easily muster ten.

The Royal Malaysian Navy has recently embarked on its Littoral Combat Ship program. This has been a long-awaited program given that China has forward bases in the Spratlys after reclaiming some 1,170 hectares. Commercial aircraft have been landing at the airstrips built there, we know what those airstrips are able to handle.

The Falklands War of 1982 and the Force ‘Z’ disaster closer to home on 10th December 1941 are poignant reminders that air superiority and the element of surprise are critical in modern air and naval warfare. Without the MiG-29s or their replacements force projection is somewhat limited. Maritime Patrol Aircraft play an important role in locating   enemy surface assets, while airborne tankers will allow air assets to have longer loiter and patrol capabilities. As written in a previous article an Airborne Early Warning system would also help the RMAF to “see beyond” what it currently could. The RMAF has been in want of AEW assets since the 1980s, a dream yet to be fulfilled.

Also important would be a mobile radar in the Peninsular with at least three in Sabah and Sarawak would enhance our air defence capabilities. Passive radar system would also enhance aircraft identification process.

Importantly everything should be at a minimum operational and combat readiness level of seventy percent. And this number should include the spares we need to run these systems.

The RMAF has very good and skilled human assets but without the tools needed to make the organisation combat-effective. Again, it is hoped that the government can pay serious attention to the needs of the Armed Forces – the RMAF in particular. A stop-gap measure with over 70 percent operational and combat readiness is what the government needs to assist the RMAF with.

Only then the RMAF would truly be “Sentiasa Di Angkasaraya.”

Happy 58th Anniversary, RMAF. We hope your dreams will soon come true.