Royal Malaysian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKM
Royal Malaysian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKM

Royal Malaysian Air Force Faces Uncertainties Due To Russian Invasion

The New Straits Times today reported that the sanctions imposed by most Western countries against Russia will have little impact on Malaysia in maintaining its equipment originating from that country. Malaysia can overcome all challenges to appropriately maintain Russian defense equipment and armaments. A leading local defense industry top executive refuted reports that enforcement agencies like the Armed Forces would suffer a backlash, owing to western economic sanctions following the current Russian-Ukraine standoff. Aerospace Technology Systems Corporation Sdn Bhd (ATSC) chief executive officer Lt Col (Rtd) Datuk Mohd Fadzar Suhada dispelled any notion to that effect.

The media reports had cited how countries like Turkey, China, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar – that operate and utilise Russian equipment and armaments – would face uncertainties for spares and parts. The reports said the United States and EU countries were imposing the sanctions to punish Russian president Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine. If economic sanctions are implemented, the procurement agreement allows for the supply of spares and parts to be terminated, immediately. This can have a very adverse effect on defence and security operations of a country, thus, threatening its sovereignty.

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Royal Malaysian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKM
Royal Malaysian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKM

In 2003, Malaysia and Russia signed a US$900 million contract for 18 Su-30MKM (Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy Malaysia) jets that were delivered from 2007. Alternately, RMAF have mechanisms to manage the supply chain via other countries and overseas agencies, including that of the OEMs and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) channels for spares and parts manufactured under licence. India, a major user of Russian armaments and fighter jets, is a fine example of the close defence cooperation Malaysia have and can rely on. Irkut Corporation subcontracted the task of manufacturing the canards, stabilizers and fins to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

In 2018, the RMAF reported that 12 Su-30MKMs have reached the said 10-year lifespan, and pointed out that finding alternative solutions to OEM support takes time and funds. This would also require the Su-30MKMs to be flown to Russia for these checks, and current funds do not permit such tasks to be carried out. This has resulted in only four to six Su-30MKMs being available to defend the eastern Malaysian peninsula. SU-30MKM is a continuation of the Su-30MKI series used by the Indian Air Force. The Indian equivalents have also caused many complaints, with eight of the planes being lost to crashes since delivery.

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