PETALING JAYA: A retired brigadier-general has taken Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu to task for revealing that only four of the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) 28 Russian fighter jets can fly.
Speaking to FMT, Mohamed Arshad Raji, who is president of the National Patriots Association, said it was “improper” to reveal the country’s arms disposition.
He was commenting on a report by The Star where Mohamad said in the Dewan Rakyat that only four of the RMAF’s 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKM are able to fly, while the others are under repair.
The RMAF also has 10 MiG-29 fighter jets. The MiG-29 fighter jets entered service in 1995, while six Sukhois were delivered in 2007 and the rest in 2009.
“We don’t have to say that only four of our Sukhois can fly. These are vital military assets. It is important that the public feels confident and reassured that our skies can be protected,” said Arshad, who last served as the army chief of staff for field headquarters.
“Nations around the world maintain a certain level of preparedness, even in times of peace, to counter external threats, so we wouldn’t want others to know our level of preparedness.”
Arshad said while he understood the government’s desire for transparency, in matters of security and defence, information should be limited to MPs rather than told to the public.
“Now that the news is out, we must get to the bottom of this. We spend billions on defence annually so there must be a reason why our assets are not in the condition they should be in.”
Meanwhile, independent defence analyst Lam Choong Wah said he didn’t see Mohamad’s revelation as a problem as it was a time of peace.
In such times, he added, countries such as Germany, Japan and the UK were also transparent.
“Japan faces a bigger threat, namely North Korean missiles, but they still practise high military transparency.
“It depends on the threat level, not the readiness of assets. No one would reveal this during a period of conflict,” said Lam, who is a former senior fellow at think tank Research for Social Advancement.
Reuters previously reported that the former administration had shelved plans to replace the MiG-29 fleet with new multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA).
The plan to acquire a fleet of MRCA was expected to cost RM8 billion. For years, the government had been weighing the four MRCA options, namely the Dassault Rafale, BAE Systems Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Saab JAS-39 Gripen.