Thursday, February 24, 2022

Malaysia MD-530G Little Bird light attack helicopters finally arrive

The MD-530G helicopters in Subang, Malaysia. Photo c/o Malaysia Military Review.

The MD-530G Little Bird light attack helicopters ordered by the Malaysian Ministry of Defence (MOD) finally arrived in Malaysia.

Photos from Malaysian defense pages surfaced showing the 6 MD-530G attack helicopters in Subang Airport in Malaysia, after arriving from the United States.

The helicopters were ordered in 2016 under a RM321.9 million (US$77 million) contract, and were supposed to be delivered in 2 batches starting 2017.

But the project encountered several political and technical issues, pushing delivery to 2020, then to 2021, and again by early 2022.

These helicopters were already handed-over to the Malaysian MOD on January 2022 in Texas after several years of delay and were expected to arrive in Malaysia by March 2022.

Prior to that, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein previously confirmed that the helicopters have completed type certification process by Malaysian aviation regulators, and training of crew were conducted in 2021.

The Malaysian Army’s aviation unit will be receiving these helicopters, and is the launch customer of the MD-530G attack helicopters made by American helicopter manufacturer MD Helicopters.

The MD-530Gs are equipped with a digital glass cockpit, ballistic armor protection, Tek Fusion mission and weapons management system, a Wescam MX-10D electro-optical/infrared laser designation camera, and the Thales Scorpion helmet-mounted system.

The helicopters are also armed with the FN Herstal HMP400 50-caliber machine gun pods and the M260 7-shot rocket launchers for 70mm rockets.

[1] Malaysia Military Review

[2] Free Malaysia Today

[3] Defense News

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Philippines formalizes order for 32 new Sikorsky-PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters


Some of the PAF's new S-70i Black Hawk helicopters. Photo c/o Philippine Air Force.

The Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) has confirmed on 22 February 2022 that it signed a contract with Polish aviation company PZL Mielec for the delivery of 32 new Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters.

The US$624 million deal involves the delivery of the Black Hawk helicopters to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) starting 2023, and completing delivery of all units by 2026.

Initial Logistics Support Package, and pilot and crew training are also included in the deal.

PZL Mielec is a subsidiary of Sikorsky Aircraft, and manufactures the S-70i Black Hawk International for the export market, and was represented by its President, Mr. Janusz Zakrecki during the contract signing ceremonies held in the DND's office in Quezon City.

Negotiations between the two parties have been ongoing since 2020, as the PAF plans to acquire additional new helicopters after an earlier deal for 16 new S-70i Black Hawks signed in 2019.

The DND has awarded the project to PZL Mielec last January 2022, and confirmed that budget for the initial payment has been allocated by the Philippines' Department of Budget and Management.

These new helicopters are expected to be operated by the PAF's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, and will replace the PAF's ageing Bell UH-1D and UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopters that are currently in limited operation after a series of fatal accidents.

These helicopters will also complement the Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters also utilized by the PAF for multi-role missions including combat support, insertion and extraction, general transport including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) support.

[1] Philippines Department of National Defense
[2] Philippine Defense Resource
[3] Asia Pacific Defense Journal

Friday, February 18, 2022

Pakistan's J-10 Vigorous Dragon fighters spotted during tests in China


A photo of one of the J-10 fighters in PAF markings and paint scheme. Photo c/o AEROSINT Division PSF.

Photos have emerged online indicating Chinese-made J-10 Vigorous Dragon fighters are indeed being exported to Pakistan, after years of speculations if such a deal ever occurred.

Online photos show at least two Chengdu J-10 fighter aircraft in Pakistan Air Force (PAF) paint scheme and markings in an undisclosed airbase in China, which was believed to be Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) facility in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

The photos also show the aircraft having different serial numbers, 22-102 and 22-106, although other photos show that there are at least 25 J-10 fighters in CAC's assembly line and are believed to be bound for Pakistan.

This coincides with a recent announcement by Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed that the PAF is expected to receive 25 new J-10 fighters (incorrectly said as JS-10), and that they would be participating in a flypast performance during the upcoming Pakistan Day Parade on 23 March 2022.

Analysts have also noticed that the photo indicated the use of the Chinese-made WS-10B Taihang engines rather than the Russian-made AL-31F that is used on J-10A and J-10B fighters of China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

This means that the aircraft are the latest J-10C variants, which are designed for export and does not require Russian approval for sale or transfer to a 3rd country like Pakistan.

Pakistan is the J-10's first export market, which is a success for the type considering China have made the aircraft available for export since 2006. The country has shown interest on the J-10 fighter for several years although no official confirmation has been available until last year.

The J-10C is also expected to become the PAF's most advanced fighter to date, compared to its current fleet line-up consisting of the JF-17A/B Block 1/2/3 Thunder, the F-16A/B ADF and Block 15 MLU, and F-16/C/D Block 52+ Fighting Falcon fighters from the United States, and older fighters including the French-made Mirage III and Mirage 5, and the Chinese-made F-7PG.

Pakistan and China already have strong collaboration on fighter development, with the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex successfully producing the JF-17 Thunder fighter with assistance from CAC.

PAF pilots have also gained previous exposure to the J-10 fighter as part of several joint China-Pakistan exercises.

The J-10C Vigorous Dragon, which is also known under the NATO reporting name Firebird, is believed to be Pakistan's answer to India's procurement of the French-made Dassault Rafale, which is currently the country's most advanced fighter aircraft.

[1] The Drive The Warzone
[2] Eurasian Times
[3] The Week India

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Philippines receives 4 new Cessna 172S trainer aircraft from US


One of the Cessna 172S trainer aircraft handed over to the PN NAW. Photo c/o US Embassy in the Philippines.

The Philippine Navy (PN) has formally received and inducted 4 new Cessna 172S primary trainer aircraft received from the United States Government.

The aircraft were acquired as part of a PHP298.1 million (US$5.8 million) military assistance grant to the Philippines under the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program.

The aircraft were delivered to the Philippines on December 2021, and were reassembled locally before being handed-over to the PN’s Naval Air Wing on 10 February 2022 by US Charge D’ Affaires Heather Variava to Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, with other Philippine Navy and Armed Forces of the Philippines officials present.

The United States Government also provided pilot and mechanic training to 24 Philippine Navy personnel in Kansas City, Kansas from August to September 2021.

These new trainer aircraft will complement the Naval Air Wing’s existing Cessna 172 fleet composed of older variants, and will be used to provide primary to basic flight training to incoming pilots of the Naval Air Wing.

Based on photos released by the Department of National Defense (DND), the tail numbers of the aircraft are NVT350, NVT351, NVT352 and NVT353.

The Naval Air Wing has been expanding its fixed wing aircraft fleet in last few years, with 5 Beechcraft C90 King Air aircraft formerly with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) provided by the Japanese Government in 2018, and is expecting to receive at least 8 former US Navy Beechcraft C-12 Huron from the US Government starting in 2022.

The unit is also expected to receive at least 3 new Robinson R44 Raven trainer helicopters from the US Government within the year, also as part of the same US FMF grant.

MaxDefense Philippines
[2] Naval News
[3] Shephard Media

Friday, February 11, 2022

Indonesia receives US State Dept approval for sale of 36 F-15EX Eagle II fighters


Artist rendering of the Boeing F-15EX Eagle II fighter. Photo c/o Boeing.

The US State Department has approved the potential Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program of Boeing F-15EX Eagle II fighter aircraft to Indonesia, with up to 36 aircraft considered with an estimated cost of US$13.9 billion.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has released information on this potential sale on 10 February 2022, which has now been notified to the US Congress.

Among those included in the proposal are 36 F-15ID aircraft (Indonesian-specific variant), 87 F110-GE-129 or F100-PW-229 engines (including spares), 45 AN/APG-82(v)1 Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars (including spares), 45 AN/ALQ-250 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability Systems (EPAWSS); 48 Advanced Display Core Processor (ADCP) II digital computers (including spares); 80 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS) (including spares); 92 Embedded Global Positioning Systems (GPS)/Inertial Navigation System (EGI) security devices; 40 AN/AAQ-13 LANTIRN navigation pods (including spares); 40 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP) (including spares); 156 LAU-128 launchers (including spares); and 40 M61A “Vulcan” gun systems (including spares). 

Also included are Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) (P5 CTS) training pods and support equipment; MS-110 Recce Pods; AN/ASG-34 Infrared Search and Track International; AN/ALE-47 counter-measures dispenser; AN/PYQ Simple Key Loaders; additional precision navigation, secure communications and cryptographic equipment; Electronic Combat International Security Assistance Program (ECISAP) support; Joint Mission Planning Systems (JMPS); Night Vision Goggles (NVG) and support equipment and spares; conformal fuel tanks; chaff and flares; aircraft and personnel support and test equipment; pylons, launcher adaptors, weapons interfaces, fuel tanks, and attached hardware; travel pods, precision measurement equipment laboratory, calibration, and simulators; spare and repair parts, repair and return services; maps, publications, and technical documentation; studies and surveys; classified/unclassified software and software support; personnel training and training equipment; facilities and facility management, design and/or construction services; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support.

The US Government believes that the sale will not alter the basic military balance of power in the region, and will improve Indonesia’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing increased deterrence and air defense coverage across a very complex air and maritime domain.

Indonesia has been in the global market for fighter aircraft as the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) plans to increase its air combat capability in line with growing security threats in the region. This is also after dropping plans to procure the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E due to disagreements in counter-trade, and issues regarding CAATSA.

This week, Indonesia and France confirmed a deal for 42 new Rafale fighters has been signed in Jakarta, as French Defense Minister Florence Parly visited her Indonesian counterpart, Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Indonesia is also participating in the development of the KF-21 Boramae fighter with South Korea under the KFX/IFX program.

[2] Asia Pacific Defense Journal

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Indonesia buys 6 Rafale fighters, agrees to purchase 36 more


Rafale fighters of the Egyptian Air Force. Photo c/o Egypt Independent.

Indonesia is set to order up to 42 Rafale 4.5-generation fighter aircraft from France, according to French Defense Minister Florence Parly.

Min. Parly is currently in Indonesia, signing several defense agreements with her Indonesian counterparts including the sale of Rafale fighter aircrafts made by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation.

In a report by Indonesian state-owned media outlet Antara News, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has also confirmed that a contract has been signed for the acquisition of a first batch of 6 Rafale fighter aircraft, with 36 more to follow.

This would make Indonesia the second Asian country to order the aircraft after India, and gives France a foothold in the Southeast Asian region as it markets its Rafale fighter aircraft to several other countries.

The new fighter aircraft are expected to help increase the fighter fleet of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU), as it plans to have more air combat units to meet current and future regional security threats. 

Currently the TNI-AU has a fleet of Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 Flanker large fighters, and American Lockheed Martin F-16A/B/C/D Fighting Falcon fighters. Aside from the Rafale, Indonesia is also looking at potentially procuring the Boeing F-15EX Eagle II, and is participating in the development of the KFX/IFX fighter with South Korea.

Aside from the Rafale order, Indonesia also signed an agreement to engage in cooperation with France on submarine development, ammunition manufacturing, and on procurement of space satellites.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed his approval of the deals with France, and hoped that these are not just focused on purchases, but also in joint development and production, technology transfer and investment in the Indonesian defense industry.

Paris has been expanding its geopolitical ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific region after declining relations with Australia, the US and UK, which it believes to have backstabbed its ally France when the 3 countries created a new strategic alliance called AUKUS.

The creation of AUKUS also meant the cancellation of a controversial multi-billion dollar submarine deal between France and Australia in favor of a new nuclear submarine program with assistance from the US and UK.

[1] Reuters
[2] Channel News Asia
[3] France24

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

China encounters problem on engine supply for Thailand S26T submarine


A Type 039B submarine of the PLAN. Phot c/o Loong Naval.

Reports from Thai press came out indicating that Chinas has encountered problems in sourcing engines for the S26T diesel-electric attack submarine it is building for the Royal Thai Navy (RTN).

Bangkok Post reported that China planned on using a submarine engine from German company MTU for installation of the S26T submarine now under construction in Wuhan by Chinese shipbuilder Wuchang Shipbuilding.

MTU was said to have refused to sell the submarine engine to China after learning that it would be installed on a submarine constructed for another country.

Negotiations are said to be ongoing between Chinese and German sides, as it is now believed that the S26T submarine’s delivery will be pushed back from September 2023 to April 2024.

China has offered to donate 2 used submarines to Thailand help in training RTN submarine crew while waiting for the delivery of its new S26T submarine, although it is still unconfirmed what submarine model has been offered by China.

Recently, China has donated Type 035 Ming-class submarines to Bangladesh and Myanmar, and is expected to donate more as military aid and potential sweeteners to countries considering to acquire Chinese arms and ships.

RTN Chief of Staff Admiral Tharoengsak Sirisawat said they will set-up a panel to study the viability of the offer from China, taking into consideration the used submarines’ maintenance cost.

The S26T submarine is a export variant for Thailand of the Type 039 submarine uses by China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

Bangkok Post
[2] Asia Pacific Defense Journal

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Brunei retires MBB Bo-105 helicopters after 41 years of service

RBAirF personnel with two of their Bo-105 helicopters. Photo c/o Brunei Darussalam MinDef.

Royal Brunei Air Force press release:

The Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) has retired its entire fleet of MBB Bolkow Bo-105 helicopters after 41 years of service in a ceremony held at the Air Movement Centre (AMC), Rimba Air Force Base. The retirement ceremony of the fleet, which had operated under No.1 Wing, Operations Group, was attended by officers and personnel of RBAirF, most of whom have served with the Bolkow 105.

Present as the guest of honour was Brigadier General (U) Dato Seri Pahlawan Mohammad Sharif bin Dato Paduka Haji Ibrahim, the Commander of RBAirF. The ceremony started with a speech delivered by the guest of honour. The event proceeded with the signing of a replicate of BAF 707: Change of Serviceability Log, which marked the official retirement of the fleet. The Commander of RBAirF was then presented with a video montage that included a brief history and journey of the Bolkow 105 in RBAirF.

The MBB Bolkow 105 was a German-made aircraft first introduced into No.2 Squadron, Air Wing in 1981 with a total of six helicopters. Before local personnel took over in 1993, the fleet was entirely administered and maintained by REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineering), British Army Loan Service.

Equipped with the Sura Rocket system, it intends to boost the nation's defence and organisation's overall operational preparedness by launching rocket projectiles at ground targets, providing air to ground support as well as close air support for ground troops. In 2003, the system was replaced with a new rocket system from Belgium known as Forges De Zeebrugge (FZ Rocket) that travels twice the speed of sound with up to 10 kilometres radius.

The Bolkow 105 is a versatile, fast, and highly agile helicopter, hence, the callsign "Stinger". It is known for its significantly small size and high manoeuvrability, and extraordinary responsiveness in carrying out specific tasks and combat operations that required precision and efficiency, such as emergency evacuation, sniper shooting and vehicle interdiction.

The light helicopter featured a twin-engine capability that a crew of one in a single pilot operation or two pilots can operate. It plays a significant role in search and locate missions, providing air surveillance of land and maritime borders and troop lifts vital in ensuring the maintenance of national security.

The ceremony then continued with the presentation of mementoes from 12 Squadron and 52 Squadron to the RBAirF and the Commander of RBAirF.

Bolkow 105 has had 36 pilots served with it since its inception 41 years ago, and the entire fleet has amassed a total of 32,000 flight hours. The retirement of MBB Bolkow 105 fleet ceremony was hosted by Acting Squadron Commander of 12 Squadron, Major (U) Mohd Adi Faiz, who has maintained his flying currency since 2014 and has clocked a total of 800 flying hours on the aircraft.

The ceremony concluded with a tour that showcased pictures of former personnel of 12 Squadron and 52 Squadron and memorial parts of the aircraft, followed by a group photo session with the aircraft and personnel.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Indonesia to inspect Pohang-class corvettes to be donated by South Korea


Pohang-class corvettes of the ROKN. Photo c/o Naval News.

The Indonesian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) will start preparations to conduct an inspection of former Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) corvettes that are being planned for donation.

TNI-AL Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Yudo Margono confirmed that the South Korean Government has offered to donate up to 3 Pohang-class corvettes to the TNI-AL, and these will undergo inspections by the MOD and TNI-AL to see the conditions of the ships.

As instructed by the Indonesian MOD, the TNI-AL will lead the assessment of the ships to see whether they are suitable to accept or not.

Among those to be assessed are the ship’s age, overall condition and estimated remaining lifespan, costs to repair and replace parts, and how to integrate the ship’s subsystems into their current system.

The Republic of Korea Navy retired several of its Pohang--class corvettes, which have been in service for more than 30 years, and are being replaced with new-generation frigates under its FFX Program.

Aside from Indonesia, other Southeast Asian countries that received or receiving donated Pohang-class corvettes from South Korea are Vietnam and the Philippines.

Admiral Margono also confirmed that he had an online meeting with the ROKN’s Chief Admiral Kim Jung-soo on 19 January 2022, and has expressed his thanks on the South Korean Government’s planned donation to help in strengthening the TNI-AL’s capabilities.

The meeting also discussed the plans to inspect the ships in South Korea, and on cooperation between the two navies including conducting exercises, training, and other fields of operation and technology including submarine technology.

Tribun News
[2] iNews
[3] Naval News

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Indonesia aims to have the strongest navy in Southeast Asia within the decade


A FREMM frigate, with the TNI-AL procuring 6 ships as part of its modernization. Photo c/o Italian Navy. 

Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has the Indonesian Government’s plan to further strengthen the country’s military strength and continue building up its capabilities.

Minister Subianto said that their goal is for the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) to have 50 combat-ready warships and making it the strongest navy in Southeast Asia.

This would be dependent on the Indonesian Government’s continuous support to fund the Ministry of Defense (MOD), which has received its highest ever budget for budget year 2022 reaching IRP133.9 trillion (US$9.33 billion).

The MOD plans to start procurement of several warships in the next 24 months, and has received the green light from Indonesian President Joko Widodo and the Indonesian Ministry of Finance.

Currently the MOD has confirmed the acquisition of 2 Arrowhead 140 frigates from the United Kingdom, 6 new FREMM frigates  and 2 refurbished Maestrale-class frigates from Italy, while also in discussions to procure 8 Mogami-class frigates from Japan.

These will replace the 5 ageing Ahmad Yani-class frigates, while complementing the 2 Martadinata-class frigates currently with the TNI-AL.

Plans are also underway to procure destroyers and additional corvettes and submarines.

[2] Kompas

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Malaysia looks forward to construct 8 Batch-II Littoral Mission Ships within 2 years

One of the Batch I LMS Keris-class ship, the KD Rencong (114). Photo c/o RMN.

The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has high hopes that it could award a contract for its planned Batch-II Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) soon, to enable the construction of the ships between years 2022 and 2023.

RMN Chief Admiral Tan Sri Mohd Sany has confirmed that the service has been working to reach its goals to implement the construction of Batch-II LMS, which is yet to be awarded to a competing shipbuilder.

The RMN has successfully procured 4 new Batch-I LMS, now known as the Keris-class, which were built in China and has been delivered in 2021, and the last ship of the class commissioned in January 2022.

Originally, local shipyard Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation (BHIC) was suppose to build 2 of the ships, but the contract was revised by the Malaysian Government to reduce the project cost by having all 4 ships built by Wuchang Shipbuilding in China.

Asia Pacific Defense Journal reported back in September 2020 that the RMN received at least 5 proposals, which includes Germany’s Fassmer, American shipbuilder Swiftships, Dutch shipbuilder Damen, a joint venture between Malaysian company Destini and Damen, and another Malaysian company Preston. 
Fassmer offered a 70.2-meter design, while Swiftships offered a 70.7-meter long, 11.3-meter wide patrol vessel design based on their current line-up that can be armed with a 40mm cannon.

The Batch-II LMS will be funded under the 12th Malaysia Plan covering years 2021 to 2025, and is expected to allow the RMN to increase its capability to patrol and defend its maritime borders and Exclusive Economic Zone.

The LMS was identified as one of the major requirements of the RMN under its “15 to 5 Transformation Program” which aims to cut the number of ship classes in RMN from 15 to just 5 by 2040.

Also planned for procurement are 13 Fast Interceptor Craft (FIC), which will be used for maritime policing against illegal migrants and piracy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Thailand expected to receive 2 used submarines as donation from China

A Type 035 Ming-class diesel electric attack submarine of the PLAN. Photo c/o Grant Newman.

China has offered to donate two used submarines to Thailand as part of a military assistance to the country.

The submarines are offered to allow the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) to train and gain experience in submarine operations, prior to the delivery of a brand new S26T submarine ordered by the Thai Ministry of Defense from China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation in 2017.

It is still unclear which submarine model would China be giving to Thailand, but it is expected to be either the Type 035B Ming-class, or the newer Type 039 Song-class submarine, both of which are still in service with China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The S26T submarine design was derived from the Type 039 Song-class, with modifications to suit RTN requirements.

It was reported that the delivery of the S26T submarine to the RTN is expected to be delayed due to still unconfirmed reasons.

The RTN has been preparing in terms of manpower and infrastructure for the arrival of its first submarine, although having actual submarines in their fleet would increase and improve the training tempo for its planned submarine crew.

It is expected that the first S26T submarine will be delivered operational with the RTN by 2027. 

The RTN was planning to order a second S26T submarine in 2020, but the request was temporarily shelved due to funding issues as the Thai Government bankrolls the country’s COVID-19 response expenses. 

Shephard Media