The RMN 15 to 5 Programme Is On Track

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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.

Summary

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.

Defence: LIMA ’17 Roars In Langkawi

Three RMAF Airbus A400M aircraft perform a fly pass at the LIMA ’17 exhibition

Defence expenditure is likely to rise as this region and beyond continue to face traditional and non-traditional threats.  The role of the defence industry is also changing dramatically, as new and changing threats require further research and development, increasing the overall costs and pricing of defence products and services.

This was the gist of the message conveyed by Dato’ Sri Najib Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, at the opening ceremony of the Langkawi International Aerospace and Maritime 2017 (LIMA ’17) exhibition this morning.

“We need to equip our fighting men with the capabilities required to face modern warfare, both symmetrical and asymmetrical, and LIMA ’17 brings together major aerospace and maritime firms from around the world to demonstrate their state-of-the-art static and aerial displays and cutting-edge technologies,” he added.

One of the exhibitors, Leonardo Helicopter Division, a division of the Leonardo S.p.A that is headquartered in Italy, celebrated today the successful reaching of the impressive 100,000 flying hours milestone with the Weststar Aviation Services’s AW139 fleet.

Weststar Aviation Services is the largest South East Asian offshore helicopter services provider and largest helicopter operator of the AW139 in Asia.

Dato’ Sri Najib Razak visiting one of the booths at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Center in Langkawi after the opening of LIMA ’17

Leonardo has also brought the ATR-72MP aircraft which is being proposed for Malaysia’s requirement for an advanced new maritime patrol capability.  In the Electronics Warfare segment, Leonardo has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hensoldt (the new name for Airbus DS Electronics and Border Security) to offer Mode-5 IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) solutions to customers around the world. This collaboration between two European leaders in defence electronics technology shows how, by joining forces, the team can position itself as market leader for cutting-edge new requirements. The two companies, working together as “Team Skytale”, have already been selected as preferred bidder by the UK Ministry of Defence to upgrade IFF systems on more than 400 land, sea and air vehicles.

The ATR 72MP is a multirole Maritime Patrol, Electronic Surveillance and C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence) aircraft with very affordable costs, developed and built by Leonardo’s Aircraft Division from the platform of the modern ATR 72-600 regional turboprop (pic courtesy of Leonardo Company)

The IFF technology allows operators to electronically identify friendly forces, distinguishing them from potential enemies. It does this by sending out an interrogation signal to unidentified platforms and verifying the automatic responses that are sent back, effectively a modern-day challenge and password system. Ensuring that ground, air and naval crews can reliably recognise their compatriots is one of the main ways of avoiding ‘friendly fire’ incidents. In 2020, all NATO nations are mandated to switch over to the new, more-secure ‘Mode-5’ version of the technology and other nations looking to operate alongside NATO forces will also need to be able to interact with the new standard. Mode-5 uses the latest cryptographic techniques to avoid the threat of deception by adversaries.

In another development, Thales has been selected by AirAsia to supply avionics systems on AirAsia’s new fleet of 304 A320neos.  Thales will equip the 304 single-aisles with its market leading Flight Management System (FMS), the navigation solution of choice for Airbus aircraft, alongside the THALES/ACSS T3CAS surveillance platform, the preferred solution for all Airbus single aisle aircraft.

AirAsia’s Airbus A320neo (pic courtesy of Economy Traveller)

Thales has been partnering with AirAsia, leading LCC in Asia, since 2005, forging a close relationship in support of the airline’s growth strategy. AirAsia already equips their entire Airbus fleet with Thales systems and has selected the group for all maintenance and support operations for Thales systems equipped across their entire A320 fleet of 200 aircraft. In addition to the avionics suite, Thales will continue to provide a Repair-by-The-Hour (RBTH) long-term maintenance contract to support AirAsia’s fleet expansion.  The agreement provides guaranteed turnaround times on repairs and offers a commitment of reliability with reduced operational risk.

Malaysia Minister of Defence, Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, meets with representatives from five countries to discuss asymmetrical threats by Da’esh

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Minister of Defence, Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, met with representatives from five countries including Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia and Qatar to present his view on how to combat the Da’esh threats.  The establishment of the King Salman Center of International Peace was also on the agenda of this meeting.

The RoKAF Black Eagles performing the “Bomb Burst” formation over Langkawi

Making its debut in Langkawi is the Republic of Korea Air Force’s 53rd Air Demonstration Group.  Commonly known as the “Black Eagles” the RoKAF team buzzed the skies of Langkawi in their KAI T-50B Golden Eagle supersonic advanced trainers.  The T-50B is one of the few supersonic trainers currently available in the world.

The Russians is well-represented.  The “Russian Knights (Russkiye Vityazi)” aerobatic team showcasing their Sukhoi Su-30SM aircraft for the first time outside Russia, while the Royal Malaysian Air Force performs aerobatics in its Sukhoi Su-30MKM.

The air aces of the two countries, whose performances constantly evoke admiration of the audience, highly praised the flight characteristics of their supermanouverable aircraft.

President of Irkut Corporation Oleg Demchenko marked the high skills of pilots and their ability to use the maximum extent of the fighter’s capabilities while First vice-president of UAC Alexander Tulyakov said: “Positive evaluation of aircraft given by pilots is very important for us – the developers and manufacturers”.

The meeting resulted with a joint photo shoot against the background of Su-30SM and Su-30MKM aircraft.

Sukhoi Su-30 pilots from the Russian Knights and the RMAF’s No.11 Squadron pose together

Russian’s Rostec State Corporation is working with the government of Malaysia to expand cooperation through the supply of civilian products and aviation.

“Over the last 20 years Malaysia has been a strategic partner of the Rostec State Corporation. We are actively involved in military and technical cooperation in a number of areas: aviation, the army and the military navy, and in recent years our cooperation has gained momentum.  We are currently engaged in arms supply programs and are upgrading technology that was previously supplied to Malaysia.

We are also looking to extending our cooperation to civil areas that have growth potential: electronics, composite materials and IT. The civil aviation market, especially the helicopter sector, is also showing great potential for us,” said Head of the joint delegation from Rostec and Rosoboronexport at the 2017 LIMA exhibition Viktor Kladov, Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy Department of the State Corporation.

“LIMA-2017 is the most important event for the aviation and military navy markets of Malaysia and the surrounding region and our participation in it is a long-standing tradition. LIMA-2017 is attracting representatives of various countries of this region and we are looking to conducting fruitful negotiations both with the Malaysian Government and delegations from other countries,” he pointed out.

In the afternoon, the Prime Minister Najib Razak officiated the Maritime Segment which also involved major exhibitors such as THALES, MAST, ACS and SAAB, showcasing the latest technologies in defence products and a demonstration by the elite forces of Malaysia’s security enforcement agencies.

This year’s opening gimmick had the elite forces searching for a box containing a key for the Prime Minister to activate the launch sequence. The key was located using technologically-advanced, unmanned equipment that assisted the forces, including from the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), and was handed over to the Chief of Navy, Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Haji Ahmad Badaruddin who then handed it to the Prime Minister.

Following the launch, a live action demonstration from the RMN Special Forces, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Royal Malaysian Police and the Marine Department of Malaysia with the setting being a hostage rescue mission at sea.

Demonstration by the Royal Malaysian Navy’s special forces, the Marine Operations Force of the Royal Malaysian Police, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Marine Department performs a demonstration

Later, Najib officiated the naming ceremony of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s latest Offshore Patrol Vessel, the “KM Pekan”.  In attendance were Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein as well as Japan’s Deputy Minister of Land Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism, Tanaka Ryosei.

The “KM Pekan” is one of two offshore patrol vessels donated by the Japanese government to the MMEA in 2016.  Both vessels are 92 meters in length with speed of 20 knots and endurance of 30 days, suitable for enforcement missions in the South China Sea as well as in eastern Sabah.  Both are equipped with a helideck and state-of-the-art radars.

According to the Director-General of the MMEA, Admiral (Maritime) Datuk Seri Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar, a set of crew has been sent to Japan to bring home the second vessel.

For yesterday’s article, please click Defence: LIMA ’17 To Be More Exciting

Defence: LIMA ’17 To Be More Exciting

The Langkawi Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2017 will be more exciting than the previous editions because there is a marked increase in floor space as a result of the re-introduction of the Maritime Segment at the Resorts World, Langkawi.

There will be the array of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) that will be on display such as the United States Air Force MQ-1 Predator, United States Navy MQ-8 Fire Scout, Thales Fulmar Mini-UAV, SAAB AUV 62AT, and the TBN UAV from Ukraine.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will be debuting the newly-received offshore patrol vessel ‘KM Pekan’ donated by the Japanese government.

LIMA ’17 has confirmed 555 exhibitors from 36 countries and is expecting over 180,000 trade and public visitors from all over the world. LIMA ’17 will be held from 21 to 25 March 2017 in Langkawi. This year will mark the 14th edition in its 27 year history and is expected to be the best and biggest one to date.

Irkut Corporation of Russia will be featuring the Russian Air Force’s aerobatic team ‘Russian Knights’ in their spanking new Sukhoi Su-30SM.  This would be the return of the Russian Knights’ to LIMA and their first tour outside the Russian Federation in the Su-30SMs.

Sukhoi Su-30SMs of the Russian Knights at the Langkawi International Airport

Irkut will also be featuring its scout/attack helicopter, the Kamov Ka-25 “Alligator.”

Irkut Corporation will be featuring aircraft models of the entire Irkut product line will be presented at the UAC stand: the Su-30SME fighter, the Yak-130 and Yak-152 training aircraft, and the new MC-21 commercial liner.

Irkut Corporation comes under the Russian pavillion which is under the charge of JSC Rosoboronexport, which is a part of the Rostec State Corporation. Rosoboronexport is in-charge of the united Russian stand at LIMA’17 showcasing over 500 products from 20 enterprises of the defence industry complex of the Russian Federation.

LIMA’ 17 also serves as the perfect platform to encourage further co-operation between Malaysia and regional & global allies in both the maritime and aerospace industries, specifically on asset acquisition as Armed Forces around the world are modernizing their asset bases. For example, the Chiefs of Navy Roundtable Talk at LIMA’17 this year will bring together 12 Chiefs of Navy and 24 representatives to discuss about “Naval Capability Based Acquisition Reform”. Subsequently, the LIMA’17 Air Chiefs Conference will also be taking a similar approach this year, and the attending Chiefs of Air Force and other senior air delegations will be tackling the “Air Force Capability Based Acquisition Reform”.

The Ministers of Defence and Transport viewing the preparations at the Maritime Segment before the Press Conference cum High Tea on board the Royal Malaysian Navy frigate KD Jebat

Another first for LIMA 17 will be the involvement of youths from across the country. The Ministry of Youth and Sports, together with the Ministry of Defence have invited over 500 young individuals from Briged Sukarelawan Khidmat Negara (BSKN), Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Perlis, Parlimen Belia Malaysia, iM4U, Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS), Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM) and our Reserve Officer Training Unit (PALAPES). They will be attending a Comprehensive Educational Tour throughout LIMA ’17 and attend engagement sessions with leaders in the defence sector. On the final day, a Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) Townhall Dialogue on defence to encourage the youth to play a larger role and capture their aspirations about the future of Malaysia’s security.

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM — A B-1B Lancer soars over the Pacific Ocean after air refueling training here Sept. 30. The B1B Bomber is deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, as part of the Pacific Commands continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region, enhancing regional security and the U.S. commitment to the Western Pacific. The B1 is from the 37th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Other than the Russian Knights, the Black Eagles, the aerobatic team of the Republic of Korea Air Force will be making a first-time appearance this LIMA. The Black Eagles’ performance involves 9 KAI – T50B jet aircrafts. LIMA 2017 will also see the TNI-AU’s Jupiter as part of the aerobatic demonstrations on show. Our very own Royal Malaysian Air Force’s SU-30 MKM and F/A 18D jets, the Rafale from France, the Gripen 39C/D from Thailand and 2 Supersonic B-1 Bombers from the United States Air Force will also perform flypasts during the exhibition.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKM will be performing solo aerial displays throughout the five-day exhibition in Langkawi

Defence:Excellence Despite Impediments

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Despite the reduction in the defence budget the Royal Malaysian Air Force shall continue to deliver all operational and mission requirements in 2017.  The Chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Roslan bin Saad TUDM reassured to reporters at a press conference after the 2016 RMAF Excellence Awards Ceremony at the Subang Airbase this morning.

“The Commanders and I have sat down and planned to ensure that the RMAF will meet the requirements as well as find ways to continue developing its human capital as well as maximising assets interoperability in line with its One Service, One Vision, One Mission concept,” he added. “It is true that we are concerned about the reduction in budget allocation but that should not stop us from delivering what is required of us. Training of skills that could be developed through the use of technologies such as simulators will be implemented according to the requirements.

It is learnt that the RMAF had succeeded in increasing its interoperability by successfully operating western-developed munitions using its Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flankers as firing platforms during the recently-concluded Exercise Paradise 3/2016.  Details of the types of munitions used has not been made public thus far.

Defence analysts also observed that the RMAF’s BAe Hawk 108/208 aircraft based in Labuan have made successful interceptions of foreign military aircraft in support of the operations by its mainstay fighter assets.

Earlier General Tan Sri Roslan presented the ‘Best Airman of the Year’ awards to three non-commissioned officers and a warrant officer for displaying excellence in performing their daily tasks, maintenance of high standard of discipline, adherence to orders and leadership qualities observed.

Two flying squadrons also received the ‘Squadron of the Year’ award for the efficient management of their respective squadrons as well as able to provide quality service in the aspect of flight operations, while two aircraft fleets – the BAe Hawk 108/208 and the Lockheed C-130H received the ‘Special Achievement Award’ based on the shared values of the squadrons operating these aircraft that have produced an effetive outcome in terms of operational readiness.

General Tan Sri Roslan, who will be retiring at the end of the year, also said that the RMAF under the leadership of his successor shall continue to strive for excellence as it has done in similarly difficult times in the past.

Also present were the Deputy Chief of the RMAF Lt General Dato’ Sri Hj Affendi bin Buang TUDM, Air Operations Commander Lt Gen Dato’ Sri Ackbal bin Hj Abdul Samad TUDM, Air Support Commander Lt Gen Dato’ Sri Hj Abdul Mutalib bin Datuk Hj Ab Wahab TUDM as well as other senior officers and the rank and file of the RMAF.