Kuala Lumpur: The Royal Malaysian Air Force has announced plans to maintain its status as a deterrent force by inducting fifth generation fighters like the US F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. Royal Malaysian Air Force chief, Gen Datuk Seri Azizan Ariffin, said that the induction of such aircraft would strengthen the Force's 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.
Gen Ariffin also said that, if the budget allowed, 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."
"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.
As for its existing force of 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.
Also 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. He also said that the Force would refurbish five F-5E and two RF-5 for air tactical reconnaissance. He also mentioned that there was a need for airborne early-warning-and-control planes and combat search-and-rescue helicopters.
Two of the A400M transport aircraft 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.