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|#263 2007-06-01 GMT-5 hours|
KUALA LUMPUR: The Royal Malaysian Air Force aims to remain a deterrent force by having fifth generation fighters like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
This will strengthen its capability in protecting the country’s maritime assets within the exclusive economic zone, including the vital oil and gas assets in the Spratly Islands and the Ambalat oil block off Borneo.
RMAF chief Gen Datuk Seri Azizan Ariffin said, budget willing, the procurement of such multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) could be done under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2010-2015).
"Failing which, we may increase the acquistion of MRCA like the Sukhoi Su-30MKM, 18 of which have already been procured," he said.
"The first two of the 18 Su-30MKM were handed over to the RMAF last week, while the remaining 16 will be delivered by the year’s end, in time for the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition."
Azizan said the Sukhois, ordered in 2003 at a cost of RM3.42 billion, would be based with the 11th squadron in Gong Kedak, Kelantan.
"To date, four pilots, two weapons sensor specialists, four engineers and 53 technical crew have completed training for three months in Russia.
"A second batch of crew will be sent to either Russia or India soon," he said at Wisma Pertahanan in Jalan Padang Tembak, in conjunction with the RMAF’s 49th anniversary today.
Azizan said the RMAF was also looking at stealth technology in the near future, to enhance its electronic and non-conventional warfare capability, especially in combating terrorism.
The acquisition of more Sukhois or Hornets will, however, not affect the operations of the existing 18 MiG-29N fighters, he added.
"Although a decade old, the MiG-29Ns are still very useful and can serve up to 30 years with proper maintenance and refurbishment.
"Our ultimate aim is to refurbish and upgrade our combat aircraft every 10 years to remain as a deterrent force, and enhance our surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities."
He said the decision to acquire a mixture of western and eastern bloc fighters was not only to satisfy political aspirations, but took into consideration factors like versatility, transfer of technology, cost, operational effectiveness, availability of spares, logistics support, crew training, the environment and weather.
As part of the RMAF’s modernisation programme, it would procure four Airbus A400M, 18 Pilatus PC-7 Mk II, ten Aermacchi MB-339CM and five unmanned aerial vehicles.
"We are refurbishing five F-5E and two RF-5 for air tactical reconnaissance, while there is a need for airborne early-warning-and-control aeroplanes and combat search-and-rescue helicopters
"We are also looking at replacing nine of the BAE Systems Hawks that crashed so that we can continue operating with 28 jets," Azizan said.
Two of the A400M transport aeroplanes will be delivered in 2013 and another two a year later, while the MB-339s will be delivered from February 2009, and the UAVs from next year.
"The A400M will also double up as an air tanker, taking over the air-to-air refuelling of the long-range fighter jets from the KC-130 Hercules," he said.
On another note, Azizan said the RMAF spent nearly RM6 million last year to carry out humanitarian and relief missions in Solo and Yogyakarta in Indonesia, and Timor Leste.
"A large part of the defence budget is also spent annually on bilateral and multilateral exercises. This is in addition to the ‘Eyes in the Sky’ combined maritime air patrols over the Straits of Malacca."
Among the exercises involving the RMAF are the Cope Taufan and CARAT with the United States, Air Thamal with Thailand, Latgabma Elang Malindo with Indonesia, and the Bersama Shield, Bersama Lima, Bersama Padu and Suman Protector with Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore under the Five-Power Defence Arrangement.