Defence: The Brave Die But Once

It is a sad day for the nation. We lost two Ops Daulat heroes, Major Mohd Hasri Zahari RMAF, and Major Yazmi Mohamed Yusof RMAF.  The nation mourns for them.  What happened to them 21 minutes into their flight, 60 kilometers North Northeast from the Kuantan Air Base will not be known until the Board that has been set up to investigate this incident comes out with its final report.

Details are sketchy.  The pair took off at 11.09am and communications was lost at 11.30am.  They were said to be performing a Functional Check Flight, which requires a rather complex form of flight manouvers depending on the function that needs to be tested.  For example, an aircraft that has recently had an engine change will need a specific profile for that Functional Check Flight.

If it was a Functional Check Flight, the crew would have had a checklist that they needed to follow.  They would record their findings according to each of the item, in sequential order, given in the checklist for them to perform before signing off upon completion of the Functional Check Flight.

Something must have happened in the midst of the flight that only the Board would be able to deduce after gathering all the facts.

Officers and men (and women) of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, like in the other services, are paid to die if necessary.  When they step into the aircraft, no matter how well they are maintained, there is that nagging little part in their mind that knows that there is a chance that they might not come back alive.  Just as we drive to work every day.  When we leave home, how sure are we that we will get to see our family again?  But the pilots knew what was expected of them when they applied to join His Majesty’s Armed Forces.  We, as Malaysians, know that these two would die for anything as long as others may live. My only grouse is, every time something like this happens, instant “experts” flood the Internet with baseless accusations and theories.

THEORY NO.1 – LIKE MH370 THE RMAF RADAR PEOPLE ARE SLEEPING AGAIN, THAT IS WHY THE AIRCRAFT IS STILL MISSING

For those who still think that radar covers everything that is above the surface of the Earth, please have someone swing a baseball bat at your head – repeatedly.  Radar only covers some 15 percent of the surface of the Earth.  The Air Defence people did not sleep that night when the MH370 went missing.  They saw where it went until the aircraft went out of radar coverage.  You can read more about it here. The details of the flight may have changed a bit as we have learnt much more about what happened at night, but the RMAF was spot on with its procedures.

In the case of the missing BAe Hawk 108 aircraft, you must first know how radar works.  The radar transmits a radio beam which bounces off a flying object, and the beam that is bounced back is received by the radar’s receiver.  This is then translated as an image on the radar screen for the operator to see.

I explained a bit more early this month on how the RMAF Air Defence radar works.  Please read about it here.

The Hawk went down.  Which means it no longer reflected any beam for the radar receiver to receive.  How can there be any image showing on the screen?  So based on the last seen position, a search-and-rescue team was dispatched by helicopter to the last known location of the missing Hawk.  They found the bodies of the pilot but not the aircraft.  This I shall answer in…

THEORY NO.2 – THE HAWK IS MISSING BECAUSE THE RMAF DOES NOT KNOW WHERE IT IS

This is the obvious, actually.  If the RMAF know where the aircraft is, this theory of your would be academic.  But no.  If you expect to find a wreckage that is almost intact, think again.

In 1996, ValuJet Flight 592 fell out of the sky after taking off from Miami and disappeared in the Everglades.  The DC-9 aircraft with 110 on board was shredded into pieces by the impact.  It took months before they could retrieve as many pieces of the wreckage that could be found.

In 1993, an RMAF PC-7 crashed into a paddy field in Perlis.  The PC-7 is a much slower aircraft compared to the Hawk.  When I arrived at the scene, it too was shredded into pieces.  Nothing that resembled an aircraft could be seen.  We found the engine a couple of days later buried 12 meters deep in the soft paddy field.

The ground where the Hawk is said to have gone missing is a secondary jungle that is swampy in nature.  The wreckage could be in there somewhere. All we need to find is the impact point.  This may also be related to Theory No.4.  But that is for later.

THEORY NO.3 – THE HAWK IS AN OLD JUNK

How old is old for an aircraft?

I shall not compare military aircraft to civilian airliners.  I shall not even compare the Hawk to the C-130H that we have been operating since 1976.  They conduct different missions and face different kind of airframe stresses.  However, be mindful that the Royal New Zealand Air Force operates C-130s that are more than 50 years old.  Older than I am, in fact.

I will then compare the Hawk to another aircraft that probably faces even greater airframe stresses – the F-16A.  The United States Air Force retired its F-16s that entered service in 1979 only five years ago.  Therefore they were in service for 33 years!  The Hawk has been in service in the RMAF for 22 years now.  The USAF has over 5,000 aircraft and the average age of 25 years!  The Republic of Singapore Air Force only retired its A-4SU after 31 years in service.  In fact, our F-5Es entered service in 1975 and was only retired in 2015 the same year the RSAF retired its F-5Ss after 36 years!  Was it old?  Ask a Tiger-driver how superb the F-5 was as it was retired.  Only the avionics could be considered old.

THEORY NO.4 – WHY DIDN’T THEIR CHUTES OPEN? DON’T THEY HAVE EJECTION SEATS?

The bodies were found 20 meters from each other.  An eyewitness said that she saw both men with their chute deployed.  I don’t know how credible this eyewitness is.  I hope that she is not as credible as the makcik who said she saw the MH370 somewhere in the North Andaman Sea from 40,000 feet.

Truth be told, I am sure that the top brass are as equally perplexed as I am.  That is why they have convened a Board to investigate this.

Could they have ejected?  Perhaps.  I can only think of them being too low and were in a full dive when they did so.  Back i the 1980s, an Aermacchi MB-339A that was performing aerobatics went into a dive.  The air crew ejected but they were too low and the orientation of the aircraft was not one in which they could have ejected safely.  At least one of the air crew wen through the wall of a house.

Being in full dive would also explain the missing aircraft as it could be in shreds with a large portion of it down in the swampy ground.  I can only speculate here and I hate to speculate.

So, let us just let the RMAF conduct their investigation and we get on with our daily lives, can we?  And in the meantime, let us offer our heroes some prayers, and pray that the family they have left behind be given the strength to face the dark days ahead until light comes shining back into their life.

And stop hiding behind user names and keyboards while hitting out at the RMAF over this incident.  Cowards will die many times while the brave die but once.

In A Way, It Is A Great Aidil Fitri

One after another tragedy befell us. 2014 struck us as annus horribilis. Our faith in the capability of this nation was tested again and again, and at times for many it seemed as if we are the laughing stock of the world.

One man surprised me: Najib Razak. I for one did not think that he would be able to keep his head above the turbid waters created by the MH17 incident where world powers and their allies were already showing fists to each other, while Malaysia looked helpless in the middle. Out of nowhere, Najib appeared on television screens almost worldwide, announcing that Malaysia had secured the two black boxes, the bodies retrieved, and unlimited access to the crash sites. And it seemed for a long second, everyone in the world paused and wondered how could this nothing nation secure such a deal?

I have always maintained that if the parties involved in the conflict are eager to prove their innocence, they should cooperate. That was exactly what Alexander Borodai did. Malaysia did not care for the conflict. All Malaysia want is to be able to send back fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, sons and daughters back to their loved ones; therefore it was important for Malaysia to speak to who seems to be in-charge of the area and situation, not necessarily recognising who is who in Eastern Ukraine.

A simple but decisive stroke of diplomacy by the least expected nation’s Prime Minister has brought about all but a final closure to the MH17 episode. Najib Razak, in my eyes, has proven himself a worthy leader, a diplomat to be respected. As for MH370, search will recommence next month earliest, and we hope to have good news from that as well although it may seem all but futile.

At least, in the case of MH17, Malaysians can have a great albeit sombre Aidil Fitri. At least we know they will be coming back. And we pray the same for those on board the MH370.

Dato’ Seri Najib, I thank you and seek your forgiveness for not having faith in your handling of the MH17 tragedy. Not only have you proven that I was wrong about you, you went on to prove you are far better than the leaders of the developed nations.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

The Knee Is The Limit

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Every time a crisis hits Malaysia, the knee seems to be the limit of many, not just in Malaysia, but also around the world. Therefore, in just four months, we see more brain-in-the-knee experts rear their empty ugly skull. While in the MH370 tragedy, I personally knew one person on board, I know two people who have lost family members on board the MH17 – one lost five family members, the other lost six. As usual, many keyboard experts would put the blame on the pilot who strayed from the intended flight path because he was fasting; on Malaysia Airlines for allowing MH17 to fly into a “Red Zone” when other airlines skirted the area; and some even concluded that the aircraft, registration 9M-MRD, broke apart in mid-air because of poor maintenance. Before I begin, let me congratulate DAP Member of Parliament, Nga Kor Ming, for having made it to the “Idiots of the Year” list, two years in a row for posting this:

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Let us go through the items one-by-one:

Was MH17 Flying Through A No-Fly Zone?

No.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has confirmed that that particular airway (much like our highways on ground) was a safe route. In fact, when during a PC by the Malaysian Transport Minister it was mentioned that Malaysia Airlines no longer flies that airway because the airway has now been closed, the ICAO refuted this saying the airway is still open. However, the agency that is diverting flights away from East Ukraine is Eurocontrol, the airspace management agency for Europe. Prior to the incident, the Ukrainian agency for airspace management cleared any flight to fly above 32,000 feet. When MH17 was shot down, she was flying at a supposedly safe altitude of 33,000 feet.

There was a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued but does not cover the area the MH17 was flying through.

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Therefore, the area was never a “No-Fly Zone.”

MAS Pilots Are Irresponsible As They Fly According To Their Whims And Fancies

Pilots do not fly according to their whims and fancies and like the roads you drive on, similarly there are airways above where the police watches you on every road and passes you to another policeman to watch you when you leave one road to enter another. The police would even tell you at what speeds are you allowed to fly and at what height. Every flight would require an approved flight plan. This flight plan is then submitted by the airline’s flight operations department or equivalent to the airspace management organisation which in the case of Amsterdam, falls under Eurocontrol which will then coordinate with the various Flight Information Regions to seek approval from them for MH17 to fly through. Once approved, the pilots would study the approved flight plan, concur with it, punch it into their flight management system and fly according to the plan save for some minor variations due to traffic or weather.

This is hardly the kiasu driving you undertake when you drive your girlfriend inside your mom’s car.

MAS Is Irresponsible For Allowing MH17 To Fly Into A No-Fly Zone/Zone of Conflict

Firstly, it was not a No-Fly Zone as explained above. Secondly, that has always been the route taken by most airlines going to northwestern Europe from most of Asia and vice versa. The only thing that has changed is the conflict that is taking place in the Donetsk region.

Yes, Ukrainian MILITARY aircraft have been shot down there prior to the downing of the MH17. I placed emphasis on the word MILITARY. All were shot down using the IGLA MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defence System) – in short, a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile. This system can reach an altitude of 6,000 meters (19,700 feet). So, aircraft flying at 6,100 meters (20,000 feet) and above are generally safe. The Ukrainian authorities even added another 12,000 feet safety buffer by creating a minimum altitude of 32,000 feet. The MH17 was flying at 33,000 feet.

MAS Is Irresponsible For Not Redirecting Flights Away From Ukraine Like Other Airlines Have Including Singapore Airlines and QANTAS

Oh, really?

Where was the danger?

Let me show you the airlines that flew over Ukraine over the week preceding the downing of the MH17:

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See if Singapore Airlines is not in the list. In fact, a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 was just 25km away from the MH17. They were lucky, we were not:

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So, why are some Asian airlines not in the list?

This is how you view the Earth:

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Unfortunately, this is how Earth looks like (without the stand):

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Routes are derived from the shortest path calculated using the Great Circle Line. This is Navigation 101 for Idiots. Which is why some northeastern Asian flights miss Ukraine totally to get to northwestern Europe, unlike those from Southeast Asia INCLUDING SINGAPORE AIRLINES.

Oh, what about QANTAS coming from down under?

Oh, yes. QANTAS mentioned that it has avoided Ukrainian airspace for months. In fact, since April 2013! This is because QANTAS, according to the Sydney Morning Herald in January 2013, has stopped flying the Great Kangaroo Route. This means that QANTAS Flight QF1 no longer flies to London Heathrow. Instead, QANTAS flies its passengers wanting to go to Europe through its code-sharing partners in Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Dubai etc through the Star Alliance and One World Alliance that MAS is a member of.

No biggie there as to why QANTAS is so safe now, is there?

The Russian Separatists Shot MH17 Down, Even The US Says So

Really?

No one knows right now who shot the flight down and using what weapon system. The biggest suspect now is the BUK M-1 medium-range surface-to-air system that both Russia and Ukraine have. It is not a system that you can just plug-and-play upon purchase as extensive training has to be given in order to effectively use this system. That pretty much rules out the Separatists. That leaves us with Ukraine and Russia.

Russia, already pressured by the West for Simferopol, Crimea and Donetsk, and its opposition to the Ukraine wanting a NATO membership, has a lot to lose by allowing the shooting down of the MH17. In 2012, while global arms sales by the top 10 defence companies shrunk by 4.3 percent, Russia’s increased by a whopping 28 percent. With Malaysia seeking for multi-role combat aircraft to replace the MiG-29N, Russia has a lot to lose.

Ukraine meanwhile has a lot to gain from this if you look at this from another angle. It would receive the recognition it would want from the world in its fight against the Donetsk separatists, and get all the international backing to apply pressure against the Russians.

So, what about the US of A being sure that all evidences that have yet to be obtained point to Russia?

Remember the Iraqi WMDs?

I leave that to your imagination, as long as your brain is not where the top X-Ray image shows it to be.

Meanwhile, stop bashing Malaysia Airlines and grow up!

MH370: Trial By Media

Ever since the disappearance of flight MH370, Malaysia has come under intense flak and have been accused of not being forthcoming nor transparent with information related to the search for and investigation into the flight.

As we all know, the disappearance of the 370 is unprecedented. In past incidents, demands flow when planes are hijacked; debris is found at crash sites. In this incident, we still don’t know how flight MH370 ended, and we can only guess where the plane might be. A coalition of nations is now searching for the airplane, and numerous false alarms have emitted from the search teams, but somehow Malaysia foots the blame for all that.

We cannot be filling in the information gap with fantasies that would lead to even worse form of speculation, but somehow the media, a foreign one in particular, is not contented with what has been presented to them thus far. This particular media even compared the lack of flow of information in the 370’s case with that of the Asiana crash at the San Francisco airport (SFO). Whether or not ethical reporting or common sense are present in that organisation, you cannot compare the 370 to the Asiana crash. Of course information was in abundance in the latter but it is only because it crashed at the airport. In the 370’s, we do not even know where it went down, let alone how! However, it would be futile to argue about ethics with a media organisation that could even fill in the information gap with absurd theories such as the Black Hole and the existence of another Bermuda Triangle.

The hunger for ratings and sensational news gets the best of this organisation. A month after the disappearance, it ran a story to suggest that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) had scrambled fighters at 8am on 8th March 2014 to search for the missing airplane. I did a quick check with friends in the RMAF and they denied that fighters were scrambled. This is reinforced by categorical official denials by the Minister of Defence as well as by the RMAF itself.

This media then even suggested that the 370 flew at 4,000 feet to evade military radar near Pulau Perak only to re-appear 120 nautical miles away heading north-northwest. I hope that this media organisation realise that the USAF has spent trillions of US Dollars to acquire stealth aircraft such as the B-2, F-117 and the F-22. If a Boeing 777 could evade from military radar then the USAF was suckered into spending so much when they could have had a much cheaper solution in the 777.

Every time there is a press conference, although the information given, if at all available, is always about the search and rescue effort. However, all the questions posed by journos are about finding out who is to be blamed for the 370’s disappearance. More than twice that I have heard a journalist asking the CEO of Malaysia Airlines, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, if he would resign. Had the journalists done their homework, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon only left Air France in 2011, two years after the Flight 447 tragedy, and only because of the merger between Air France and KLM.

In other incidents, airlines capped the duration of assistance rendered to the families affected by an aircrash to only one week. This has been more than a month yet MAS is still supporting the families. I am disgusted with people who are so thankless towards MAS despite the fact.

The media should know better that this plane is still missing and not a lot is known about it. As such, information may be scarce and not free-flowing. If there is nothing to be reported, then don’t report or speculate. You won’t do justice to the passenger, crew and their family members. There are other pressing issues that could be covered such as Crimea, the Rohingyas. Running down a country just because it hasn’t given you the information needed to increase your ratings certainly shows your immaturity and malicious intent.

MH 370: Is It Fair To Blame Malaysia By Saying She Was Slow To React?

Prologue

On Sunday, 23rd Monday, 24th March 2014, the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that based on the findings of the UK-based Aircraft Accidents Investigations Board it was concluded that the flight of the MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

This was met by heavy criticism in particular by families and relatives of the passengers who are in Beijing. This is understandable. As humans, we always cling on whatever glimmer of hope there is that our loved ones will somehow appear unscathed. I went through this when my brother passed away three months ago. I kept thinking that this was all a bad dream and that I would wake up to my brother’s jokes, laughter and hugs again. However, such hope should be balanced with situational logic – the acceptance of reality and that should help overcome the pathological grief a person would have. The sooner one accepts reality, the sooner the trauma will heal.

This pathological grief will get prolonged not only if one refuses to accept reality, but also by irresponsible acts to promote hope. Hope is the act of prolonging the arrival of the inevitable. I will here chide the opposition parliamentarians who call upon the government to provide physical proof that the MH370 had indeed crashed. May I just forcefully drag everyone to the reality that the aircraft cannot fly for 19 days; based on the Doppler effect triangulation the last possible location of the aircraft points to the extremely unforgiving southern Indian Ocean. If anyone, just any one person could survive the extremities of the whole situation, then let us just call that a bonus from God. While hope is good to a certain extent, my only hope is for the black boxes to be located before the batteries run out.

The search for debris is not going to be an easy task even on a normal day. Australia’s Prime Minister has described it as “looking for a needle in a haystack, but having to find the haystack first.” I would take that a step farther by saying it is like looking for hundreds of pieces of one single needle in a haystack that has yet to be found. How is that as a perspective? Now add nine-metre waves with lots and lots of whitecaps into the equation.

I take offence at a statement by representatives of the families in Beijing, as well as members of the foreign media, AND the Quislings amongst us here in Malaysia that we (Malaysia and its military) have murdered the passengers and crew, and that we have either been hiding or not been forthcoming with information or both. Malaysia has been providing all information pertaining to this incident on a daily basis, and even to the extent of sharing sensitive military data that has jeopardised its defence just so to render search and rescue efforts more effective. With the information made available to me as well as by Andak Jauhar’s analysis of the MH370 incident I shall draw a timeline so readers would understand why was the SAR conducted in the South China Sea, when exactly was SAR expanded to the west of Peninsular Malaysia, and how fast did information flow in. All times quoted in this timeline is Malaysian time (UTC +8):

08 March 2014

0041 – MH370 took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 227 passengers and 12 crew members bound for Beijing with an endurance of approximately eight hours.

0107 – the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) made its last transmission on the aircraft’s performance. All systems were running as per normal. Next transmission was due at 0137 hours.

0119 – a person believed to be the co-pilot acknowledged the handing over of the MH370 from Malaysia’s Flight Information Region (FIR) to Vietnam’s FIR. His last words were, “Alright, goodnight.”

0121 – the secondary radar at Subang’s Air Traffic Control centre lost contact with the MH370 over waypoint IGARI at 06.5515N 103.3443E, after a deliberate act of turning off the transponder as well as other communications equipment. The aircraft was then at 35,000 feet above sea level. However, the aircraft continues to be tracked by the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) primary radar and had its flight path towards waypoint VAMPI monitored and recorded by RMAF’s Air Defence Centres.

0215 – RMAF’s primary radar consistently monitored the path of the MH370 from waypoints VAMPI, GIVAL before finally losing track of it after waypoint IGREX while flying at 29,500 feet above sea level.

As a Contracting State to the ICAO Convention of 1944, Malaysia assumed the role of the Rescue Coordination Centre under Annex 12 of the Convention for the MH370 Search and Rescue efforts because the MH370 had yet to enter Vietnamese FIR control (its radar had not detected the MH370 yet when she changed her flight path). Based on sightings of debris, the Search and Rescue efforts concentrated at its last known position near waypoint IGARI.

0630 – MH370 was to have arrived in Beijing.

0811 – the last handshake between the MH370’s navigation system and an INMARSAT satellite was made.

1017 – Rear Admiral Ngo Van Phat of the Vietnamese Navy announced that the MH370 may have crashed about 153 nautical miles (300km) from Tho Chu island, near Ca Mau. This statement was carried by Tuoi Tre News and was subsequently picked up and released by Reuters at 1302 hours, sending SAR assets into the area.

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1730 – based on the flight path monitored by the RMAF, the SAR effort was also expanded into the Strait of Malacca.

09 March 2014

– search around Tho Chu island failed to yield anything.

– the SAR efforts were expanded into the Andaman Sea. The RMAF’s sensitive radar data recordings have been shared with the SAR authorities.

10 March 2014

1343 – Vietnamese news agency Tuoi Tre reported that a passing aircraft from Singapore spotted an orange object possibly a liferaft or a lifejacket 177km northwest of Tho Chu island. SAR assets deployed later identified this object as a cable wrap.

11 March 2014

The Malaysian Chief of Air Force issued a press statement refuting a report by the Malaysian daily Berita Harian that quoted him as supposedly saying the aircraft had flown towards Pulau Perak.

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12 March 2014

The official website of the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defence of China (SASTIND) showed pictures of three objects spotted in the South China Sea believed to be related to the MH370.  These photos were then shown to the public by the China Central Television (CCTV), Xinhua News Agency, CNN, BBC and also by other foreign news agencies.  According to SASTIND, these images were taken at latitude 6.7N 105.65E at 11.00am on 9th March 2014.

SASTIND website showing debris thought to be related to the MH370
SASTIND website showing debris thought to be related to the MH370

Hence, SAR assets were again sent to verify the findings which we now know were false sightings, but not before more time and concentration of vital resources have been wasted.

14 March 2014

– search was expanded into the Indian Ocean.

15 March 2014

The Malaysian Prime Minister announced that the object tracked by the RMAF’s primary radar was indeed the MH370. This conclusion was made based on processed data acquired from INMARSAT and concurred by the FAA, NSTB, AAIB and the Malaysian authorities.

20 March 2014

The Australian Prime Minister announced satellite images showing large debris in the southern Indian Ocean. The image was taken four days earlier.

22 March 2014

The Chinese government announced that its satellite had found debris in the southern Indian Ocean. That image too was taken four days prior to the announcement.

24 March 2014

The Prime Minister of Malaysia announced that based on triangulation of handshakes between the MH370 and satellites, the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

The rest is academic.

Epilogue

The timeline displayed above shows how Malaysia has, from Day One, been moving as fast as it could to get to the correct pointers only to be side-tracked by false and unverified sightings.  Malaysia has also been sharing everything, and literally everything including data of its sensitive military capabilities, as well as air bases so the search and rescue effort would benefit the best out of the information made available to them by the Malaysian authorities.

The timeline above also displays the average time of four days needed for satellite images to be processed before they can be safely suggested to the search and rescue teams.

What the timeline above suggests is that while the authorities are working hard to find the missing aircraft, the families as well as the public in general ought to exercise patience and restraint in their quest to know what happened. The media should be more responsible in reporting the incident as well as the search and rescue efforts as not only will the effects be adversely negative, but irresponsible reporting provides false hopes to the family that are put on an emotional roller-coaster ride on a daily basis.

And to those who call themselves Malaysians but continue in bashing whatever effort the government offers in bringing this episode to a closure, I doubt you qualify even a place as a zoological display for despicable animals.

Shame on you.

MH370: I Speak Out

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This posting is made with the above in mind. A lot has been said about the disappearance of the MH370. Most of what has been said are purely speculations, with some that might have qualified to be nominated for best screenplay at the Academy Awards. I, too, have some idea of what might have happened but I put them aside so I could listen to the daily press conference with an open mind. I will also attempt to maintain some form of ethics because I also have the feelings of the family of the passengers and crew in mind when I write this.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has come under intense attack by both foreign and local media alike. The Air Defence system has also come under intensive fire by members of the opposition party for its failure to detect the MH370 upon deviating from its intended path and the subsequent failure to scramble our fighters. Some even say our air defence personnel were asleep on the job, and that at least one air defence radar was not working.

It is easy for keyboard warriors to criticise the RMAF without knowing what or how our air defence systems work. Perhaps when they think of an air defence system, they had the following in mind:

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Why I write this is to give a general understanding of how our air defence system works, and what really happened that night. I have been generally quiet on this matter as at the time of writing, I am grieving the passing of my younger brother exactly 100 days today. But duty calls, I guess.

I left the RMAF almost 20 years ago. A handful of my squad-mates are still serving senior officers. Back in September 2012, a number of bloggers (including I) and some senior editors of the Malaysian media (including those that are opposition-leaning) were invited to a media open day organised by the then Minister of Defence. Everything was displayed to us, including some of the very sensitive information, so that we could acquire enough background and understand how the RMAF works. Out of the 80 or so people who were there that day, I guess I am the only one to come to the defence of the RMAF.

First of all, this is how a typical air defence centre looks like from the inside:

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It is no longer the one-man show you see in the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!” There are several air defence centres around Malaysia covering both the Peninsula, Sabah, Sarawak and FAR beyond. I have a photo of how far our air defence radars reach, but although I was allowed to take photos of the main display, I opt not to put it up here. Suffice to say, what we have is enough to tell us way ahead if a hostile aircraft is approaching our airspace. When we were at the air defence centre, we were shown a live interception of two bogeys by two of our MiG-29N interceptors.

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If I may say, what we all saw on the screen was what would have been seen by all the operators of the other RMAF Air Defence Centres around the nation that if one failed, it would not jeopardise what the others could see.

During this display, not one journo nor blogger could come up with a sane question related to what was shown to them. In the end, I and a few of my blogger friends had to ask the questions to get the RMAF clarify on issues that the media and bloggers have been attacking them on. Even the Deputy Chief of Air Force, Lieutenant General Dato Seri Haji Roslan bin Saad thanked me for my participation and for helping the RMAF clarify some issues.

Let us go back to that wee hours on Saturday, 8th March 2014. MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 0041 hours (Local Time). At 0107 hours, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) transmitted that all was well with the aircraft.

The aircraft soon after arrived at waypoint IGARI, about 78 nautical miles from Redang island, bearing 056 degrees) which is a point in the South China Sea between the Malaysian border with Vietnam. At this point, Lumpur Flight Information Region (FIR) would hand over the control aircraft to Vietnam. At 0119 hours, a person believed to be the co-pilot transmitted the final vox transmission, “Alright, good night.” At 0122 hours, the aircraft disappeared from secondary radar coverage without any distress call suggesting its transponder had been switched off by someone on the flight deck. However, it was only at 0240 hours that Malaysia Airlines was notified.

The RMAF Air Defence radars saw the MH370 tracked West Southwest to waypoint VAMPI (68 nautical miles East Northeast of Lhokseumawe, Indonesia), then Northeast to waypoint GIVAL (69 nautical miles South Southwest of Phuket International Airport) before tracking Northwest towards waypoint IGREX (100 nautical miles East Southeast of Car Nicobar airport on India’s Nicobar Islands), the last known position according to the primary radar. Where MH370 went to after this point is unknown at this point, but I believe the Indian Air Force’s Andaman and Nicobar Command’s primary radar there would have caught the MH370 in its scope.

So, if the MH370 was seen to deviate from its intended course, why didn’t the RMAF scramble its fighters to intercept the airliner?

Every bogey (unknown aircraft) would be tagged by an Air Defence Officer and this data will be processed to ascertain whether it was a threat to air defence or otherwise. In the case of the MH370, it was not regarded as hostile. Is this a weakness on the part of the RMAF? Mind you three jetliners took down the World Trade Centre towers as well as the Pentagon in the sophisticatedly-defended United States of America.

Should our fighters have been scrambled? If you remember, the MH370 was no longer in our airspace. When the MH370 tracked West Southwest from IGARI to VAMPI, she did not cross Malaysian airspace. She flew over Thai airspace and into Indonesian airspace, then tracked up to GIVAL near Phuket and subsequently to IGREX near India’s Nicobar Islands (see below).

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When she tracked from IGARI to IGREX she entered an area with two Royal Thai Air Force fighter bases namely the RTAF 7th Wing in Surat Thani and the 56th Wing in Hat Yai. They, too, were not scrambled. Nor were the fighters of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) scrambled from Lhokseumawe or Banda Aceh in Aceh, or Suwondo in Medan. If you think the Indonesians are as incapable as the RMAF, they forced a US military transport down without scrambling their fighters at their base in Banda Aceh on 20th May 2013 for entering Indonesian airspace without proper clearance.

The Chief of Air Force, General Tan Sri Dato Seri Rodzali bin Daud have explained that the RMAF did not see the need to scramble its fighters as the blip on the primary radar was deemed not hostile, and that there was nothing wrong with the air defence system. I just find this attack on the RMAF as another cheap publicity shot by a bunch of losers who do not know how things work and why, and would just take pot shots and see what gets hit.

I know the RMAF I see now is a far advanced RMAF than the one I left almost 20 years ago, and I have faith in the officers, men and women in their capability to defend this nation. I cannot say the same for the group of losers bent on hitting out at any institution of His Majesty Yang DiPertuan Agong.

To these losers, please just STFU!

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