The Malaysian Government's decision to procure the FA50 Fighting Eagle for Royal Malaysian Air Force's Light Combat Aircraft programme provides a new opportunity for the service branch to fix an oft-unspoken problem faced by the service.
|South Korean Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) FA50. Source: RoKAF.
In the haste of the service to modernise its fleet in the 90s, the service has managed to muddle its logistic tail. The resulting muddled logistic trails saw the service 'boasting' a mixture of American, Russian, British, French, Spanish, Italian, and Indonesian DNA.
The FA18D Hornet sports American DNA. The SU30MKM has a mixture of a Russian frame, engine and weapons system supported by French avionics. The Hawks are prude British.
The helicopters in service are French-made EC725 Caracal and US-made S61A4 Nuri.
The sole Italian DNA comes in the form of Aermacchi MB339CM. Long story short, today's RMAF is like a plate of rojak.
Buying the South Korean aircraft might be seen as counter-intuitive as it adds another logistic tail to the equation. As the plane replaces the Hawk in the RMAF line-up, the short-term impact on RMAF logistic tail will be minimal. If the second batch of the aircraft is procured and brings the number of airframes to 36 units in the long term, RMAF can afford to retire the Aermacchis and Russian-made MiG29s.
Even with the procurement of the FA50, the RMAF still has a long way to go. LCA is a Tier-2 combat wing for a military that does not have stealth capability. The original intention of procuring the fourth-generation Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) is still on the plate, shelved till a better time. In the RMAF, Tier-1 is currently jointly assigned to the SU30MKM and F18D Hornet. Even if detractors feel that the Government should not replace these jets and favour the social and economic development programme, these planes have an 'expiry date'. While technology push will slowly edge these jets, each flying hour will also stress the airframe, reducing service life.
An alternative to the MRCA programme would be to eat the humble pie and officially approach the Kuwaiti Government. The Kuwaiti has about 39 units of F18, both C and D variants. Though older than RMAF's F18D, these rarely fly. The Royal Kuwaiti Air Force will receive new Eurofighter Typhoons and Super Hornet FA18E/F. The arrival of the Typhoons and Super Hornets will reduce their need for the legacy Hornets.
Going for Kuwaiti's legacy Hornets will reduce the strain placed on the SU30MKM and the existing legacy Hornets. The RMAF will also be able to operationalise these airframes much quicker than waiting for newly built aircraft.
If detractors still believe that the Government should spend on social and economic programmes instead of defence, remember this. The Russian invasion of Ukraine resulted in Ukraine's economy contracting by 30% in 2022. In the 2014 war, their economy contracted by 6.8%. That is something that we can't afford to accept.