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Royal Malaysian Air Force - Su-30MKM

The Su-30MKM, designed specifically for Malaysia's Royal Air Force, is armed with several air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles with ranges of about 75 miles. By 03 March 2008, Russia had delivered four Su-MKM fighter planes to Malaysia under a contract signed in 2003. The Southeast Asian country will receive a total of 18 Su-30MKM fighters under a $900-million contract by the end of 2008. The first six aircraft were delivered in 2007. By 2011, the country had received 18 Su-30MKMs from Russian Irkut Corporation. Malaysia signed a $900-million contract with the Irkut Corporation for the delivery of 18 SU-30MKMs in August 2003. The country received all jets by 2011. The Su-30MKM, designed specifically for Malaysia's Royal Air Force, is armed with several air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles with ranges of about 75 miles.

Russia is interested in adding post-sales maintenance and training to future arms contracts with Malaysia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said 11 July 2013, in an apparent attempt to give Russia a competitive edge in an upcoming combat jet tender. We are interested in continuing military cooperation [with Malaysia], and not only in the form of arms deliveries, which we had quite a few before, but also in providing the post-sale servicing of the sold equipment and the training of the Malaysian personnel to operate this equipment, Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman.

Russia delivered 18 MiG-29A fighters to Malaysia in 1994-1995, followed by 18 Su-30MKM fighters in 2009. It also sold Malaysia 12 Mi-171Sh military transport helicopters. Lavrov's offer of maintenance and training may have come in response to previous problems experienced by the Royal Malaysian Air Force in keeping its MiG-29 fleet operational.

Malaysia bought the MiG-29s at a relatively low price, but later on the RMAF had to contend with higher expenses in spare parts replacement and maintenance work, former Defense Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in 2010, when questioned about the aircraft's performance. MiG executives blamed the reliability issues on Malaysia's purchase of parts from Ukraine and India rather than the original supplier. Russia opened a servicing center in Malaysia in 2012 and a pilot training center in 2011.

Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi and the Malaysian Defense Ministry signed a $100-million contract in 2013 for maintenance of Malaysias fleet of Su-30MKM fighters, Russian defense industry officials said previously. Malaysia had recently shortlisted five manufacturers in a tender for 18 combat aircraft for delivery by 2015 to replace ageing Russian-built MiG-29s. The Russian Su-30MKM was one contender, along with the British-promoted Eurofighter Typhoon, Swedens SAAB JAS-39 Gripen, Frances Dassault Aviation Rafale, and Boeings F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Russia has started delivering missiles for Malaysia's Sukhoi Su-30MKM fighters, manufactured by Russia's Irkut Corporation, the head of Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport's regional department told RIA Novosti in an interview on 17 March 2015. "We are currently providing after-sales service for Su-30MKM, fighters, including the supply of all necessary spare parts and repair services, as well as the supply of aircraft munitions," Vladimir Ereschenko, who is in charge of the Rosoboronexport delegation at the LIMA-2015 exhibition taking place in Malaysia, said.

By 2016 the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) was shopping for new fighter aircraft to replace its fleet of 12 MiG-29s acquired in 1995, but with its oil revenues taking a hit Kuala Lumpur is unable to come up with the cash. In 2014, instead of buying outright, Malaysia took the decision to lease 36 to 40 new jets. Swedens Gripen is now the front runner, with Dassault and Sukhoi pulling back. The Swedes have also promised to sweeten the deal by throwing in a couple of airborne early warning and control aircraft into the package. The advantage of leasing is that because Malaysia wont own the Gripens, the RMAF wont be stuck with ageing aircraft in, say, 15 years time. The Swedes will take their jets back after the end of the lease agreement, and might resell them to some cash-poor country.

Russians claim the proven Su-30 Flanker (of which Malaysia flies the MKK version) and the even more advanced Su-35 (which neighboring Indonesia has ordered) offer more bang for the buck. The Su-35s fuel consumption of 0.19 km per litre, while carrying a payload double that of the Gripen, is clearly impressive. Plus its low fuel consumption even at speeds faster than the speed of sound is a key advantage because endurance can be the difference between winning a dogfight or exiting it. The Su-30 also fares well in the medium fuel efficiency category at 0.58 km per litre. It is also an example of a heavy aircraft with extremely long legs. Note that both Russian jets are heavy fighters that are considerably larger than the Grippen so their superior fuel efficiency is indeed remarkable.

Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific consultant, aerospace and defence, Ravikumar Madavaram told the media about the implication for the RMAF: Saab would be checking on its fighters in Malaysia from time to time to see how and what they are being used for, but these inspections could compromise Malaysian defence autonomy.

Malaysias fighter choice is also influenced by its geography. Since the country is bordered by seas, a twin-engine fighter is the ideal requirement. This is because losing an engine over sea usually spells serious trouble for single-engine aircraft. This requirement meant that in the first round the Grippen got the boot. That it has bounced back is solely due to the cost factor. This is something that the Malaysians will have to decide whether national security should take a back seat to costs.

Both the Su-35 and the Su-30 offer the RMAF benefits that it wont get with the Gripen. Sweden is a political lightweight and will offer Malaysia little in terms of international support in global and trade forums. Only Russia can do this. In pure military terms, the Sukhois dominate the skies in a way the Gripen never can. The key to this dominance is super-maneuverability, which is the defining characteristic of the Flanker family. Aviation expert Bill Sweetman explained this can decide the outcome of an air battle: Unpredictable flight paths challenge the guidance algorithms of any missile system. Basically, by making the missile work harder the Flanker effectively reduces its range.



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