SeaDemon Says

Posts Tagged ‘Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia

One of the things introduced by the Najib Razak administration is for Ministers to go down to the ground and meet with the frontliners, learn about the problems that they face as well as consider the proposals from them on how things can be done better.  The days of “I’m a Minister therefore I know better” or “You are new therefore you know nothing” are over.

Sun Tzu quoted in Chapter 10 of the ‘Art of War‘:

Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

Taking queue from both his boss and Sun Tzu, Minister of Defence Dato’ Sri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein rushed off to Kuantan after the conclusion of the recent National Security Council meeting to rendezvous with the Royal Malaysian Navy frigate KD Lekiu which was conducting a patrol in the South China Sea.  Despite the very limited time that he has, he made it a point to meet the frontliners to see how they are getting on while keeping the nation safe and secure during the fasting month.

Hishammuddin looking at the KD Lekiu before landing (taken from the Minister’s Twitter)

Hishamuddin, who was accompanied by the Chief of the Armed Forces  General Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, and the Chief of Navy Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin RMN, landed on board the KD Lekiu at 5.30pm and was met by the Commanding Officer of the KD Lekiu, Captain Mohd Fadzli Kamal Mohd Mohaldin RMN who then gave the Minister a short safety briefing.

Hishammuddin saying goodbye to the crew of the EC725

When the Ec725 helicopter took off and flew by the starboard side of the KD Lekiu, Hishammuddin said, “That helicopter crew is excellent, and for it to be able to land on this ship shows great cooperation between the Air Force and the Navy.  That is how the services, the Army included, depend on each other for support.”

True enough. It was the first time that the KD Lekiu had accepted the EC725 on its flight deck.

On board the Minister spent his time talking to the officers and men, asking them how do they find spending Ramadhan and Aidil Fitri away from home.  There are times that the KD Lekiu, like many other man-o-wars in the navy, have to spend up to three months at sea away from home, regardless of the festive seasons.

This scene is repeated throughout the Minister’s visit – officers and crew asking for a photo op with the Minister and the latter is always obliging

Through the Royal Malaysian Navy’s “Rakan Maritim” (RAKAM) program where the maritime community especially the commercial fishermen work hand-in-hand with the Navy to provide information especially on crime at sea,  the fishing community has been providing such support especially through the “Initiatif Bertanya Khabar” (IBK) conducted by the individual naval vessels that are on patrol.  A fishing trawler that was hailed came alongside.

The Minister is seen helping a trawler crew come on board

Encik Ramli bin Isa and Fauzi bin Omar had been out at sea for four days with another crew member.  The moment they realised that it was the Minister himself whom had helped them up, their face lit up.  The Minister, General Raja Mohamed Affandi and Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman asked them how they were and if they find that the waters are safe from foreign elements.

I later asked the two fishermen of the Navy’s initiative.  They are very happy with it and find it reassuring that the Navy has been actively making its presence felt.  On meeting the Minister, they were very surprised that a Minister would want to even ask how they are.

I know he must be really busy but for him to make time to ask me how I am is like having a dream come true,” said Encik Ramli.

Hishammuddin later gave some food to the fishermen for them to break fast with.

Hishammuddin later had a talk with some of the crew which was also attended by the Commanding Officer and the Chief of Navy.  There, the Minister related to the men the government’s plans for the Navy, and how the Ministry is working hard to facilitate the Navy’s 15-to-5 transformation program.

DS Hishammuddin and TS Ahmad Kamarulzaman spend a few moments with the men of the KD Lekiu

Tan Sri Kamarulzaman is happy with the progress of the 15-to-5 transformation program where the Royal Malaysian Navy will limit its fleet types to just five instead of the current fifteen.  The program will see the RMN operating only Littoral Mission Ships, Littoral Combat Ships, New Generaion Patrol Vessels, Multirole Support Ships, and Submarines.

RMN’s 15-to-5 transformation program (courtesy of Senang Diri)

As we waited for maghrib prayers, Dato’ Sri Hishammuddin said to me, “I’m amazed by these navy people.  They stay months at sea guarding our waters.

I guess we’ll just have to make the public understand about what they do out here,” I replied.

The Minister frowned and replied with a sigh, “That is another matter. It is so difficult to get the public to understand wht these people do here, the hardship they have to go through. Imagine if these people are not here to do their duty. Mosul, Aleppo can happen here.”

It is so damned hard to get the support of the people, especially from the non-Malays, let alone to get them to join.  But when something happens, they would be the first to condemn, especially so in the case of the fatal crash that killed two of our RMAF pilots.

The usual comments made especially by the non-Malays about the Malaysian Armed Forces

How the realisation that without the Malaysian Armed Forces this country would be in ruins escapes them puzzles me.  It is because of these men and women that they are able to wake up in the morning and make money, and then go home to sleep peacefully.

Perhaps it is time for the National Service to be what it is – a two-year active duty upon attaining the age of 18, followed by a 10-year stint as reservists.  That would probably make them have a better understanding of the Armed Forces and love the country as something more than just a place to make money in.

In the meantime, the men of the KD Lekiu will continue to be vigilant so we can all wake up shamelessly in total ignorance of their existence.

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.

An RMAF Sukhoi Su-30MKM multirole combat aircraft performs a tight turn on a hot afternoon

Many are awed by the performances put by the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s stars at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace 2017 exhibition – the Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flanker and the Boeing F/A-18D Hornet.

Many can imagine the manoeuvres these mighty aircrafts could do in combat, but not many know who or what makes them tick.

They are the Air Defence Controllers, the guardians of Malaysian airspace.

An air defence radar basks in the sunset

Majority of Malaysians are not aware of their existence until the MH370 disappeared.  Suddenly, this silent service came under an intense spotlight, especially when shone by those who do not have an iota of idea of how airspace and air defence in Malaysia work.

When Malaya gained independence in 1957, the airspace of the nation was only monitored by two long-range radars located at Western Hill in Pulau Pinang and Bukit Gombak in Singapore through the Anglo-Malayan Defence Arrangement which ended in the late 1960s.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) set up three air defence centres (ADCs) namely the No.1  ADC at the Butterworth airbase, No.2 ADC at Bukit Jugra, and No.3 ADC at the Kuantan airbase.  These three ADCs shouldered the responsibility of monitoring our airspace.

The late Tun Haji Abdul Razak visiting the No.1 ADC accompanied by the Chief of RMAF, Air Vice Marshall Dato’Sulaiman bin Sujak (later Tan Sri)

The RMAF has since expanded its air defence by creating five squadrons to also cover Sabah and Sarawak, and one Ground-Based Air Defence Squadron.

So how is it that it is the Air Defence Controllers who make the fighters tick?

There are two types of radar in use by the RMAF, Primary and Secondary.  While the radar rotates 360-degrees, radio waves are transmitted and will bounce off targets as an echo and is received by the radar system’s receiver unit.

The Primary radar is the one that transmits the energy waves that bounces off targets while the Secondary radar interrogates the signal from the target’s transponder.  This is then processed and the data is fed into the Command and Control system which is displayed on a screen and the target is then tracked by a Surveillance Officer who tracks and labels the target.

An Identification Officer then conducts identification procedures by correlating both radar and track data with information received from other agencies such as the Department of Civil Aviation.  If the target does not correspond with a non-hostile or non-civilian target, then the unidentified target will be reported to the Officer-in-Charge.

An RMAF radar Command and Reporting Centre (CRC)

The Officer-in-Charge then conducts a threat assessment and evaluation of the unidentified target.  Simultaeneously, the recognised air situation data is also displayed in the National Air Defence Centre to enable the Higher Authority to monitor the situation and assist effective decision making.

A visual identification of the unidentified target may be needed, or if the target poses a threat, the Officer-in-Charge then scrambles fighters to intercept the target.  If threat exists, the RMAF’s surface-to-air defence systems would be put on the highest alert to anticipate a hostile act by the said target.

A fighter is scrambled to intercept the target

The pilot intercepting the target will then make a visual identification of the target and report back to the Fighter Controller.  Instructions and orders from the Higher Authority are also relayed back to the intercepting pilot who will then execute either a Force Down procedure or chase the target out of our airspace while comunicating with the target either through the radio or signals.

Only if the instructions are not obeyed will the pilot escalate the rules of engagement.  If the instructions are obeyed and a force down is required, the intercepting pilot will escort the target to the nearest airfield or airport where the target will be investigated.

The elaborate and complex systems that the RMAF Air Defence Centres employ are among the best, and therefore need the continuous support and understanding of not only the higher management of the RMAF, but also of the Government to ensure that hardware, software and its operators remain dynamic, well-maintained and trained.

And although they are mostly trained locally by the RMAF, some do get their training elsewhere in the world. For example the RMAF has had officers do their Basic Air Defence Operator Course in Australia.  Some get trained as Air Weapons Controller in the United States of America. Some attend their Master Controller Course in England, Advanced Defence Weapons Controller in Bangladesh to name a few.

RMAF Air Defence Officers attending their Basic Air Defence Operators Course in Australia during the earlier days of the RMAF

And when you spend your time with your family, friends, or sleep at night, and while the interceptor pilots are on standby inside their crew room, remember this – you only get to go about living a happy life and going about with your personal business because of these glamourless silent sentinels who watch our airspace round the clock.

  • In: Defence
  • Comments Off on Pertahanan: Terhempas Atau Pendaratan Kecemasan?
Helikopter Sikorsky S-61A4 Nuri milik TUDM yang telah melakukan pendaratan cemas di SMK Balung, Tawau

Helikopter Sikorsky S-61A4 Nuri milik TUDM yang telah melakukan pendaratan cemas di SMK Balung, Tawau

Hari ini saya diajukan beberapa soalan dari berbagai pihak mengenai kejadian yang melibatkan sebuah pesawat helikopter Sikorsky S-61A4 Nuri milik TUDM di Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Balung, Tawau.  Untuk memudahkan penulisan, izinkan saya menulis dalam bentuk soalan-soalan yang telah diajukan kepada saya:

SOALAN 1: Media telah menggunakan perkataan “terhempas” namun pihak TUDM menggunakan istilah “mendarat cemas.”  Boleh Kapten terangkan perbezaan kedua-dua istilah tersebut?

Istilah “terhempas” menggambarkan suatu situasi diluar kawalan.  Sebagai contoh, pesawat mengalami kegagalan sepenuhnya fungsi alat kawalan yang mengakibatkan sesuatu pesawat itu terus jatuh diluar kawalan (uncontrolled descent).

Contoh-contoh dalam negeri yang terbaik termasuk kejadian helikopter terhempas yang mengorbankan Allahyarham Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis pada tahun 2015, dan kejadian helikopter terhempas di Sri Damansara pada tahun 1997.

Akibat kejadian “terhempas” kebiasaannya akan mengakibatkan kemusnahan total kepada kerangka pesawat, disertai kehilangan jiwa dan/atau kecederaan parah kepada majoriti penumpang.

Mendarat cemas” ataupun “pendaratan kecemasan” ialah suatu tindakan yang dilakukan sebagai respon kepada sesuatu kejadian kecemasan, contohnya respon juruterbang kepada kegagalan fungsi enjin pesawat. Dalam kejadian semalam pada pengamatan saya, juruterbang telah bertindak untuk cuba mendaratkan pesawat di suatu tempat lapang di antara dua blok sekolah menggunakan kaedah “auto-rotation” namun telah tidak cukup masa untuk mencapai kawasan tersebut.  Siasatan oleh pihak TUDM akan memberi lebih pencerahan mengenai kejadian ini.

SOALAN 2: Pada pendapat Kapten, apa punca kejadian? Adakah ia boleh dielak?

Semua kejadian boleh dielak. Namun kita tiak boleh menjangkakan sesuatu yang bakal berlaku walaupun semua langkah telah diambil untuk mengelak sebarang kejadian yang tidak diingini.  Contoh terbaik: Lewis Hamilton terpaksa keluar dari perlumbaan F1 di litar Sepang baru-baru ini walaupun sedang mendahului para pesaing lain akibat kerosakan enjin walaupun penyelenggaraannya amat baik.  Hanya siasatan terperinci dapat memberi gambaran punca kerosakan kepada pesawat Nuri tersebut dan juga kereta yang dipandu Lewis Hamilton tempoh hari.

SOALAN 3: Masalah teknikal dikatakan antara punca kejadian. Adakah wujud faktor tersebut atau Nuri itu sendiri tidak boleh diselenggarakan lagi kerana usianya yang sudah lanjut?

TUDM, sayap udara TLDM dan Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat mempunya rejim penyelenggaraan pesawat yang amat baik. Usia lanjut sesebuah pesawat itu tidak banyak memainkan peranan sekiranya penyelenggaraan adalah baik.

SOALAN 4: Adakah pesawat Nuri kita terlalu tua dan tidak sesuai lagi untuk latihan memandangkan komponen dan besi pesawat sudah uzur dan haus seperti didakwa sesetengah pihak?

Masih banyak varian Sikorsky S-61 yang masih digunakan di seluruh dunia termasuk juga yang digunakan oleh State Department Amerika Syarikat.  Malah ianya juga salah satu helikopter yang digunakan untuk mengangkut Presiden Amerika Syarikat.  Tentera Udara DiRaja New Zealand masih menerbangkan pesawat Hercules C-130 mereka yang sudah berumur 51 tahun. Usia pesawat bukan merupakan faktor.

SOALAN 5: Apakah sudah sampai masa Nuri digantikan bagi megelakkan insiden yang sama berlaku? Jika tidak, adakah Nuri masih lagi perlu digunakan?

Nuri adalah pesawat yang masih diperlukan.  Aset-aset Nuri TUDM juga kini diserapkan ke dalam Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat untuk tujuan “air mobility.” TUDM menggantikan pesawat Nuri bukan kerana usia atau masalah penyelenggaraan tetapi adalah kesesuaian peranan yang dimainkan oleh TUDM seperti Combat Search and Rescue, Special Forces Insertion and Extraction yang memerlukan helikopter berperanan khusus.  Pesawat Nuri juga telah melalui beberapa proses penambahbaikan kerangka dan avionics untuk menentukan ianya selaras dengan keperluan masa kini.  Ini termasuk peningkatan upaya gearbox, bilah kipas utama dan bilah kipas ekor dan pautan data digital. Malah peningkatan upaya pesawat Nuri dengan memperkenalkan “glass cockpit” atau kawalan digital sepenuhnya yang sesuai digunakan dengan teropong kegunaan malam (night-vision goggles) telah dilakukan untuk sesetengah pesawat Nuri.

Ini menunjukkan pesawat Nuri masih lagi relevan, terutama untuk tujuan pengangkutan saiz sederhana atau penghantaran platun infantri ke medan.

SOALAN 6: Apa nasihat, cadangan, pandangan Kapten kepada TUDM demi masa depan aset seperti Nuri dan keselamatan pengguna helikopter tersebut?

Kementerian Pertahanan perlu menentukan “end-user” mendapat bajet yang diperlukan untuk menentukan perolehan, pengoperasian dan penyelenggaraan aset-aset bukan sahaja TUDM, malah untuk Angkatan Tentera Malaysia amnya, dapat diteruskan dengan baik dan memenuhi doktrin Angkatan Tentera Malaysia.

Pesawat Sikorsky S-61A4 yang telah diserap oleh Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat

Pesawat Sikorsky S-61A4 yang telah diserap oleh Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat

13-year old Muhammad Farhan Najmi bin Johari from Jasin, Melaka, dreamt of soaring high in the skies as a fighter pilot in the Royal Malaysian Air Force. His dream, however, was dashed when he was diagnosed as having Germ Cell Tumour, a condition that would definitely deprive him of his future.


In conjunction with the 59th Merdeka Day celebration’s theme ‘Sehati Sejiwa‘ and in line with the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s tagline ‘We Are One‘, the RMAF collaborated with a non-governmental organisation called ‘Make A Wish Malaysia‘ to grant Farhan’s wish.

Muhammad Farhan Najmi bin Johari


Farhan who is the third among three siblings was referred to ‘Make A Wish Malaysia‘ by his doctor. According to Irene Tan, CEO of Make A Wish Malaysia, children between the age of 3 to 18 when referred, residing in Malaysia who have been diagnosed with life-threatening medical condition are eligible to have their wish granted. The child’s presiding physician will then have to certify if the child is medically eligible.

Among those whose wish was granted was 9-year old Aqilah whose dream was to become a flight stewardess. Make A Wish Malaysia made her dream come true in 2010 partnering with Malaysia Airlines and Pelangi Beach Resort, Langkawi. 

Aqilah’s dream was to become a flight stewardess


Representing the RMAF, Chief of Staff of Air Region 1, Brig Gen Dato Abd Manaf bin Md Zaid TUDM in his speech said the RMAF is always committed to support members of the public whenever possible as this also serves to remind the public that the RMAF is one with them.

Farhan inside the cockpit of a RMAF F-18


Farhan’s father, Encik Johari, was choked with tears of happiness that his son’s wish has finally been made true.

We wish Farhan a speedy recovery, long life, and every success in his life. Thank you to Make A Wish Malaysia and the Royal Malaysian Air Force for granting his wish.

Farhan with his family, staff of RMAF Subang and the team from Make A Wish Malaysia

  • In: Daily Whatevers
  • Comments Off on Air Power Is National Power – An Essay

This article was submitted to the RMAF PR Department after Defence writer, Danny Liew asked me if I was participating in the essay-writing contest (that I had no idea about). I quickly wrote one in office and mailed it within 2 hours of writing. I could not write much as we were limited to 2,000 words only (if I remember correctly).

It only won a consolation prize (not surprised though due to the lack of effort I made)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

AIR POWER IS NATIONAL POWER

Background
For most of its beginnings, the RMAF operated in support of the Malaysian Army’s and Royal Malaysian Navy’s operations, before finally gaining air defence capabilities in 1963 after receiving ten ex-RAAF CAC Sabre fighters. 56 years after its establishment and in spite of recent unfair criticisms for its mainly misguided and perceived roles, the RMAF is, still without doubt, a force to be reckoned with.

Operating uniquely a combination of modern European, American and Russian aircraft, the RMAF has a power projection that had gotten a regional neighbour publish a defence white paper to discuss what is believed to be “the first nation to have the capability to strike the mainland in sixty years.” Supported by very capable air defence coverage as well as skilled personnel, the RMAF continues to provide assurance that the sovereignty of the nation will be protected at all costs.

However, does the RMAF have enough appropriate assets to truly assert power projection?

Force Projection– Lessons from the Ambalat and Lahad Datu Incidents

“Force Projection” is a term used to describe a nation’s ability to project power and exert influence on its neighbours at the least, and viably regionally or globally.

During the Ambalat incidents from February through May 2005 saw the RMAF deploying some of its assets from the Peninsula to the East. Given the number of offensive air assets the RMAF possesses, had the conflict gone uncontrolled, it would have been a daunting task to defend both sides of the nation.

We again see a deployment of assets from the Peninsula during Ops Daulat to provide close air support for the ground combatants. The RMAF has been continuously been rotating aircraft on detachments from the Peninsula and this is far from being a feasible way of sustaining force projection.

Air Power

The British definition of air power today is:

The ability to project military force in air or space by or from a platform or missile operating above the surface of the earth. Air platforms are defined as any aircraft, helicopter or unmanned air vehicles.”

The above defines the characteristics of modern air power which provides for national deterrence against possible belligerents. The manner in which the RMAF operations are limited to does not allow for sustainable air power projection.

The factors that define effective implementation of air power include:

Airbases. There should be a network of permanent as well as alternative operating bases. Although much of the grass airstrips in Malaysia have been converted into dwelling as well as golf courses, we are still blessed with myriad small airstrips that can effectively operate smaller aircraft suitable for light-attack and helo operations. Civilian airports in Sabah and Sarawak in particular should provide the opportunity for the RMAF to form and house additional squadrons instead of detachments from the Peninsula to effectively oversee its responsibility to provide adequate air defence for those states. While air-to-air refuelling (AAR) can extend the reach of our fighters as well as their loiter time, planning factors such as distance, demand, duration as well as cost generated by the need for enhanced AAR capability need to be taken into account.

Versatility. Our air assets should also be versatile in its multi-role capabilities with quick turnarounds for other roles reconfiguration.

Air Presence. While “Sentiasa Di Angkasaraya (Always in the Air)” may be the motto of the RMAF, it is prohibitively expensive to continuously provide air presence. Already blessed with a relatively good air defence system, and in light of the MH370 incident, the RMAF may need to tweak its air intercept procedures, provided with better engine hours for its interceptors, and impose upon the Department of Civil Aviation for better airspace management control where the former has a better control of not just suspected hostiles, but also of stray friendlies.

Fragility. As air assets grow in terms of sophistication and performance characteristics, so does those of the anti-air defences. As such, suppression of air defences becomes an important and crucial role for air power. During WW2, DeHavilland produced an aircraft that embraced simplicity in battle-damage repair but effective in performance: the almost-all-wood Mosquito. While wood is more fragile than conventional aircraft material, the fragility of the Mosquito was ameliorated by its speed and superb performance. Likewise, the RMAF would need aircraft that has better speed, low radar signature and good self-protection measures to make up for the fragility due to the enemy’s enhanced air defence capabilities. This will ensure the ability of the RMAF to penetrate deep behind enemy air defence lines.

Good intelligence and Quick Response. Air Intelligence Officers must possess the correct knowledge, attitude and the ability to grasp situations in order to have an effective support for air combat operations. As intelligence is perishable, good intelligence is only good if it can be made to good use by the tacticians and strategists before its value becomes outdated. The Decision-Action cycle has to be in a tempo that supersede that of the enemy.

Stand-Off/Reach. The range of modern air-to-air, air-to-surface weapons, as well as the air platforms that carry them will demonstrate the RMAF’s commitment and resolve. This is an area where the RMAF, in moving forward, need to seek balance in when making future procurements of air assets and materiel.

Sustainability. The RMAF must ensure that its manpower, equipment and logistics are able to command its operational and objective requirements. Sustainability is the ability to maintain its aim as prescribed in the Principles of War.

Principles of War

The Principles of War were developed by Major General JFC “Boney” Fuller based on his experiences during the First World War. Applicable also to Air Power, failure to take into account these hard-won lessons can lead to mission failure. They are:

Selection and Maintenance of the Aim. It is imperative that the aim in which the RMAF plans to achieve its objectives must be carefully selected and defined with clarity. The objectives must be attainable and directed to achieving the intended strategic goals. The commanders at all levels must know how to interpret the aim and what is required of them and the resources made available to them to attain the aim. Therefore, the tasks, roles and missions selected for the air assets must be consistent and coherent with the strategic initiatives to achieve this aim.

Maintenance of Morale. Air and ground assets employed by an air force are useless without personnel that are motivated to achieving the aim. Continual training and maintenance of discipline are equally as important for the men and women of the RMAF as well as having commanders who they can look up to and trust in their leadership in times of war and peace.

Security. It is also imperative that physical protection of assets be of utmost importance against enemy interference. All personnel need to embrace the “need-to-know” and information denial culture. For the latter to occur, good and outstanding commanders who command the respect of his/her men and women play exceptional role in maintaining their morale and in making them understand the culture of information denial.

Surprise. Surprise is essential to achieve mission success and must be applied to at all levels of RMAF activities. Surprise can be achieved through secrecy, concealment, deception, originality, audacity and speed.

Offensive Action. The commander must always employ offensive action to influence the outcome of the campaign or operation. With selection and maintenance of the aim, determination must be set to maintain the initiative and deny the enemy from overcoming the goals. In peacetime, force projection via adequate appropriate assets as well as the availability of correct basing of assets provides psychological offensive action. Hence, the Government needs to see that resources are made available to the RMAF to achieve this aim.

Concentration of Force. It is essential to concentrate superior force against the enemy at the decisive time and place which calls for superior and adequate assets, as well as quick reaction to good intelligence to achieve success in war and peacetime.

Economy of Effort. Decisive strength must be achieved and maintained in order to have concentration of force. Therefore, Economy of Effort demands correct air power weapons and delivery systems to match the tasks.

Flexibility. Flexibility allows the commander to exercise judgment by modifying plans without changing the aim. It demands trust, discipline, good training and quick decision-making.

Cooperation. Better cooperation and coordination with other services can be achieved through joint exercises. This allows for concentration of force and economy of effort against the enemy.

Sustainability. As mentioned, sustainability is about maintaining the physical, spiritual and moral aspects, and the necessary fighting power of the RMAF. Without sustainability, the aim will be greatly jeopardised.

Conclusion

Air Power is important in maintaining the nation’s deterrence from belligerence. The RMAF needs the government’s support in acquiring adequate appropriate assets to maintain that deterrence as it projects the nation’s power.


Taqweem al-SeaDemon

June 2017
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