NARRATIVE BY MARK ROURKE/MARC NEWITT & IMAGES BY MARK ROURKE
Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Interviews 2015
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammudin Hussein, Langkawi, Malaysia
Speaking on the eve of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) show Malaysian Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein dealt a blow for the world’s fighter manufacturers who are lining up to sell their fighters to replace the country’s MiG-29Ns.
Defence Minister Hussein said “The country’s defence focus is on local threats, including those from Islamic State”.
He went on to say that even though fighter aircraft have been employed to fight Islamic State (IS), this has not done anything to stem the flow of progress the terrorist group is making. “We need to look at what we see as the threats. What you see is the story unfolding in Syria and Iraq and which fighter is there at the moment? You’ve got the Super Hornets, you’ve got the Typhoons and yet it is still unfolding before our very eyes, and secondly, the threat from Islamic State (IS) is different from our traditional terrorist threats that we have faced in the past and don’t compare with the threats that we’re facing from Islamic State (IS).”
Malaysia’s MiG-29 replacement program has been in limbo for some time and the latest focus on terrorist threats has meant a back bench approach for many of the fighter manufacturers at LIMA 2015.
Speaking aboard the Royal Malaysian Navy warship Jebat on March 16, Defence Minister Hussein said “Whatever acquisitions we make in the future will depend very much on the perceived threats and the real threats that we have to face, I believe that it is important for us to think outside the box, it is important for us to work in tandem with the other neighbouring countries that we have in this region because there are common enemies”.
The Malaysian government is already responding to the 2013 militant incursion in Sabah on the island of Borneo, by transferring some of its Sikorsky S-61A Nuri helicopters to the Army and arming them with 7.62mm door guns. More importantly it has begun fitting Army AgustaWestland A109 helicopters with a 7.62mm M134 Gatling gun. “Islamic State (IS) is a threat to all of us, and today all 10 nations ( of ASEAN) have stated categorically our fight is against Islamic State (IS)”.
“You will see the Gatling gun that we have fitted on our A109s and maybe the threat that we face just requires a Gatling gun.”
The Defence Minister also stated that the Malaysian government are converting disused oil rigs into offshore military platforms and the first will be towed into position off Sabah next month and he said “that the platforms will be used as a base for patrol boats, helicopters and UAVs to reduce response times to a future threat”.
Aerospace Technology System Corps Sdn Bhd (ATSC)
CEO Lt Col Fadzar Bin Suhada Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Retired
Lt Col Fadzar Bin Suhada is a retired Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) engineer who has studied at Cranfield University and is now CEO of Aerospace Technology System Corps (ATSC) who has put to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) a plan to bring up the standard of their Mig-29N fleet. This is a man with a big place in his heart for Sukhoi going as far as saying “Sukhoi is in my blood”, Mark Rourke of Pixelsnipers managed to get a few moments with him to ask a few questions and to get the information straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak;
Lt Col Suhada: “My job is to is to report back to the government what experience we have with the
MiG-29N and what can be achieved and I believe we can supply a better option for the RMAF. We have the knowledge of the MiG-29N and the SU-30MKM, The SU-30MKM has been part of the RMAF for the past seven years and we have gained a lot of expertise and knowledge on this aircraft”.
Mark Rourke: “I must say that I have seen the SU-30MKM display and it is the best I have ever seen, it’s fantastic”.
Lt Col Suhada: “I have flown the Sukhoi twice with a fully qualified pilot doing basic manoeuvres and with the thrust vectoring and canards it was marvellous”.
Mark Rourke: “How relevant is thrust vectoring in modern combat because a lot of it now is beyond visual range (BVR)?”
Lt Col Suhada: “Talking about air power, performance, techniques and tactics there are many ways to defend against attacks, It’s about how you want to employ your aircraft for example I have flown the F-18 and the SU-30MKM and they are both very different”.
Mark Rourke: “Well the F-18 is old technology now, what about an SU-30MKM up against something like a Rafale?, Typhoon?, F-22? Because the thrust vectoring manoeuvres look fantastic at an air show but in an air combat scenario it would only be good in a real close in dog fight”.
Lt Col Suhada: “For the air performance between the two aircraft I am not qualified to answer but for me the SU-30MKM has better radar, better interaction and integration with the weapon systems so it can detect, recognise and employ the proper tactics, I believe the Russians have better technology and power than the west”.
Mark Rourke: “It has been reported in English and western magazines the radar system provided on the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) SU-30MKM isn’t as powerful as the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) equivalent due to Malaysia’s stance of neutrality with eastern and western countries, would you say that is the case?”
Lt Col Suhada: “I don’t think so; the Indian Air Force (IAF) has similar to what we have for the SU-30MKM as they are from the same factory”
Mark Rourke: “Yes but there is certain different technology transfer, as you know there is a security issue between countries on how much technology other countries can give each other”
Lt Col Suhada: “I don’t think so, you ask me, the Indians have a different composition of the weapons, The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has a different composition and integration of the weapons. What we do have is a much broader system, a complete system on how to resolve a solution of engagement and fire of weapons”.
Mark Rourke: “Which brings me onto the MiG-29s; we always hear it is going out of service that it’s being retired, now it looks like there is a new updated version being advertised here and it looks fantastic. Is it a realistic proposition?”
Lt Col Suhada: “Well the airframes of the aircraft are still good, the engines are still good. What we have in mind is the advancement of the avionics and weapons, based on my experience in co-operation the Russian Aircraft Corporation Mikoyan and Gurevich (RAC MiG) I can provide a medium to long term solution for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF)”.
Mark Rourke: “So obviously an upgrade of the MiG-29N to NM would actually be a cheaper option than say, the rumours going round that the Malaysian government want to buy the Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon?”
Lt Col Suhada: “Definitely, I am part of the mission to enhance the MiG-29N and the upgrade is to be done to make the systems and weapons compatible between the MiG and Sukhoi, so it makes sense for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) to consider our proposal. More interestingly what we offer is to do all of this in Malaysia, both the overhaul and the upgrade, this is important to generate sustenance not only that but we should know how to maintain it and be self-reliant”.
Here are some of the features that will be included in the upgrade if given the go ahead:
• Fire and Control System:
New high resolution FGM-229 fire and control radar featuring longer operating ranges, multi-channel firing and advanced air-to-surface modes. The radar is capable of tracking and scanning up to ten air targets with simultaneous firing of up to four targets.
• Cockpit and Ergonomics:
Advanced architecture with new avionics system, two coloured Multi-Function Displays (MFDs), Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible for night operations and Hands on Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) concept.
• Avionics Improvement:
Latest navigation, radio communication with data-link, electronic countermeasures, optronic sensors and monitoring and recording systems.
• Airframe and Aircraft Systems:
Airframe technical life is extended to 6000 flying hours or service life of 40 years. Conformal fuel tank and new ventral fuel tank to increase operational range by 30%.
• Weapon and Combat Capability:
Commonality with SU-30MKM weapon system, including the R77-AE, R-27ER1, R-27ET1, R-27R1, R-27T1, R-27E air to air missiles. GSH-301 built in gun, Kh-29T(TE), Kh-29L, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-53E air to surface missiles. KAB-500KR, KAB-500L guided bombs and rockets.
KUANTAN: The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) fleet of MiG-29N fighter aircraft will remain an important asset to the country’ s air defence. RMAF chief General Datuk Seri Roslan Saad said there has been no decision to replace the MIG-29N which had been in service since 1990 and the aircraft will still remain in service.
He said RMAF will scrutinise the capabilities of the existing MIG-29N fleet to ensure it remains competitive and relevant in safeguarding the country’ s air space. “Initially, there were plans to phase out the aircraft and replace them with another multi-role combat aircraft. “However, we have decided to upgrade the aircraft to ensure it has similar capabilities with fighter jets owned by other countries,” he told reporters after opening RMAF’s 57th anniversary here today.