Tiga Orang Wira Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia Yang Terkorban Dinaikkan Pangkat Secara “Posthumous”

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Satu Majlis Penganugerahan pangkat Leftenan Kolonel Hakiki secara Posthumous (pasca kematian) telah diadakan di Markas Tentera Udara, Kementerian Pertahanan. Anugerah kenaikan pangkat itu telah disempurnakan oleh YBhg Panglima Tentera Udara, Jeneral Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Hj Affendi bin Buang TUDM.

Antara penerima pangkat ini adalah Mendiang Lt Kol Kayamboo a/l Chellam yang terkorban ketika sedang beroperasi menerbangkan pesawat angkut Beechcraft King Air 200T di Pangkalan Udara Butterworth pada 21 Disember 2016, Allahyarham Lt Kol Yazmi bin Dato’ Mohamed Yusof TUDM dan Allahyarham Lt Kol Hasri bin Zahari TUDM yang terkorban bersama semasa menerbangkan pesawat Hawk 108 di Chukai, Terengganu pada 15 Jun 2017. Ketiga-tiga mangsa juruterbang ini menerima satu kenaikan pangkat asal mereka.

Penganugerahan pangkat tersebut telah disampaikan kepada Puan Usha a/p Suppiah (Isteri Mendiang Lt Kol Kayamboo TUDM), Puan Shofara Izwa binti Hilmi (Isteri Allahyarham Lt Kol Yazmi TUDM) dan Puan Asysyuhadak binti Ahmad (Isteri Allahyarham Lt Kol Hasri TUDM).

Majlis pagi tadi telah berlangsung secara bersederhana. Seluruh jemputan di majlis tersebut kelihatan sugul kerana masih lagi bersedih dengan pemergian juruterbang-juruterbang terlibat. Namun kelihatan bersemangat semula apabila mendengar obituari mangsa juruterbang tersebut yang nyata cemerlang di dalam pencapaian kerjaya, keberanian dan pengorbanan yang telah dilakukan sepanjang perkhidmatannya di dalam TUDM.

Selain merupakan satu tanda penghargaan kepada mereka di atas jasa dan bakti mereka terhadap perkhidmatan TUDM khasnya dan Negara amnya, penganugerahan ini juga membolehkan para balu wira-wira tersebut menerima pencen yang lebih tinggi dari pangkat asal terakhir.  Inilah di antara cara TUDM dapat membantu keluarga mereka yang telah banyak berjasa.

Turut hadir di majlis ini adalah Timbalan Panglima Tentera Udara, YBhg Lt Jen Dato’ Sri Ackbal bin Hj Abdul Samad TUDM; Panglima Pendidikan dan Latihan Udara, YBhg Lt Jen Dato’ Kamarulzaman bin Mohd Othman TUDM; Asisten Ketua Staf Tadbir, YBhg Brig Jen Ahmad bin Abd Rahman TUDM, serta ahli keluarga Mendiang dan Allahyarham.

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Kelihatan Puan Shofara Izwa binti Hilmi (balu kepada Allahyarham Lt Kol Yazmi TUDM) menitiskan air mata, manakala Puan Usha a/p Suppiah (Balu Mendiang Lt Kol Kayamboo TUDM) dan Puan Asysyuhadak binti Ahmad (balu kepada Allahyarham Lt Kol Hasri TUDM) merenung Epaulette pangkat Leftenan Kolonel TUDM milik suami mereka

Isu Pangkalan Udara Strategik

ISU PANGKALAN UDARA STRATEGIK

Nampaknya sedang tular di media sosial video Majlis Paluan Berundur ATM dari Kem TUDM Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur sehingga ada pihak yang membangkitkan isu bahawa kem tersebut telah dijual kepada China. Sesungguhnya, ia dakwaan yang tidak berasas sama sekali. Baca penjelasan berikut untuk mengetahui fakta sebenar.

1. Pemindahan TUDM Kuala Lumpur ke Pangkalan Udara Sendayan dibuat berdasarkan faktor rasionalisasi daripada aspek operasi dan keselamatan, dan juga TUDM Kuala Lumpur sudah terlalu lama dan usang, dibangun sejak tahun 1940-an.

2. Operasi penerbangan di TUDM Kuala Lumpur tidak berapa selamat disebabkan kepesatan pembangunan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur, dengan adanya bangunan tinggi dan kepadatan penduduk.

3. Kawasan TUDM Kuala Lumpur amat terdedah dengan ancaman luar disebabkan lokasi berhampiran lebuhraya dan kawasan perumahan. Dengan ancaman yang ada sekarang ini, ia boleh dilancarkan daripada kawasan-kawasan tersebut.

4. Pendedahan TUDM Kuala Lumpur kepada umum turut menyukarkan pihak TUDM untuk memberi perlindungan mantap sebagai kawasan operasi ketenteraan kerana terdedah kepada aktiviti pengintipan.

5. PU Sendayan & 31 Rejimen Artileri Kem Tun Ibrahim, Kajang adalah antara tapak-tapak relokasi TUDM Kuala Lumpur. Penempatan di beberapa pangkalan udara yang ada adalah mengikut misi dan kesesuaian seperti yang dibuat di PU KL sebelum ini.

6. Ini adalah kali pertama sebuah Pangkalan Udara (Sendayan) dibina untuk keselesaan para pegawai dan anggota TUDM di mana mereka akan mendapat kawasan kerja, kediaman dan infrastruktur yang baru untuk memberi sokongan atas misi-misi latihan TUDM. Selain itu, dengan adanya PU Sendayan ini, TUDM akan dapat menempatkan pusat latihan TUDM di mana buat masa ini latihan-latihan tersebut berpecah dan ada yang dibuat di Subang, Alor Star serta di Kinrara.

7. PU Sendayan ini apabila siap dibina dapat menyatukan TUDM yang akan meletakkan semua ini di bawah satu bumbung bagi tujuan uniformiti dan latihan manakala perintah dan kawalan akan menjadi lebih berkesan.

ISU KEHILANGAN ASPEK SEJARAH PU KUALA LUMPUR

1. Sejarah TUDM Kuala Lumpur akan dikekalkan selepas dipindahkan ke PU Sendayan kerana ia merupakan landasan antarabangsa yang pertama digunakan semasa zaman kemerdekaan. TUDM akan memelihara artifak-artifak sejarah TUDM Kuala Lumpur ini di muzium TUDM. Ini akan dilakukan bagi memastikan sejarah TUDM tidak akan terlupus.

ISU PROJEK BANDAR MALAYSIA DIKUASAI SYARIKAT CHINA

1. Dakwaan kononnya projek Bandar Malaysia di bekas TUDM Kuala Lumpur di ibu negara dikuasai oleh syarikat China kini bukan lagi isu. Sebaliknya tapak strategik seluas 198 hektar itu dikuasai 100% Kementerian Kewangan, berikutan terbatal perjanjian jualan saham (SSA) Bandar Malaysia dengan pihak pemegang saham projek tersebut sebelumnya.

2. TRX City, dengan mengambil kira kepentingan nilai tanah Bandar Malaysia, akan mengekalkan pemilikan penuh terhadap kawasan itu demi memastikan rakyat Malaysia meraih manfaat hasil pembangunannya.

3. Adalah fitnah berniat jahat dengan mengatakan kem TUDM KL diserah kepada Cina dari China.

RUMUSAN

1. Adalah tidak benar kerajaan mengenepikan sejarah penting negara dengan menyerahkan Pangkalan Udara Kuala Lumpur kepada pihak pemaju untuk dibangunkan. Banyak sejarah dan artifak TUDM akan dipelihara untuk pengetahuan generasi akan datang.

2. PU Kuala Lumpur telah hilang nilai strategiknya dan tidak sesuai lagi untuk menempatkan unit-unit tentera. Kedudukannya juga menjadikan pengintipan dan serangan oleh musuh menjadi begitu mudah.

3. Angkatan Tentera Malaysia memperolehi kemudahan-kemudahan yang jauh lebih baik dan bersesuaian setelah perpindahan ini berlaku.

4. Malaysia bukan satu-satunya negara yang menutup pangkalan-pangkalan tentera. United Kingdom telah dan bakal menutup sebanyak 56 pangkalan-pangkalan tentera termasuk Woolwich Barracks dan Fort George yang berusia hampir 300 tahun dan kaya dengan unsur-unsur sejarah. Berbeza dengan Malaysia, penutupan pangkalan-pangkalan tentera di UK tidak melibatkan sebarang penggantian.

Oleh itu janganlah kita mempolitikkan pertahanan negara dan hargai Angkatan Tentera Malaysia serta hak mereka untuk bertugas dan tinggal di pangkalan-pangkalan yang jauh lebih moden dan selesa sesuai dengan tugas mereka yang berat untuk menjaga kemananan, kesejahteraan dan kedaulatan negara.

The Non-Malay Heroes of Malaysia

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I am appalled that there still are those who deny the roles played by the non-Malays in defending this country, especially during the two Emergencies; that dark 33 years of fighting communism.  The history books emphasised more on the 12-year First Emergency because of its relation to the independence of Malaya, thus many forget that not too long-ago bombs were going off in the middle of Kuala Lumpur while ordinary policemen were getting slayed.

The First Emergency broke out in June 1948 with the murder of three British estate managers in Sungai Siput.  Fuelled by the progressive successes the Communist Party of China was having against the Kuomintang, the acts of banditry increased exponentially.  Based on a priori the British found it best to both resettle the Chinese in camps while between 20,000 to 50,000 be sent back to China.  The plan moved at a snail’s pace due to the objections by many, and with the total withdrawal of the Kuomintang to Formosa, the repatriation of the Chinese came to a halt in September 1949 when the Communist Party of China closed off all ports and beaches.  Only 6,000 Chinese from Malaya were sent back (Anthony Short, 1975 pp 178-201).  The rest were settled in new villages to curb them from supplying the Communist Party of Malaya with food and other essentials.

When Ismail Mina Ahmad, the chairman of the Ummah umbrella group for Muslim organisations, claimed that only the Malays fought against invaders and communists in this country, it shows the level of ignorance on his part (Syed Jaymal Zahiid – In fiery speech cleric tells forum only Malays fought invaders communists, Malay Mail Online, 13 January 2018).  His claim is far from the truth.

At the peak of the First Emergency, the British had to not only bring in members of the Palestine Police Force who were experienced in counter-insurgency warfare, but also recruited a large number of Chinese residents of Malaya.  Tan Sri Dr Too Chee Chew, more famously known as CC Too, headed the Psychological Warfare section.  We had the likes of Tan Sri Jimmy Koo Chong Kong, Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Ling, Datuk Leong Chee Woh to name a few who spent most of their lives fighting the communists.

CC Too, Koo Chong Kong and Yuen Yuet Ling were among the ranks of the Malayan People Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) during the Second World War who chose to go against their former comrades and became targets of the Communist Party of Malaya. Jimmy Khoo Chong Kong, who was also a former member of the Sarawak Communist Party before surrendering to the authorities and joining the Royal Malaysian Police, paid with his life on 13 November 1975 in Ipoh, Perak, as did his driver Constable (awarded Sergeant posthumously) Yeong Peng Cheong who died with his gun blazing.  Without hesitation, even with the knowledge that he was also on the hit list, Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Ling replaced Tan Sri Koo as the Perak Chief Police Officer.

When a Royal Malaysian Air Force Sikorsky S-61A Nuri helicopter was shot down in Gubir, Kedah on 27 April 1976, three Malaysian Chinese personnel were also among the 11 killed. They were Captain Choo Yeok Boo TUDM, Lieutenant Chung Ming Teck TUDM and Sergeant (Air) Leong Yee Heng.  They were on a resupply mission from the Butterworth Air Base when they were shot down.

Captain Frank Chong Keng Lay TUDM (retired as Lieutenant-Colonel) flew his Nuri into a hot landing zone to rescue several infantrymen.  His two commando escorts were killed as his Nuri took 22 heavy machinegun shots.  The next day he flew into the same landing zone to repeat the task.  Keng Lay was my Chief of Staff at the RMAF Air Training Command where I was a Staff Officer and later its Adjutant.

Inspectors Kamalanathan and Robert Cheah were inside a coffee shop meeting with informers when a terrorist threw a grenade into the shop.  The explosion maimed Kamalanathan and for the rest of his life he walked with an obvious limp with a grenade shrapnel still embedded in his leg.

There were many other non-Malay police officers in particular those who served in the Special Branch who died as unsung heroes as they were not recruited nor trained with other policemen.  They were the deep infiltrators, members of the community, who went on leading a double life that even their own family did not know they were all policemen.  Their pay did not come from Bluff Road (Bukit Aman) directly. DSP Jeganathan was a Jabatan Talikom employee tasked with setting up the police’s VHF network and spent years jungle-bashing, building towers on mountain and hilltops with the communist terrorists hot on his heels so that the police could have a nationwide communications network.

There were those who were just roadside sweepers working for the municipal and town councils, collecting information.  One had his cover blown when he was discovered in a different town by a neighbour asking him loudly what was he doing there sweeping the streets.

Another was on his death bed, ridden with cancer, when he sought the help of a Malaysian daily to contact my father to tell the latter of his condition.  His real name was quoted by the daily to my father, which my father could not recall.  My father asked the contact in the daily to ask him his Special Branch name. When the reply came, my father left his golf game and rushed to the hospital and after more than 50 years of being married, the wife and family finally knew the man-of-their-house was a hero fighting the communists, not just some small-time trader.

Let us not forget Chief Inspector Chin Chin Kooi.  He was a Special Branch officer probing communist activities in Serdang, Kedah.  At 9pm on 12 July 1973, six communist terrorists stormed into his home and let loose a volley of bullets.  Mortally wounded, Chin returned fire until his last breath.

Across the South China Sea, Police Field Force Superintendent Joni Mustapha was a champion Sarawak hurdler from 1958 to 1959.  Joni was watching a movie with his son in Sibu when a policeman relayed a message to him that his men were being pinned down by communist terrorists upriver Sungai Setabau.  He asked the policeman to stay with his son in the cinema and left to rescue his men.

Constable Nuing Saling, an Iban policeman, was on a two-week leave to be with his wife Imbok Jimbon who was six months pregnant with their third child.  Upon hearing that Joni was leaving for the jungle, hurriedly joined the team.  Both Joni and Nuing had made a pact that they would help each other. They left by boat to get to the location.  Upon arrival, they engaged the communist terrorists.  Joni was felled by machinegun fire but remained conscious to direct the firefight until he died.  Another constable friend, Abang Masri was already dead.  Seeing his commander and friend die, Nuing unsheathed his machete and charged at the terrorists’ position firing at them, only to be mown down.  He had been hit in the face by a bullet.  Nuing refused to give up.  He continued his charge and was hit several times more but kept on charging, killing and wounding many.  He died inside the location of the communist terrorists.

Kanang ak Langkau is perhaps the most known warrior from Sarawak who shed blood and tears fighting against the communist terrorists.  He was wounded several times but not once let his wounds stop him from fighting.

These are stories that we should all remember.  Stories of our non-Malay brethren heroes who risked and gave their lives so that we can all enjoy the peace and prosperity that God has bestowed upon us.  Many more have gone unsung, but they shall not be forgotten.  Especially not by selfishly ignoring the sacrifices that have been made by them.

DAP Benefitted From Military Camps

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Recently Kluang Member of Parliament Liew Chin Tong slammed Minister of Defence Hishammuddin Hussein for denying that an army camp was being built in Paloh, a state seat in the latter’s constituency of Sembrong.  Liew Chin Tong implied that the army camp is being built for political purposes.

“This proves that Barisan Nasional (BN) is using these army camps to increase voters in constituencies that it won with thin majorities in the 13th general election,” Liew told a press conference last week.

He said the inclusion of the army personnel in Paloh would increase the electorate by over 1,000 voters.

“In Paloh, DAP lost only by a few hundred votes and these new voters will result in another BN win,” he added.

The fact is that while members of the Malaysian Armed Forces swears its allegiance to the Yang DiPertuan Agong, His Majesty’s Government (the Government-of-the-Day), and the Country, each member of the Malaysian Armed Forces are free to vote for whom they are politically-inclined to support.  Therefore, having a military camp/base does not guarantee you any solid support for votes.  I had written at length on this issue of allegiance in a recent blog post.

Perhaps it would be good for Liew Chin Tong to admit that he won Kluang against the Barisan Nasional in 2013 because of the presence of a huge army camp, namely Kem Mahkota, that houses the 61st Royal Artillery Regiment as well as the 881st Regiment, Malaysian Army Aviation.

Come to think of it, out of the 89 Parliamentary seats won by the then-Pakatan Rakyat during the 13th General Elections four years ago, at least 18 parliamentary constituencies have major military camps/bases in them.  That is 20 percent of the total of parliamentary consituencies held by the Pakatan candidates. Here is the list that I have compiled:

Senarai Kem Tentera Bawah PH 2013

Let us take for example the Lumut Naval Base which is under PKR.  That base alone had 14,231 registered voters while PKR’s Mohamad Imran Abd Hamid won 40,308 votes.  Why didn’t Barisan Nasional win there?

Perhaps Liew Chin Tong should also inform all Malaysians that out of the 18 constituencies with major military camps/bases that was won by the Pakatan back in 2013, eight seats were won by the DAP. That is 44 percent!  Despite being the other “Malay” party within the Pakatan, PKR managed only seven seats or 38 percent. PAS could only get three then but one of those seats, Shah Alam, is now firmly under Khalid Samad of Amanah after he betrayed his oath to remain in PAS if nominated as a candidate and would divorce his wife if he jumps ship.  Shah Alam is the home of a major Royal Malaysian Air Force base – Subang.

Pakatan and its supporters should just stop politicising the Malaysian Armed Forces.  As towns and cities are developed, old camps and bases are no longer strategic nor conducive to be inhabited.  How could Pakatan, advertising that it is all for rights and stuff, allow military personnel to live and work in deplorable and antiquated conditions?  And as development creep into their surrounding areas, military bases are no longer of any strategic value.  I have addressed this issue in a posting of mine and so has my friend Danny Liew in his recent posting.

So, wouldn’t DAP now like to offer a piece of land in constituencies held by it for Hishammuddin to build military bases or camps?

Faux Pas Today

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.

Defence: RMAF’s Walks Slowly But With Big Strides

RMAF Airbus A400M (M54-04) on finals at the Labuan airbase during exercise PARADISE 2017

The A400M: How Has It Fared?

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!

The cockpit of the RMAF A400M (M54-04) is large and is very comfortable

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.

RMAF A400M (M54-04) is being loaded with HADR cargo bound for Marawi

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

The Beechcraft Super King Air 200T MPA has been in service with RMAF for 23 years

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.

The Leonardo ATR-72MP, seen here at LIMA 17, also comes with an electronic surveillance and C4I platform. The airframe is that of the ATR-72-600 (photo courtesy of Janes Defence)

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.

The Airbus C-295 of the Força Aérea Brasiliera arrived at the Subang airbase on Friday 7 July 2017

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.

RoKAF Black Eagle’s KAI T-50B zooms above Langkawi during LIMA 17

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.

The Chief of RMAF (second from left) speaking to reporters during Exercise PARADISE 4/2017 at the Kota Belud Air Range

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.

Epilogue

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.

150 Naik Belon TUDM

150 community leaders and longhouse chiefs from Kanowit, Hulu Rajang and Kapit were flown to Kuala Lumpur from Sibu to meet the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in a Royal Malaysian Air Force A400M strategic airlifter.

Dayakdaily

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.