Met a friend who had just returned from visiting LIMA 2009 last night, and the discussion soon revolves around the intended replacement of the MiG 29 jet fighter aircrafts that has been in service with the RMAF for almost 15 years, and is said to be at the end of its operational life. I questioned this friend of mine as to who decides the operational life of the aircraft? Is it the maker of the aircraft, or is it the experts in the RMAF? Or are there the 'external influences' that compels the RMAF to decide upon the replacement, even though the aircraft seemed to be in good flying condition?
To answer my question, my friend drew an analogy between a Malaysian made Proton Saga car and a gleaming Ferrari sports car. He says that in the case of our country, a proclaimed developing nation finds it far too expensive to maintain the Proton Saga car; whereas in the case of the underdevelop nation like Myanmar, finds it fairly cheap to maintain the Ferrari sports car.
I was kept wondering what the analogy meant, but I soon realised that my friend was simply saying that while some 'poor nations' like Myanmar and Sudan could continue maintaining their MiG 29's, Malaysia on the other hand finds it convenient to dump the jet fighter aircraft on grounds that it is too old and, probably also far too expensive to maintain. Myanmar is believed to have acquired another 15 more MiG 29, reportedly this year.
I quickly searched the internet on articles relating to the MiG 29, only to find that there are no less than 20 countries in the world that deploys the aircraft. I note too that outside the former Eastern block countries, India has the largest fleet of MiG 29; a total of 81 aircrafts in all. Next is Algeria with 51 MiG 29 aircrafts that came into service in 2008.
The MiG 29 and along with the SU 27 jet fighter aircraft was developed by the Soviet Union to counter the American F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. Development of the MiG 29 began in 1970 and the the aircraft entered service with the Soviet Air Force thirteen years later. At the point when Malaysia acquired the MiG 29, the RMAF was said to be 'masters of the air' of sorts, and with the induction of the Sukhoi soon, I do not know if the RMAF can continue to claim themselves to be the 'masters of the air'.
Going back to the analogy that my friend drew, I can now presume that the intended replacement is not one of age. Rather, I believe it has all to do with the exorbitant charges that the RMAF has to bare, to keep the aircraft flying. I see no logical reason for the cost to be high, since 'poor nations' who have similar aircrafts are able to maintain the aircrafts (some reportedly much older than ours). I sense that whichever agency that has been contracted to maintain the aircrafts has obviously kept the charges high, and the way to correct this 'anormaly' is probably to look at how the Indian Air Force maintain its fleet of MiG 29 and at what costs. I am quite sure there is a substantial disparity in costing that does not favour the RMAF and the government.
At a time when the nation is digging deep into its reserve, companies that are given long term maintenance contracts from the government seemed to be getting the best, at a time when the government is at its worse. Changing new aircrafts will certainly not be the best option at a time when the country is at its worse economically and financially. But what need to be looked at in future probably, is a maintenance costs structure that is comparable with other countries that has a similar aircraft. I have always believe that maintenance contracting companies in this country have been overtaxing the government in every single maintenance contracts.
As some friends of mine would say about winning a contact with the government; 'the higher the cost proposed, the better it is'.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION