Satu Majlis Penganugerahan pangkat Leftenan Kolonel Hakiki secara Posthumous (pasca kematian) telah diadakan di Markas Tentera Udara, Kementerian Pertahanan. Anugerah kenaikan pangkat itu telah disempurnakan oleh YBhg Panglima Tentera Udara, Jeneral Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Hj Affendi bin Buang TUDM.
Antara penerima pangkat ini adalah Mendiang Lt Kol Kayamboo a/l Chellam yang terkorban ketika sedang beroperasi menerbangkan pesawat angkut Beechcraft King Air 200T di Pangkalan Udara Butterworth pada 21 Disember 2016, Allahyarham Lt Kol Yazmi bin Dato’ Mohamed Yusof TUDM dan Allahyarham Lt Kol Hasri bin Zahari TUDM yang terkorban bersama semasa menerbangkan pesawat Hawk 108 di Chukai, Terengganu pada 15 Jun 2017. Ketiga-tiga mangsa juruterbang ini menerima satu kenaikan pangkat asal mereka.
Penganugerahan pangkat tersebut telah disampaikan kepada Puan Usha a/p Suppiah (Isteri Mendiang Lt Kol Kayamboo TUDM), Puan Shofara Izwa binti Hilmi (Isteri Allahyarham Lt Kol Yazmi TUDM) dan Puan Asysyuhadak binti Ahmad (Isteri Allahyarham Lt Kol Hasri TUDM).
Majlis pagi tadi telah berlangsung secara bersederhana. Seluruh jemputan di majlis tersebut kelihatan sugul kerana masih lagi bersedih dengan pemergian juruterbang-juruterbang terlibat. Namun kelihatan bersemangat semula apabila mendengar obituari mangsa juruterbang tersebut yang nyata cemerlang di dalam pencapaian kerjaya, keberanian dan pengorbanan yang telah dilakukan sepanjang perkhidmatannya di dalam TUDM.
Selain merupakan satu tanda penghargaan kepada mereka di atas jasa dan bakti mereka terhadap perkhidmatan TUDM khasnya dan Negara amnya, penganugerahan ini juga membolehkan para balu wira-wira tersebut menerima pencen yang lebih tinggi dari pangkat asal terakhir. Inilah di antara cara TUDM dapat membantu keluarga mereka yang telah banyak berjasa.
Turut hadir di majlis ini adalah Timbalan Panglima Tentera Udara, YBhg Lt Jen Dato’ Sri Ackbal bin Hj Abdul Samad TUDM; Panglima Pendidikan dan Latihan Udara, YBhg Lt Jen Dato’ Kamarulzaman bin Mohd Othman TUDM; Asisten Ketua Staf Tadbir, YBhg Brig Jen Ahmad bin Abd Rahman TUDM, serta ahli keluarga Mendiang dan Allahyarham.
I am appalled that there still are those who deny the roles played by the non-Malays in defending this country, especially during the two Emergencies; that dark 33 years of fighting communism. The history books emphasised more on the 12-year First Emergency because of its relation to the independence of Malaya, thus many forget that not too long-ago bombs were going off in the middle of Kuala Lumpur while ordinary policemen were getting slayed.
The First Emergency broke out in June 1948 with the murder of three British estate managers in Sungai Siput. Fuelled by the progressive successes the Communist Party of China was having against the Kuomintang, the acts of banditry increased exponentially. Based on a priori the British found it best to both resettle the Chinese in camps while between 20,000 to 50,000 be sent back to China. The plan moved at a snail’s pace due to the objections by many, and with the total withdrawal of the Kuomintang to Formosa, the repatriation of the Chinese came to a halt in September 1949 when the Communist Party of China closed off all ports and beaches. Only 6,000 Chinese from Malaya were sent back (Anthony Short, 1975 pp 178-201). The rest were settled in new villages to curb them from supplying the Communist Party of Malaya with food and other essentials.
When Ismail Mina Ahmad, the chairman of the Ummah umbrella group for Muslim organisations, claimed that only the Malays fought against invaders and communists in this country, it shows the level of ignorance on his part (Syed Jaymal Zahiid – In fiery speech cleric tells forum only Malays fought invaders communists, Malay Mail Online, 13 January 2018). His claim is far from the truth.
At the peak of the First Emergency, the British had to not only bring in members of the Palestine Police Force who were experienced in counter-insurgency warfare, but also recruited a large number of Chinese residents of Malaya. Tan Sri Dr Too Chee Chew, more famously known as CC Too, headed the Psychological Warfare section. We had the likes of Tan Sri Jimmy Koo Chong Kong, Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Ling, Datuk Leong Chee Woh to name a few who spent most of their lives fighting the communists.
CC Too, Koo Chong Kong and Yuen Yuet Ling were among the ranks of the Malayan People Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) during the Second World War who chose to go against their former comrades and became targets of the Communist Party of Malaya. Jimmy Khoo Chong Kong, who was also a former member of the Sarawak Communist Party before surrendering to the authorities and joining the Royal Malaysian Police, paid with his life on 13 November 1975 in Ipoh, Perak, as did his driver Constable (awarded Sergeant posthumously) Yeong Peng Cheong who died with his gun blazing. Without hesitation, even with the knowledge that he was also on the hit list, Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Ling replaced Tan Sri Koo as the Perak Chief Police Officer.
When a Royal Malaysian Air Force Sikorsky S-61A Nuri helicopter was shot down in Gubir, Kedah on 27 April 1976, three Malaysian Chinese personnel were also among the 11 killed. They were Captain Choo Yeok Boo TUDM, Lieutenant Chung Ming Teck TUDM and Sergeant (Air) Leong Yee Heng. They were on a resupply mission from the Butterworth Air Base when they were shot down.
Captain Frank Chong Keng Lay TUDM (retired as Lieutenant-Colonel) flew his Nuri into a hot landing zone to rescue several infantrymen. His two commando escorts were killed as his Nuri took 22 heavy machinegun shots. The next day he flew into the same landing zone to repeat the task. Keng Lay was my Chief of Staff at the RMAF Air Training Command where I was a Staff Officer and later its Adjutant.
Inspectors Kamalanathan and Robert Cheah were inside a coffee shop meeting with informers when a terrorist threw a grenade into the shop. The explosion maimed Kamalanathan and for the rest of his life he walked with an obvious limp with a grenade shrapnel still embedded in his leg.
There were many other non-Malay police officers in particular those who served in the Special Branch who died as unsung heroes as they were not recruited nor trained with other policemen. They were the deep infiltrators, members of the community, who went on leading a double life that even their own family did not know they were all policemen. Their pay did not come from Bluff Road (Bukit Aman) directly. DSP Jeganathan was a Jabatan Talikom employee tasked with setting up the police’s VHF network and spent years jungle-bashing, building towers on mountain and hilltops with the communist terrorists hot on his heels so that the police could have a nationwide communications network.
There were those who were just roadside sweepers working for the municipal and town councils, collecting information. One had his cover blown when he was discovered in a different town by a neighbour asking him loudly what was he doing there sweeping the streets.
Another was on his death bed, ridden with cancer, when he sought the help of a Malaysian daily to contact my father to tell the latter of his condition. His real name was quoted by the daily to my father, which my father could not recall. My father asked the contact in the daily to ask him his Special Branch name. When the reply came, my father left his golf game and rushed to the hospital and after more than 50 years of being married, the wife and family finally knew the man-of-their-house was a hero fighting the communists, not just some small-time trader.
Let us not forget Chief Inspector Chin Chin Kooi. He was a Special Branch officer probing communist activities in Serdang, Kedah. At 9pm on 12 July 1973, six communist terrorists stormed into his home and let loose a volley of bullets. Mortally wounded, Chin returned fire until his last breath.
Across the South China Sea, Police Field Force Superintendent Joni Mustapha was a champion Sarawak hurdler from 1958 to 1959. Joni was watching a movie with his son in Sibu when a policeman relayed a message to him that his men were being pinned down by communist terrorists upriver Sungai Setabau. He asked the policeman to stay with his son in the cinema and left to rescue his men.
Constable Nuing Saling, an Iban policeman, was on a two-week leave to be with his wife Imbok Jimbon who was six months pregnant with their third child. Upon hearing that Joni was leaving for the jungle, hurriedly joined the team. Both Joni and Nuing had made a pact that they would help each other. They left by boat to get to the location. Upon arrival, they engaged the communist terrorists. Joni was felled by machinegun fire but remained conscious to direct the firefight until he died. Another constable friend, Abang Masri was already dead. Seeing his commander and friend die, Nuing unsheathed his machete and charged at the terrorists’ position firing at them, only to be mown down. He had been hit in the face by a bullet. Nuing refused to give up. He continued his charge and was hit several times more but kept on charging, killing and wounding many. He died inside the location of the communist terrorists.
Kanang ak Langkau is perhaps the most known warrior from Sarawak who shed blood and tears fighting against the communist terrorists. He was wounded several times but not once let his wounds stop him from fighting.
These are stories that we should all remember. Stories of our non-Malay brethren heroes who risked and gave their lives so that we can all enjoy the peace and prosperity that God has bestowed upon us. Many more have gone unsung, but they shall not be forgotten. Especially not by selfishly ignoring the sacrifices that have been made by them.
The Royal Malaysian Navy has recently laid the keel for the third Littoral Combat Ship (to be named Shariff Masahor after the Sarawak warrior who fought against the White Rajahs) at the Boustead Naval Shipyard in Lumut. This will be the third of six LCS planned by the RMN as part of its ’15 to 5′ transformation programme.
Dogged by having as many as 15 classes of ships with an average life of 15 years, the current RMN fleet is supplied by seven different nations, causing logistical and financial nightmares for the operators. As a result, the RMN cannot have the kind of force projection that it envisages.
The transformation programme allows the RMN to reduce its current classes to just 5 classes of ships namely the LCS, the Littoral Mission Ships (LMS), the Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS), submarines, and the patrol vessels (PV).
The LCS, with its ability to perform complete multi-mission 3-D operations, will be the obvious class to spearhead the Royal Malaysian Navy. The six vessels, based on the Gowind 2500 corvette design, will fulfill the operational requirements in both the blue and littoral waters of the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
All six vessels are and will be built at the Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS), which is a bit unorthodox given the need for a good project risk management as not to repeat the disaster caused by a previous builder. The GMD of Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation (BHIC), Vice-Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor TLDM (Retired) said that the project team from both BNS and Naval Group have taken the necessary measures to prevent such failure to occur in this project.
Commonality between classes is also key to the success of the 15-to-5 programme. Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman bin Hj Ahmad Badaruddin TLDM said that all the classes will have major items that are common to ensure the availability of vessels. Most importantly, these items are being supplied by 104 local vendors and that in turn has created thousands of jobs and endless learning opportunities for locals.
“The Navy is determined to show that not only does it give opportunities to local companies, but also help build the local defence capabilities to reduce reliance on foreign companies,” said Ahmad Kamarulzaman.
The Navy hopes to have up to 12 LCS, 18 LMS, four submarines, 18 PVs and three MRSS to fulfill its doctrine requirements. It is believed that the PVs will consist totally of the Kedah-class NGPV while two more Scorpene submarines will be acquired depending on the funding from the government. It makes a whole lot of sense to have the Kedah-class expanded as Malaysia is already in possession of the builder’s plans, while the acquisition of two more Scorpenes would be a lot cheaper as the infrastructure as well as logistics support are already in place.
In observation however, if all these vessels are already in service, there is only so many number of vessels that the Navy’s bases can handle at any given point of time. I believe that the PVs will all be deployed to the Second, Third and (soon) Fourth Naval Regions, with major assets such as the LCS and LMS divided between the First and Second Naval regions.
How The Royal Malaysian Air Force Fits In
Commonality is another goal the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) hopes to achieve. Recently, RMAF Chief General Tan Sri Dato Seri Affandi bin Hj Buang TUDM celebrated his first year as the service’s Chief. Although dogged with several incidents of crashes, it has not diminished his team’s aim to elevate the RMAF’s ability as a force to be reckoned with. Only the cut in defence budget has curtailed some of its plans for expansion. The withdrawal of the MiG-29Ns from the frontline has stretched its frontline capabilities too thin.
Although the reintroduction of the MiG-29Ns back into service was thought of as an interim measure before getting its direly-needed MRCAs, this was not agreed by the government as it does not want to see its pilots flying aircraft that may endanger themselves. This would also mean that the RMAF’s current LIFT, the Hawk 208s which are in their 23rd year of service, will soon have to go.
The 15-to-5 programme of the RMN would not mean much without sufficient air cover for the Navy to keep the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) open, especially between states in the Peninsular Malaysia with Sabah and Sarawak. The RMAF is already in the process of looking for a suitable replacement for the Beechcraft Super King Air B200T MPAs. If commonality is a key to this, then we would either see the Air Force acquiring either more CN-235s, or opt for a stretched version which is the CN-295. However, given the different powerplant of the CN-295, a MPA version of the CN-235 sounds most viable.
Combat Air Patrols, or sufficient and adequate air cover is also critical to the success of the RMN’s 15-to-5 programme. However, current number of aircraft available to perform the task is limited as only the Boeing F/A-18D Hornet and Sukhoi Su-30MKM would have the ability to get into the theatre in the shortest time compared to the BAe Systems Hawk 108s and 208s. Furthermore, the Su-30MKMs would have to undergo their 10-year maintenance and that would affect the number of availability.
As it is, the supersonic Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50/FA-50 LIFT cum light fighters are the most suitable for this role, as well as to take over the LIFT role from the BAe Systems Hawk 208s. I have written on the KAI T-50 in a recent article and still believe that other than its cost (said to be a third of a full-fledged fighter aircraft) the commonality that the KAI T-50 have with a type of aircraft that the RMAF is already operating is the Boeing F/A-18D Hornet as they use the same powerplant. Should the RMAF plan to acquire more of the Hornets, the T-50 would be the best option for the RMAF to consider acquiring as they can play the dual role of LIFT and advanced supersonic fighter far better than the Hawks ever could. The RMAF would be able to provide more capable birds in the air in a shorter amount of time while waiting for a much larger budget to actually acquire new MRCAs. The T-50s are combat-proven and have performed well in recent bombing missions against the ISIL-Maute group in Marawi.
Having the T-50s in Kuantan as LIFT/Advanced Fighters and as a advanced fighter detachment in, perhaps, Bintulu, would enhance the RMAF’s operational capability not just as a strike force, but also to provide air support for the Navy’s surface missions. The Chief of RMAF is well-known as a fighter and operations man, and is therefore the perfect person to make a case to fulfill the RMAF’s doctrine with the correct equipment needed by his frontliners.
The Royal Malaysian Navy is spot on when it decided to go with its 15-to-5 transformation programme that would see more lean-and-mean vessel types be introduced into the service. However, having a good surface capability without capable air support from the Royal Malaysian Air Force would limit its capabilities to keep hostiles away. Both services would need strong support from the government to ensure that force projection to deter opportunistic hostile forces can be achieved by both services.
Online “news” portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) today published a story on the level of preparedness of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) if faced with a situation such as Marawi, and got an expert opinion to strengthen its story.
While FMT was talking about clearly refers to the recent statement made by the Chief of RMAF, General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Haji Affendi bin Buang RMAF, stating that the RMAF will be including urban warfare in its doctrine. This was a reply to a question by a journalist during the recently-concluded Exercise PARADISE 4/2017 in Kota Belud, Sabah.
FMT sought the expert opinion of a Dr Zachary Abuza, a political scientist at the National War College in Washington DC, who focuses on security and political issues in the region.
Dr Abuza instantly criticised the RMAF for not being prepared for urban warfare.
“RMAF’s training is based on preparing to face traditional threats. It’s birth was when fighting the MCP (Malayan Communist Party) in the jungles. It has never had to adjust its training.
“To me, this is understandable but reckless,” he said to FMT.
Abuza felt urban warfare preparedness and capability were still important.
“It’s not that the RMAF has to worry about an invasion, but what if a detachment of RMAF peacekeepers finds itself unexpectedly bogged down during an urban assault?” he was quoted by FMT to have asked.
It is clear to sharp readers that Dr Abuza referred to the RMAF as Royal Malaysian Armed Forces instead of the Air Force. Why would the RMAF have a detachment of peacekeepers anyway?
Therefore, it is forgivable that Dr Abuza had made such a criticism towards the RMAF as the Malaysian Army, which had numerous peacekeeping experiences under its belt. Although the RMAF and the Royal Malaysian Navy participate in peacekeeping missions, the main combat duties is shouldered by the Army.
And FMT being FMT, went to town and published the piece, hammering the Royal Malaysian AIR FORCE for not being ready for urban warfare.
The RMAF’s role in urban warfare is merely a support one, with the Army playing the main role on the ground. All the RMAF needs to do is to insert its Ground Laser Targeting Designator team into the combat zone and paint targets that are to be bombed by its fighters.
Other roles include dropping bombs or perform rocket strikes on targets marked by elements of the Malaysian Army, including interdiction strikes to cut off enemy supply and reinforcement lines, provision of air mobility in support of the Army Air Wing, or perform combat search-and-rescue of downed airmen.
The RMAF and the Malaysian Army have held countless joint exercises to enhance interoperability and coordination and it will take very little tweaking for the two organisations to operate in the urban environment.
Did FMT clarify its story before publishing? I doubt. Else we won’t see the faux pas today.
When the Royal Malaysian Air Force purchased the Airbus Defence and Space A400M Atlas, many thought it was to replace the Lockheed C-130H-30 that had entered service in 1976. 15 C-130Hs were delivered to the RMAF with 14 still flying.
However, the RMAF announced further upgrades to its C-130H fleet to keep them operational. The A400M’s role, although similar to that of the C-130H, enhances the RMAF’s airlift capability. Not only can the A400M carry 17 tonnes more payload compared to the C-130H, it can fly 200 knots faster and land on rough or soft landing strips like the C-130H.
Its glass cockpit/side-stick coupled with three-axis fly-by-wire (FBW) with flight envelope protection configuration makes the A400M user-friendly and is based on the A380 but modified to suit military operations requirements. The flight envelope protection allows the A400M to perform bank angles up to 120 degrees!
Not only could the A400M support the Malaysian Armed Forces’s tactical and strategic capabilities, it could also be utilised for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in the region. To date, the RMAF’s A400Ms have performed two HADR roles: delivering 17 tonnes of aid to embattled Marawi in July 2017 and 12 tonnes of aid to the Rohingya refugees in south Bangladesh in September 2017.
The remarkable thing especially about the Marawi mission was the A400M’s ability to fly to Cagayan del Oro and back without refuelling (an approximately 5,400 kilometers return trip); this, together with its speed cuts down total turnaround time.
The A400M is equipped with the defensive aid sub-system and an in-flight refueling capability. The inflight-refueling package allows the A400M to refuel helicopters at 105 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS) and fighters at up to 300 knots, hence safer for the refuelling of both helicopters and fighters. Flight tests have also revealed that at Alpha Max (with the Alpha Floor protection disabled, the A400M reached 98 KIAS before the FBW low-speed protection function eased the nose down. There was no wing roll-off or loss of control. Recovery was almost immediate when the nose was lowered and thrust added, underscoring the fact that the A400M is indeed a very safe and capable aircraft.
Maritime Patrol Aircraft – Budgeted For
For almost two decades the role of maritime patrol was assigned to several C-130Hs that were converted to C-130MPs. Four Beechcraft Super King Air B200T aircraft were inducted into the RMAF maritime patrol fleet to complement the C-130MPs. However, the high operational costs versus mission requirements of the C-130MPs saw the latter taking over the role completely.
Even before the loss of an airframe, there were already talks of replacing the B200Ts. Leonardo brought its ATR-72MP aircraft to LIMA ’17. Apart from the hardpoints and MPA modules on board, the ATR-72MP is just a normal commercially-available aircraft, powerplants and all. Leonardo’s concept is to provide a platform using what is available in large numbers in the market to keep the costs down.
Airbus Defence and Space flew a CN295 almost around the world to promote it as a multirole platform. The CN295, albeit a SAR version that was on its way to its new home in Brazil, made a stop in Malaysia and was presented to operators such as the RMAF, the MMEA, as well as the Royal Malaysian Police Air Wing.
Stretched three metres longer than the CN235 that the RMAF is currently operating, everything about the CN295 is very similar to the CN235, which makes crew conversion fairly easy to make. It comes with a more powerful plant that features better efficiency, longer loiter capability at station and comes with six external hardpoints for ASW weapons.
When the announcement of the budget for the procurement of four MPAs in 2018 was made, the immediate follow-through was that four of the RMAF’s remaining seven CN235s will be fitted with the MP systems from the B200Ts, a sure sign that either additional CN235s will be acquired for the MPA role, or the CN295s would be acquired instead.
The commonality between the C295 and the CN235 also potentially leads to even lower operating costs, given the versatile cabin configuration that allows fast switching of mission types, high manouvrability, better low-level flying capabilities given the high-wing configuration and a wide rear ramp, the C295 makes the best option for maritime patrol and surveillance as well as anti-submarine warfare missions in Malaysia.
The C295 is powered by twin PW127G turboprop engines driving Hamilton Sundstrand Type 568F-5 six bladed propellers which provide outstanding hot and high performance, low fuel consumption, and an endurance exceeding 11 hours. Flying at a maximum speed of 480 km/h which is slower than the B200T’s 540 km/h, but has a range of 5,600 kilometers compared to the B200T’s 3,100 kilometer range.
The RMAF’s need for a reliable platform that would be able to perform largely anti-shipping missions and has a reasonable but economical loiter endurance with some strike capability if required makes the CN295 a better choice of MPA. It also makes strategic and economical sense for Malaysia as it allows operators to narrow down its aircraft types and suppliers, making logistical and technical support easier.
UAV, MRCA and LIFT
Although the procurement of the badly needed MRCA to replace the MiG-29Ns have not been announced, the RMAF is making up for the void by ensuring high serviceability rate of its frontliners. Observers would note that the serviceability percentage has increased tremendously despite the cut in the defence budget.
Perhaps the RMAF should think of an interim fighter or Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) that gives the bang for bucks. The Korea Aerospace Industries’s TA-50 LIFT comes into mind. Each unit of the more advanced FA-50 costs half or three times less than a top-of-the-line fighter would but it carries enough sting to hurt the enemy.
Losing only but not much in terms of range to the BAe Systems Mk 108/208 that the RMAF currently deploys in Labuan to cover both the eastern South China and Sulu seas, the TA-50’s ability to reach supersonic speeds (Mach 1.5 compared to the Hawk’s Mach 0.84) and excellent thrust-to-weight ratio (0.96 to the Hawk’s 0.65) means that the TA-50 would make a better aircraft placed on Alert 5 to intercept straying foreign aircraft. Its superb ability to deliver air-to-ground as well as anti-shipping ordnances makes it a suitable platform to support anti-incursion/counter-insurgency operations in the ESSCOM area.
The RMAF is also interested to develop its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle capability in both tactical and strategic aspects. RMAF Chief General Tan Sri Dato Seri Affandi bin Buang TUDM said that the RMAF is conducting a detailed study to identify the UAV capable of meeting the current needs of the country apart from being equipped with technologies which could be shared with various parties in the country.
“Besides security surveillance, UAV can also be used for other purposes such as weather information and others,” he said. “If the RMAF is able to acquire sophisticated UAVs we would be able to enhance our operations in the Peninsular, Sabah, Sarawak and also in support of the MPAs patrolling the South China Sea as well as the Sulu Sea.”
Hopefully the RMAF would acquire UAVs with extended on-station endurance with some hardpoints for strike capability.
Although the RMAF is still in want of frontline airframes, it is seen to improve its serviceability percentage, a task that seemed daunting in times of global econmic uncertainty, but certainly achievable. The plan to purchase capable Maritime Patrol Aircraft as per the 2018 Budget, and planned addition of sophisticated UAVs, will certainly enhance its control over the airspace.
It is hoped that the government could look into equipping the RMAF with interim strike capability, especially in the South China and Sulu seas, by adding a squadron or two of the KAI TA-50, if not a squadron each of the TA-50 and its frontline version, the FA-50, hopefully by 2020, before preparing its budget for the procurement of actual frontline MRCAs that are badly needed, not only as replacements of the recently-retired MiG-29N, but also as a contingency to replace the F/A-18D which is already in its 20th year of service with the RMAF.
The RMAF may seem to walk slowly, but it is definitely walking with big strides.
Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) President Dr James Jemut Masing led the delegation to brief Najib Razak on the issues affecting the Upper Rajang basin.
“We are happy that the country’s top two leaders are giving us their time to meet up (with us),” Dr James added.
As usual, the Opposition and their supporters went to town with allegations of mistreatment of the longhouses chiefs and lack of funds on the PM’s part.
If only they know how special it is for these people to have been able to experience flying on board the RMAF’s A400M. But why fly in an Air Force plane rather than taking one of eight daily direct flights from Sibu to Kuala Lumpur?
Firstly, it would have been almost impossible to get all of them on board the same flight either on MAS (which has two flights) or AirAsia’s six flights. The logistics alone would have been an inconvenience to the passengers. Getting the A400M to fly them to Kuala Lumpur was the better choice.
I would imagine the Prime Minister’s Office would have written in to the RMAF asking if it could charter one or two of its airlifters to fly in these leaders. It is not uncommon for government departments to charter military aircraft for its departmental use.
When I was still in service, the RMAF’s S-61A4 Nuri helicopters were being used by the Department of Orang Asli Development to ferry Orang Asli on field trips to Kuala Lumpur. On 25 August 1990, a C-130H that was used to ferry support staff of a Royal visit to Sibu veered off the runway upon landing. A nurse died after unsecured luggage fell on her head.
The Ministry of Health also uses the RMAF helicopters to perform mercy flights for life-threatening cases that need immediate treatment elsewhere. You could too if you are wiling to pay a charter amount if it is not a life-threatening medical situation as long as the attending doctor says such a flight is necessary but not immediate, you are willing to pay, and the RMAF agrees.
Back to the story of the 150 community leaders, the RMAF probably provided the A400M for the following reasons: it had the seating capacity to carry 150 passengers comfortably and, it was a good opportunity for the RMAF to allow civiians to experience flying in the most sophisticated airlifter in the region. And if you think the in-flight ration is bad, you actually get more food to eat on board a RMAF medium-haul flights, and the fried chicken is good too!
Some may ask, why don’t the PMO or RMAF charter an AirAsia plane as it normally does for our peacekeepers serving overseas? Let it be known that the charter of an airliner is done based on deployment schedules. Chartering an airliner at such short notice would cause delays to many flights as the number of aircraft in any airline is limited, and the priority would be to serve their commercial destinations.
To be able to fly on board the A400M is an experience of a lifetime. Many in the RMAF including senior officers have never gotten the chance to, what more the rest of the Malaysian Armed Forces. So the part where Mr Voon says “Kami tidak senang dengan cara awak melayan Sarawakians” is just a statement made out of ignorance.
The community leaders now have something to talk about for generations – being able to meet the country’s two top leaders and air their concerns, and the experience of fying on board a sophisticated military airlifter.
In 1982, 25 A-4C and 63 A-4L Skyhawks which were US Vietnam-era surplus were contracted for purchase costing less than USD 1 million each by the Malaysian government for the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s use. Of the 88 airframes, 54 were to be converted to single-seater fighter-bombers while 14 were to be converted to two-seater versions for training and conversions. The rest would be cannibalised for spare parts.
However, the cost for re-engine, new avionics and stretching of some of the airframes made the cost of each airframe balloon FOUR TIMES the purchase price. The final cost of the programme for these second-hand aircraft was USD320 million (purchase cost was less than USD88 million).
The RMAF Skyhawks were designated the A-4PTM/TA-4PTM (PTM: Peculiar-To-Malaysia). Delivery of 40 airframes began on 23 February 1985, the then-Prime Minister took delivery of ten A-4PTMs and launched No.6 Squadron for the new used aircraft. The delivery was completed a year later.
Not many below 50 would remember that 1985 was a year of bad recession in Malaysia. This was admitted by the then Auditor-General Tan Sri Ahmad Noordin Zakaria who said that apart from the BMF financial scandal (that caused the live of Jalil Ibrahim), the recession also caused budgetary problems and affected the country’s balance pf payments.
But that did not stop the government from buying two more aircraft in 1985 namely the Grumman HU-16B Albatross which are seaplanes for use by the Royal Malaysian Air Force. Coincidentally, Grumman was the contractor that refurbished the A-4PTMs for Malaysia.
Interestingly, the Albatrosses were placed under No.2 Squadron which is a VIP communications squadron. The USAF’s last flight of the Albatross was in 1973, the last flight of the USN was in 1976 while the USCG last flew the Albatross in 1976. We bought the pair in 1985 but by 1987 I never saw them fly ever again. 466 were built since 1949 and the last airframe was buit in 1961. There is no way we had bought two new aircraft.
Only 40 Skyhawks were delivered to Malaysia between – 34 single seater A-4PTMs and six two-seater TA-4PTMs. The rest remained in the desert and some at the Marana Regional Airport in Arizona.
The A-4PTMs and TA-4PTMs started dropping out of the sky as soon as they entered service. One developed engine trouble in September 1985 while landing and exploded at the Kuantan airbase. The pilot managed to eject.
Three years later, four Skyhawks went down including one piloted by the current Chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, General Tan Sri Haji Affendi bin Buang RMAF, while one pilot, Lieutenant Wahi Anuar RMAF remains missing until today after crashing into the South China Sea. I still remember how the annual exercise was put on hold in 1988 because of this incident.
Five more Skyhawks crashed in the following years. Four years after entering service, the RMAF announced that the Skyhawks will be replaced by the BAe Hawks 108/208 in 1994 making the Skyhawks the shortest-lived combat aircraft in the RMAF’s inventory. Six Skyhawks were retained as aerial tankers using Douglas D-704 external buddy tanks. They were taken completely out of service in 1999.
I wonder whose decision it was for second-hand Skyhawks and Albatrosses to be purchased by Malaysia. The Minister of Defence from 1981 to 1986 was Mahathir himself, who was replaced by Tun Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi in 1986. Was the RMAF being used as a dumping ground for used goods while people made money out of the RMAF and the lives of its pilots?
Mahathir added, “In fact, if you were to ask me what is it I would want the United States to do with regard to economic policy, my honest and simple response is for the U.S. economy to get ahead and regain its strength, for the healthier and more vibrant the U.S. economy becomes, the better it will be, not only for the United States and Malaysia but all the developing countries in the world.”
So, it is wrong for Najib Razak to want to help improve the economy of the United States but not wrong for Mahathir to have done the same in 1984. I wonder whose individual economy also improved with the purchase of those second-hand aircraft?
If you think it was bad enough that we had paid USD232 million more for 88 Skyhawks that cost less than USD88 million but brought back only 40 which served the RMAF effectively for only nine years, you have not heared the full story.
In 2003, the RMAF decided to sell off the Skyhawks including the 48 airframes that were never brought back to Malaysia. To their horror, they were asked for a proof of purchase of the 48 that were left there! While the RMAF had the 40 they received in their inventory, the rest that were paid for never had any receipt produced – that is USD174.72 million worth of airframes that had no proof of purchase.
Even if the 48 were not upgraded, this still means USD48 million worth of defence assets procured using the RAKYAT’s money (to borrow a favourite Pakatan catchphrase) did not come with a receipt saying they are ours.
This also means that the cost of ugrading, which amounted to USD232 million, was only for 40 aircraft. That makes USD6.8 million the cost for each of the 40 Skyhawks that were sold to us for less than USD1 million each. Amazingly disgusting amount of money paid. Each upgraded Skyhawk could have given us three F-5Es and the total we paid for upgrading the Skyhawks alone could have gotten us 110 combat-ready Northrop F-5E Tiger IIs (combat-ready F-5Es were selling for USD2.1 million each) which still have operational status worldwide even now. We were already operating 14 F5-Es and two F-5Fs.
We purchased aircraft that were dangerous for our men and women to fly, for a price tag that defeats logic. What promise did Mahathir make to Ronald Reagan then?
And why are we not owning the remaining 48 Skyhawks that we have bought in 1982?