KUALA LUMPUR: The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) plans to acquire used Kuwaiti fighter jets while waiting to purchase new aircraft in the next 10 to 15 years.
RMAF chief General Affendi Buang said Kuwait is planning to phase out its existing fleet of Hornet FA-18C and 18D aircraft as it waits for the delivery of the Boeing Super Hornet aircraft in 2021.
“I think we will grab some of the aircraft to add on to our current fleet, at least while waiting for the new multirole combat aircraft (MRCA) programme, so we have a slightly bigger fleet than what we have today,” he told reporters during a special press conference on the RMAF’s anniversary celebration on June 1.
However, he said talks between the two air forces had yet to start.
Affendi said that RMAF was still seeking government approval for its light-combat aircraft (LCA) programme, as stated in its Capability 55 (CAP55) blueprint.
The air force is still in the process of sending out requests for information (RFI) for feedback from the various suppliers, or original equipment manufacturers (OEM), about their aircraft.
He added that in the CAP55 blueprint, the LCA programme would pan out over three phases and that allocations for 12 LCA would be requested each time the government comes up with a new five-year development plan – the next one to be tabled next year.
“The BAE Hawk aircrafts can go at least for the next 10 years, by then we are hoping that the LCA programme will be approved.
“Once we get at least 12 LCA, we will start phasing out older planes which at that time would be almost 25 years old.
“That will be timely, although we wish we can get it earlier. But if we can get the LCA in the time period mentioned, it will not be too critical,” he said.
Last June, Affendi revealed that 40% of its assets had surpassed their 20-year lifespan.
Aside from BAE Hawks, which have been in service for 25 years, the American Boeing F/A-18D Hornet (20 years) and the Russian Sukhoi SU-30MKM Flankers (10 years) are also part of Malaysia’s ageing fleet.
He added that various other programmes stated in CAP55 – such as the maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and ground-based radar – approved earlier this year had yet to be finalised.
Affendi said they were still getting RFIs for these.
“Once we get that, the project team will sit down to study the information and submit it to the government,” he said.
On a related matter, he said it was important for RMAF to establish a UAV squadron to safeguard national sovereignty.
Previously, it was reported that a UAV programme was mooted for surveillance over the South China Sea.
He added that Malaysia was lagging far behind other neighbouring countries in acquiring a UAV squadron.
However, the time frame would depend on the RFIs they received and also on the government budget, he said, adding that it would be more feasible for it to be funded during the five-year plan next year.
Affendi said another RMAF priority would be to develop technical and air warfare know-how for the pilots, so that they were on par with other countries.