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.
Many often question the purchases of military hardware by the Malaysian Armed Forces without once realising the need for those platforms. The purchase of the A400M airlifter by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) did not escape such criticisms.
This morning while many were asleep, a RMAF A400M aircraft was loaded with 19 tonnes of aid for the people trapped in Marawi City. This is the first Human And Disaster Relief (HADR) mission that involves the A400M.
The A400M is a new-generation airlifter that is capable of lifting 17 tonnes of payload more than the other large transport aircraft in the RMAF’s inventory – the C-130H, and is able to fly 200km/h faster too. It is said to be able to carry what the C-130H cannot carry, and land and take-off from where the C-17 cannot.
The Battle of Marawi that began on 23 May 2017 has killed not only the combatants but also innocent civilians. Apart from being caught in crossfires, 40 civilians are known to have died as a result of dehydration and a further 19 due to diseases contracted in congested evacuation camps.
Due to the good relationship between the Najib Razak and Duterte administrations HADR aid is being sent from Malaysia to assist the people of Marawi. 11 personnel from the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART) are also sent to assist in the distribution of the aid.
The A400M is captained by Lieutenant-Colonel Baharin bin Mohamad RMAF and is assisted by Major Wan Azrul bin Wan Azmi RMAF. The aircraft will take approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes to Cagayan de Oro and will be on ground for nine to ten hours. No refuelling is required for the aircraft to make its return leg unlike the C-130H.
It is without doubt that the RMAF had chosen the perfect aircraft, without which such mission would have required the utilisation of more aircraft and manpower, and a higher operating costs.
Kian viral di WhatsApp ialah satu pesanan dari Yang Berbahagia Brigadier Jeneral Dato’ Mohammad Arshad bin Mohammad Raji (Bersara) yang pernah berbakti dalam Tentera Darat Malaysia. Pesanan beliau berbunyi begini:
“Surat terbuka kepada Menteri Pertahanan Malaysia
Kami dimaklumkan bahawa sebuah kem tentera peninggalan tentera British yang menyimpan banyak sejarah dan kenangan pahit manis pada ribuan veteran ATM yang pernah berkhidmat dan menduduki kem tersebut, akan dijual (atau pun sudah dijual) dengan sewenang- wenangnya kepada pihak awam.
Ini bukan kali pertama sebuah kem tentera peninggalan British dijual, tanpa menghormati sejarah silam, iaitu sesuatau yang amat berharga kepada veteran ATM, terutama bagi mereka-mereka yang pernah bertugas dan menduduki kem tersebut. Kem-kem peninggalan tentera British yang telah dijual oleh kerajaan adalah seperti berikut:
1. Kem Majidee, Johor Baharu, Johor
2. Kem Transit, Ampang, Selangor
3. Kem Tebrau, Johor Baharu, Johor
4. Kem Lapangan Terbang Sg. Besi, Kuala Lumpur
Kami baru difahamkan bahawa Kem Batu Kantomen, iaitu sebuah kem induk lojistik bagi Tentera Darat Malaysia bertempat di Jalan. Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur akan/telah menjadi mangsa untuk dijual/telah dijual. Disini kami ingin tahu samada maklumat berikut benar atau tidak:
1. Keluasan kem tersebut adalah dalam jangkauan 200 ekar.
2. Benarkah kem tersebut dijual secara rundingan terus kepada Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT)?
3. Benarkah harga yang ditawarkan kepada LTAT ialah RM2.3 bilion, dan bukan mengikut nilai pasaran semasa?
4. Benarkah arahan sudah pun dikeluarkan bagi semua anggota dan unit yang sekarang masih bertempat di Kem tersebut berpindah keluar dengan secepat mungkin?
5. Benarkah peruntukan sebanyak RM700 juta disediaka untuk pemindahan ke kem-kem lain buat sementara waktu sehingga kem baru disediakan?
6. Benarkah RM1,6 bilion dari harga jualan tersebut akan digunakan bagi membayar veteran-veteran yang tidak berpencen, yang akan diumumkan oleh Perdana Menteri pada Perhimpunan Raksaksa Veteran pada 31 Jułai ini di MIECC, Balakong, Selangor.
Persoalan nya sekarang……apa perlunya Kem yang besejarah ini dijual dengan begitu tergesa gesa dan melalui rundingan terus?
Sekiranya tiada sebarang kenyataan dibuat oleh Menteri Pertahanan dalam tempoh 14 hari dimana mana media massa menafikan maklumat ini, maka kami anggap maklumat ini benar. Jika ianya benar, maka adakah ini satu petanda bahawa kerajaan sedang menghadapi kesulitan kewangan akibat skandal 1MDB, dan tujuan Kem Batu Kantomen dijual secara tergesa gesa adalah bagi menyelamat kan kerajaan dari masalah kesulitan kewangan serius yang dihadapi sekarang?
Brig Jen Dato Arshad Raji ( B)”
Sebagai seorang bekas pegawai tentera, saya berasa amat terharu masih ada di kalangan bekas pegawai kanan tinggi Angkatan Tentera Malaysia yang masih mengambil berat akan kebajikan para veteran serta tradisi ketenteraan. Semoga Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala merahmati niat murni beliau.
Namun sebagai seorang yang gemar mengkaji, saya suka membaca apa jua pesanan mahupun artikel-artikel dan kemudian membuat sedikit penyelidikan untuk memastikan fakta-fakta yang diberikan bukan sahaja oleh YBhg Dato’ Arshad, tetapi oleh sesiapa sahaja. Dan sepertimana di dalam grup-grup WhatsApp Veteran yang mana saya ikuti, sekiranya betul dan memberi manfaat akan saya kongsi, yang tidak betul saya terangkan.
Sebagaimana kisah mengenai “kedudukan strategik” Pangkalan Udara Kuala Lumpur yang telah saya terangkan, kisah kini berkisar beberapa buah kem Tentera Darat (TD) yang merupakan kem-kem warisan peninggalan British. Sudah tentu tempat-tempat tersebut mempunyai banyak peninggalan sejarah. Kem-kem tersebut di atas adalah, elok saya ulangi di sini, Kem Majidee dan Kem Tebrau di Johor Bahru, Kem Transit Ampang di Selangor, dan Kem Batu Kantonmen di Kuala Lumpur. Di antara kem-kem yang saya sebutkan di atas, Kem Batu Kantonmen mempunyai nilai sentimental buat saya kerana pada tahun 1988 di situlah saya dan rakan-rakan bermain ragbi melawan pasukan MINDEF Officers Rugby semasa membuat persediaan untuk perlawanan tiga perkhidmatan menentang TD dan Tentera Laut DiRaja Malaysia (TLDM).
Namun, kepesatan pembangunan kawasan bandar menyebabkan kesemua kem yang dinyatakan di atas dihimpit pembangunan yang tidak lagi menjadikan kawasan-kawasan tersebut strategik. Kalau dulu kem-kem tersebut berada di pinggir atau luar bandar, kini kesemuanya terhimpit dalam sebuah bandaraya yang membangun pesat.
Pelan penjualan Kem Batu Kantonmen ini sebenarnya dibuat pada tahun 2002 lagi, tujuh tahun sebelum 1MDB ditubuhkan. Ketika itu, negara ditadbir oleh seorang Perdana Menteri yang lain. Kerajaan Negeri Perak ketika itu juga telah menyediakan satu tapak seluas 680 hektar (hampir 7 kali keluasan Kem Batu Kantonmen) untuk tujuan penempatan unit-unit TD yang terkesan akibat pembelian kem tersebut.
Pada tahun 2011, Boustead Holdings yang ketika itu mempunyai Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) sebagai pemegang saham terbesar, iaitu 59 peratus saham syarikat, telah menyatakan
Berpandukan nilai hartanah pada tahun 2011, tanah yang belum ditukar kegunaan milik Kem Batu Kantonmen seluas 98 hektar (atau bersamaan 240 ekar) itu adalah sekitar RM40 hingga RM80 sekaki persegi. Ini bermakna jumlah yang boleh diperoleh dari penjualan tanah tersebut ialah sebanyak RM845 juta. Nilai tersebut KINI adalah sekitar RM1.7 billion.
Sepatutnya kita tidak mempersoalkan sebarang pembelian yang dibuat oleh sama ada Boustead mahupun LTAT kerana apa jua pembelian yang mendatangkan hasil untuk kepada kedua-dua organisasi tersebut akan memberi manfaat kepada para anggota dan pegawai sama ada yang masih berkhidmat mahupun yang telah bersara. Ini adalah kerana Nilai Pembangunan Kasar tanah tersebut sebanyak RM8 billion setelah ditawarkan kepada LTAT dengan harga RM2.3 billion bermakna keuntungan kasar yang bakal diperolehi adalah berjumlah RM3.2 billion, yang mana akan menjadi dividen masa hadapan LTAT itu sendiri.
Sekiranya benar RM700 juta telah diperuntukkan untuk perpindahan yang dinyatakan juga adalah satu jumlah yang besar dan berpatutan. Malah, kita sepatutnya berasa gembira adik-adik kita yang kini berkhidmat, berpeluang dipindahkan ke kem-kem serta pangkalan-pangkalan yang moden, lebih selesa, dan lebih sesuai sebagai instalasi tentera berbanding bangunan-bangunan uzur.
Kenapa juga kita mempersoalkan kenapa kem-kem bersejarah ini dijual secara terus tanpa memanggil tender? Pada saya, ini soalan peringkat amatur dan bukannya peringkat pakar strategi. Sekiranya dipanggil tender maka ianya terbuka kepada syarikat-syarikat pemaju gergasi yang pasti akan menafikan Boustead atau LTAT peluang untuk membuat keuntungan yang boleh dinikmati oleh semua yang menabung di LTAT dan para veteran.
Yang saya tidak faham adalah kenapa seorang bekas pegawai kanan tinggi TD mempersoalkan imbuhan sebanyak RM1.6 billion yang akan diberikan kepada para veteran yang bersara tanpa pencen? Adakah para veteran tidak berpencen tidak layak menerima imbuhan seperti bayaran pencen bulanan yang diterima oleh mereka yang berpencen? Adakah veteran tidak berpencen berada dalam kasta yang lebih rendah dalam hirarki Veteran?
Sayugia diingatkan juga buat semua veteran dan mereka yang masih dalam perkhidmatan, begitu getir cabaran mereka yang berkhidmat sebelum kita sehingga merdekanya Tanah Melayu dan terbentuknya Malaysia kemudian dari diberi arahan oleh pihak British yang mentadbir kita sebelum ini.
Kini kita pula ingin memalukan mereka yang berkhidmat sebelum kita dengan menjulang peninggalan kolonialis. Kalau benar dkerajaan pusat bersalah menjual kem-kem usang yang disanjungi, kenapa kita berdiam diri apabila bangunan bersejarah yang pernah menempatkan Markas Dua Divisyen di Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Georgetown, Pulau Pinang dijual dan dirobohkan untuk pembangunan baharu? Banyak juga kenangan saya di bangunan tersebut dalam tahun 1980an.
Dan telah dibuktikan bahawa 1MDB tidak mengalami sebarang kerugian mahupun kesulitan kewangan. Saya kecewa sekiranya YBhg Dato Arshad mempergunakan emosi para veteran untuk mencapai tujuan politik kerana kenyataan yang melibatkan 1MDB sememangnya berbaur politik.
Biarlah sekiranya kita hendak memperjuangkan hak, perjuangkanlah dengan betul, dan bukannya berlandaskan yang batil. Kita ini semuanya veteran. Setiap hari kubur menghampiri kita. Eloklah kita benar dalam percakapan dan perbuatan tanpa sebarang niat yang memesongkan.
Even before the incident involving the crash of a Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Beechcraft Super King Air B200T Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) talks were rife in the industry about the limited capabilities the T200 could offer as an effective MPA and possible replacements.
The four, four-man crew aircraft in the RMAF’s inventory complementing the C-130MP in performing the MPA role but subsequently replaced the latter due to operational costs versus mission requirements.
The B200T, however, has a limited endurance of four hours, maximum cruise speed of approximately 300 knots (540 km/h) which makes its on-station loiter time somewhat limited unless the aircraft is deployed on a detachment which means logistics support have to be deployed as well. In the long run it would be uneconomical for the RMAF to run such missions.
Malaysian has recently expressed interest in second-hand Lockheed/Kawasaki P-3C Orion of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) which are being replaced by the Kawasaki P-1 MPA. Although the RMAF is understandably weary of “hand-me-down” aircraft, the ready-to-fly P-3Cs offer an attractive opportunity to close the maritime patrol gap with hardly much that is needed to be done. The P-3Cs have internal bays for torpedoes and depth-charges plus ten hardpoints on the wings for anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and mines.
The downside is that the last P-3C Orion to be delivered to the JMSDF by Kawasaki was on 1 February 2000, making the aircraft offered to the RMAF 17 years old or more! The last aircraft delivered by Lockheed was in December 1994. The four Allison T-56-A-14 turboprop engines, although giving more speed, could only give a maximum range of 3,835 kilometers, which is only 700 kilometers more than the B200T, making the P-3Cs true gas-guzzlers. In December 2008, the US Navy had to ground 39 P-3Cs or 1/4 of its fleet due to age-related wing cracks. The average age of the Orions then were 28 years old. 17-year old P-3Cs have less than 15 years to offer to the RMAF unless an expensive service-life extension program is initiated for the fleet.
If acquired, the P-3Cs would be flying mainly RMAF’s anti-shipping missions. These missions would require the aircraft to fly near wave-cap levels where the engines not only burn more fuel, but also be demanding on both the crew and the aging airframe.
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 drove Airbus Defence and Space to fly the Asian route while delivering an Airbus C-295 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft to Brazil.
The aircraft, which is in a Search-and-Rescue configuration, made its stop in Malaysia late on Friday evening after Thailand and Vietnam.
Airbus Defence and Space’s marketing director Fernando Ciara explained that Airbus had decided to fly the Asian route through Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, North America, Mexico before delivering the aircraft to the Força Aérea Brasileira to showcase a platform that not only would be suitable for the SAR/MPA/ASW roles but would be friendlier for aircrews to transition to given that most of the countries mentioned, especially to Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines are already operating either the C-295 or CN-235 aircraft, while Canada has been authorised to purchase the C-295.
The commonality between the C-295 and the CN-235 also potentially leads to even lower operating costs. Ciara added that 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 C-295 makes the best option for maritime patrol and surveillance as well as anti-submarine warfare missions in Malaysia.
The C-295 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 P-3C’s speed of 760 km/h and the B200T’s 540 km/h, but has a range of 5,600 kilometers compared to the P-3C’s 3,800 kilometer range and the B200T’s 3,100 kilometer range.
The anti-submarine warfare version, which is already in service with one operator, is equipped with underwing stations to carry weapons and other stores.
The C-295 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.
Malaysia is Airbus’ third largest market in Asia, after China and India. Today there are 125 Airbus commercial aircraft flying with Malaysia’s airlines, with another 470 on order for future delivery.
200 Airbus helicopters are also being operated in Malaysia including the H225M and AS555SN flown by the Malaysian Armed Forces, and the AS365 in service with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
In addition to the CN235s, the RMAF is Airbus’s first export customer for the new generation A400M airlifter and has four aircraft in service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.