Malaysia plans to buy new Fighter Lead-In Trainer/Light Combat Aircarft shortly

Malaysia buy light combat aircraft
Royal Malaysian Air Force Hawk light combat aircraft.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) is looking to purchase new Fighter Lead‐In Trainer/Light Combat Aircarft (FLIT/LCA) within the next three years, according to Air Force Chief General Ackbal Abdul Samad.

Samad said that under the RMAF Capability Development Plan 2055 (CAP55), the service plans to procure 36 FLIT/LCA aircraft in two steps.

“The RMAF needs the FLIT/LCA as this single dual-purpose platform has a balanced ability to perform training roles for fighter pilots and various operational missions.

"The RMAF has asked the government for a budget for the acquisition of 18 aircraft in phase 1 through the submission of the new projects 2021 and another 18 aircraft in phase 2, under the 13th Malaysia Plan (RMK-13)," he said.

The RMAF currently operates two variants of the BAE Systems Hawk in the FLIT/LCA roles, as well as some Aermacchi MB339 trainers. Half of the fleet is nearing the end of its operational life and needs to be replaced within 10 years at the latest. Light jets play a major role in the security of the nation, such as the counter-terrorism operations carried out by the Hawk in the eastern state of Sabah, bordering the southern Philippines.

In early December 2020, Parliament approved a budget of RM15.86 billion to be allocated to defense for 2021. This is an increase of 1.8% or RM280 million compared with the previous year’s RM15.58 billion.

Plans to acquire new FLIT/LCA aircraft have been underway since the announcement of the CAP 55 three years ago. After the suspension of RMAF's MRCA (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) purchase program, the need for this type has become more pressing. The new LCA will provide support to the current Boeing F/A-18D Hornet and Sukhoi Su-30MKM fighter aircraft.

The RMAF seeks a platform that is capable of effectively conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, with future maritime strike capability. It must also be able to conduct counterinsurgency operations, be "economically viable" and able to conduct operations in two theaters simultaneously at very short notice.

Following an RFI, eight types of aircraft were proposed by their respective manufacturers in 2018. They include KAI FA-50 (South Korea), HAL Tejas (India), PAC/Chengdu JF-17 (Pakistan), Yakolev YAK-130 (Russia), Leonardo M-346 (Italy), Hongdu L-15B (China), Aero Vodochody L-39NG (Czech Republic) and the Boeing T-7 Red Hawk (US).

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Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo Credit: RMAF

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