Monday, July 11, 2011

What to do with RMAF Nuri and MiG

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

It's been a while fellas since last I write. Now back into business.

First of all, this will be my second article I write discussing about Malaysian armed forces. This entry is NOT a professional review regarding assets of Malaysian armed forces, as I am not a military analyst or whatsoever.

I got this whole idea to write this entry after I watched some action movies about special forces. This time I'm not going to write about Malaysian Special Forces (SF). This entry will concentrate about Malaysian "seasoned" assets and Malaysian film industry. Can't figure it out yet?

Aircraft Graveyard

Have you ever wondered where the used aircraft, ships or any military assets will be at after their retirement? In US, they have a vast area called the 'Aircraft Graveyard' or 'Aircraft Boneyard' . It's in a desert actually. They have plenty types of aircraft there, be it a passenger aircraft or military aircraft. Spaceship? I don't know. Damn, really wanna go there..... so badly!

In Malaysia, we don't that kind of aircraft graveyard. Not enough land unfortunately. If we do have enough land, we don't have that much of old aircraft to be R.I.P ed.

As far as I'm concerned, the only place I guess resembles closer to the aircraft graveyard is the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) 's museum in Kuala Lumpur. Never heard of it? I'm not so surprised. Aircraft on display are in a VERY BAD condition. Only the outer body of the aircraft are still intact. Some were put on the tarmac (big aircraft) and some inside the hangar (helicopters and some light aircraft).

I got some wild idea. But before that, let me ask you. When was the last time our country produced a war themed movie? As far as I could remember, the last was the Leftenan Adnan movie released in year 2000. The film made it to Box-Office chart if I'm not mistaken.

Remember this? 

Let's take a look at Malaysian made film nowadays. Too much of spook, superstitious, lovey-dovey themed film. Not to mention illegal racing, triads or gangsters style movie. (YAWN).......

What was my idea?

I'm just thinking, will it make any sense if the government and Ministry of Defence (MinDef) provide some real props for movie production. I mean, look at Hollywood. We could see they're using their sophisticated military assets in the screen. In Die Hard 4.0, Live Free or Die Hard, an F-35 was used in the film. In Black Hawk Down, a real Black Hawk Down helicopters along with it's original pilot were in the movie.

What I'm saying is, it's time for Malaysian film producers to get to a whole new level of making a big budget film. Nuri helicopter had been in service since the Emergency Era and still in active duty.

In terms of modern warfare, I guess Malaysia still lacks experiences in real battle. I mean, we didn't happily jump into other countries fight or civil war. In peacekeeping mission, Malaysia are well known for our active participation globally. Our forces have reached Congo, Bosnia, just to name some. Recent action, our SF, PASKAL draw attention from other countries for their success in an anti-piracy mission in Aden Sea. They successfully recaptured MT Bunga Laurel, a chemical tanker without any support from NATO forces. Without any casualties from the hostages, the pirates and the PASKAL. Read here.

To commemorate those event in a movie might be a military secret as it would have involved Malaysian SF's military tactics, weaponry, formation and stuffs like that.

Why don't we recreate scenes from our involvement in Bosnia or Congo. If the cost would be too much, we do have plenty of untold stories during the Emergency Era which saw the Nuri helicopter in action. 

Once guarding the Malaysia's airspace, MiG-29N Fulcrum has been in service for more than 15 years, since 1995. It's main role as an interceptor means they were once used to intercept any unknown aircraft intruding the country's airspace. Or simply for an acrobatic show?

RMAF MiG 29-N Fulcrum

For 15 years, the MiGs had undergone several upgrade for it's avionic systems, weaponry, etc. Malaysian government spent millions for the upgrading and maintenance costs. In 1995, immediately after the MiG purchase, one of our neighboring country reacted with the purchase of F-16 to counterbalance the air power in South East Asia region at that time. Plus, MiG 29 is proven to be one of the best MiG exported version outside Russia. 

Now, the main reason of this idea is, how to make good use of retired aircraft and other military assets. It's sad to see those assets scrapped for recycle or lie abandoned at museum without any proper care.

Government should upgrade the RMAF museum to attract more visitors. One good thing if you ever went there is, you may get inside an aircraft from the aircraft's rear ramp. Get a taste how it feels to sit on a military plane, where once served to carry paratroopers. Take a closer look and feel with your own hand the panels (broken) inside the cockpit. Stick your head out of the cockpit
and imagined yourself as the pilot.

Too bad the exhibits are in bad condition....

As an aerospace engineering student, we learned how the aircraft fly. The flight mechanism. Pull the stick, the elevator will raise upward and bring the flight upward. Push the right pedal, aircraft's rudder bent rightward and the aircraft will yaw to the right. At RMAF museum, you may jump inside a light aircraft where you can experiment with all the sticks and pedals inside the cockpit. Where else can you get such experience?

Take a closer look at jet engines on display. Learn the intake and exhaust of a jet engine, the cooling system. There's a blank bomb on display too. Shells only, for security and safety reason.

Told you. You can get into the cockpit and stick your head out....

Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a human (or non-human) made device, object or system through analysis of its structure, function and operation. It often involves taking something (e.g., a mechanical device, electronic component, biological, chemical or organic matter or software program) apart and analyzing its workings in detail to be used in maintenance, or to try to make a new device or program that does the same thing without using or simply duplicating (without understanding) the original.

Reverse engineering has its origins in the analysis of hardware for commercial or military advantage. The purpose is to deduce design decisions from end products with little or no additional knowledge about the procedures involved in the original production. The same techniques are subsequently being researched for application to legacy software systems, not for industrial or defence ends, but rather to replace incorrect, incomplete, or otherwise unavailable documentation.

Citation above was taken from wikipedia.

I haven't heard Malaysia practiced reverse engineering. Be it for military purpose or not, reverse engineering is slowly taking place in today's engineering world. In military world, Iran is known for conducting reverse engineering on it's F-14 fleet due to the US sanctions and restrictions on Iran. From upgrading to supplying spare parts for the F-14, they did it inside their country. 

Fortunately for Malaysia we don't have that kind of sanction from any world major power either from US or Russia. Even so, don't forget that we still received a double standard service if we are to compare our assets and capability with one of our neighboring country. Their assets specs were tuned to match the US assets, if not better as they have Israel support on this matter. That's the reality.

I'm not asking Malaysia to join the weapon race to be the strongest or the largest military power in the region. We could spare a lot by producing our own spare parts but of course with permission. I know, many people would say Russia is the best to provide us the support and technology needed for us to stand on our own.

Why not? We have our own resources. We have the specialty and manpower. Seriously, career in aerospace or aeronautical engineering in Malaysia is still blurry. Graduates from overseas or local universities in aeronautical engineering always having difficulty in finding a suitable job which they can apply their knowledge in. Believe me, you wouldn't want to work in a camera or glass manufacturing factory when your cert clearly writes 'B.Eng Aeronautical Engineering'. It's a waste of 4 years of study if you can't apply what you've learned in university.

Understand the structure of an aircraft (RMAF museum, Kuala Lumpur)

In Malaysia, we have universities which offer degree in aeronautical engineering. Or, should I say the course is not popular that few students entered the course? I don't really know the situation in Malaysia but I bet, there are many students who graduated from the aeronautical course. Sadly, most of them don't fully utilize or apply what they've learned. As long as they have a job, it's OK.

"Apa susah! Go work with MAS or Air Asia lah"..... often we heard people saying that to unemployed aero student. Mind you, as far as I know, working with MAS or Air Asia is not about designing, production or anything to do with the aero engineering. They are more to maintenance. The same goes to RMAF. I once interviewed an officer working in RMAF base in Subang about his job. Overall, I can conclude that, most of the job you're doing is aircraft's maintenance. 

In terms of maintenance, Malaysia aims to be another MRO hub for the South East Asia region. A rival for Singapore. Read here.

I know it's a sensitive issue but it's a reality if I say lots of Malaysian always look down on Indonesia. 'Kampung' minded, illegal immigrants and other bad impression against them. Even so, did you know that Indonesia produce their own aircraft? It's OK even if it's a light aircraft, but hey... it flies. Never heard about N-219? Here's the detail from wiki. It's a new light aircraft made in Indonesia. Yep, the country which we thought full of kampung and low class minded person. Indonesia is the only country in South East Asia that produce its own aircraft.Read more here.

Not only aircraft, they even produce their own rockets and short range missiles for F-16 (joint production with China). Even US acknowledged the quality of the spare parts made in Indonesia. In Japan, they have license to manufacture F-2 (under Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), with 60% of the aircraft made in Japan. Google 'em for more info.

I'm not trying to be a pro-Indonesia or any political cum nationalist term you can find in dictionary. Stop saying we have stronger military or whatsoever. Be an adult lad.

I'm saying, Malaysia could do the same. We have vast resources. We have experts, engineers, technician, students. I'm proud Malaysia produces our own New Generation Patrol Vessel (NGPV), here in Malaysia. Why not the aircraft?

Don't be shame to practice reverse engineering. Some major power nowadays practiced reverse engineering. Few examples as below:

  • Jerry can: British and American forces noticed that the Germans had gasoline cans with an excellent design. They reverse-engineered copies of those cans. The cans were popularly known as "Jerry cans".
  • Tupolev Tu-4: Three American B-29 bombers on missions over Japan were forced to land in the USSR. The Soviets, who did not have a similar strategic bomber, decided to copy the B-29. Within a few years, they had developed the Tu-4, a near-perfect copy.
  • V2 Rocket: Technical documents for the V2 and related technologies were captured by the Western Allies at the end of the war. Soviet, and captured German engineers, had to reproduce technical documents and plans, working from captured hardware, in order to make their clone of the rocket, the R-1, which began the postwar Soviet rocket program that led to the R-7 and the beginning of the space race.
  • During the Second World War, British military intelligence at the Bletchley Park centre, studied captured German "Enigma" message encryption machines, their operation was then simulated on electro-mechanical devices called "Bombes", that tried all the possible scrambler settings of the "Enigma" machines, to help break the coded messages sent by the Germans.
See? Some technologies we enjoy today was a war technology captured during the WW2.

What benefits do we gain from the things mentioned above?

1.  Increase tourist spots in Kuala Lumpur (RMAF museum especially)

2. Increase understanding in flight mechanism, design etc (good reference for aeronautical engineering student, or even kids)

3. Save recycling costs of aircraft

4. Unique learning place (museum or theme park style)

 5. When the need arise, they could be refitted and called to an active duty. Support role maybe.

Ahhhhh....just another rambling from an aerospace engineering student. I strongly urge the government, invest more in local aerospace/ aeronautical engineering industry. It's worth the price. Should be no more fighter jet engine's 'sudden' disappear, no more scandal against the purchase of fighter jets (commission bla bla bla), no more "source code" problem, no more doubles standard issues from the Western countries. Hoping for a less air crash in country's future aviation history. We could save 'taxpayers' money a lot dude. 

Some would think it's easy to say than to realize it. Ask them again. Have we ever tried? Malaysia is still young in this industry. Well, I still believe we could be better in this industry. Not only stuck at the MRO level. One thing we Malaysian should learn from Japan and Indonesia. They believe in their own product and support them. That's what drives them forward.

Make it simple. PROTON manufactured 100% national car in Malaysia, using Malaysian expertise and materials from Malaysia. Of course nothing's perfect. Later on Malaysian found some problem with the national car. Or maybe they think, PROTON could do better than this. BUT, instead of supporting the industry, they condemn it. Saying the design was copied from other foreign country. Rather than buying PROTON's car, better purchase well known brands like Honda or Toyota or whatsoever. Now, think like this. If Malaysians stop from buying the car, PROTON can not make any profits, which results in inadequate funding for research purpose. How can they meet the demand to make a better car? How can they learn from their errors?

p/s: As a Muslim, we believe 'ilmu' (knowledge) is Muslim's lost treasure. Wherever we can find it, go look for it and grab it.