The Sukhoi SU-30MKM is Malaysia's primary frontline fighter
Sukhoi are hopeful of landing a further order to replace the RMAF's ageing MiG.29s
Under-belly view of a Russian Knights 'Flanker'
Two Smokey Bandits MiG.29Ns get airborne at LIMA '13
Every two years the small island of Langkawi off the western coast of Malaysia sees the 5-day Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) take place at the island's international airport. First held in 1991, it is one of Asia's most prestigious aerospace, maritime and defence events and attracts a total attendance approaching 160,000 people, together with hundreds of exhibitors from the international aerospace industry, as well as numerous government, military, scientific and trade delegations. Having always previously been held in the month of December, it was decided after LIMA 2011 that the event would be moved to the 26th-30th March; and so Jetwash Aviation Photos decided to make the 6,000+ mile trip (10,000+ Km) to take the opportunity to photograph some of the many Malaysian defence forces aircraft that attend the event, along with other participants from countries that normally include some of the other Asian air powers not normally seen in the skies outside of their own geographical region. Expected participation in 2013 would come from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), the Indonesian National Air Force (TNI-AU) aerial display team equipped with the Korean Aerospace Industries KT-1 Wong-Bee and most noticeably the Russian Knights and their mighty Sukhoi SU-27 'Flankers'.
The airshow at LIMA is held over a period of five days, the first three being trade days, followed by two days that are open to the public and which include slightly longer flying displays. Having arranged our Press Accreditation prior to leaving the UK, the plan was to attend on the Trade Days only so as to maximise the opportunities to photograph the static displays, flight demonstrations and also some of the visiting aircraft bringing in VIPs and providing support for the aircraft involved in the show itself. We had also been warned in advance that the public days are well avoided due to the limited accessability and the huge crowds that attend. We were well advised!
As is usual at LIMA, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (TUDM), Army (TDM) and Navy (TLDM) were well in evidence with their aviation assets, supported by aircraft from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the Fire & Rescue Dept. (BOMBA) and the Royal Malaysian Police. The weather during LIMA '13 was as expected extremely hot, with temperatures above 35ºC. Combine this with the high humidity and the intensity of the sun and it made photography somewhat challenging to say the least. In addition to the aircraft at the airshow there were also some helicopters on display at the maritime exhibition and each day there was also a demonstration taking place at the harbour showing off the skills of the MMEA, including a dramatic water-bombing demonstration by one of their Bombardier CL.415 aircraft.
France's contender is the Dassault Rafale. In the back seat is a lucky female RMAF pilot getting a 'check ride'
As stated previously the Malaysian armed forces attend LIMA in strength
The oldest asset on view was this Sikorsky S-61A-4 Nuri
Introduced into service in 1967 a small number are still active with the RMAF to this day
The 'Smokey Bandits' of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (or Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM) to give its correct name) aerobatic display team fly with five Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG.29N/NUB fighters, with a sixth aircraft always available as a spare. The team's MiG.29 aircraft were acquired by the TUDM in 1995 as their primary air defence fighter and are painted in the standard grey camouflage scheme applied to all TUDM MiG.29s. The team's aircraft and personnel are drawn from 17 Skuadron based at Kuantan Air Base. The Smokey Bandits display team was formed in 2001 and made their international debut in July 2011 during the Brunei International Defence Exhibition (BRIDEX). The team's name is of course derived from the characteristic smoke emissions from the Russian fighter’s two Klimov RD-33 engines, something which is very apparent during their display routine. Anyone who has seen a MiG.29 in full 'military power' will know what I am referring too!
The TNI-AU operates the KAI KT-1B Wong Bee as a lead-in trainer for future fighter jockeys
The aircraft bears a striking resemblance to the Pilatus PC-9
The MMEA operates two CL.415MP water bombers, both of which were present at LIMA throughout the week
The Irkut Corporation completed the order for eighteen SU-30MKMs to Malaysia in 2009, the first aircraft entering service with the TUDM in 2007. All eighteen are in service with 11 Skuadron at Gong Kedak, 300Km north of Kuala Lumpur. The SU-30MKM is a derivative of the Indian Air Force -MKI version in that it has the same airframe, Lyulka AL-31FP turbo-fan engines with thrust vectoring control, and an advanced digital fly-by-wire system. The -MKM version differs from the -MKI by virtue of the on board avionics. Thales supplies the Head-Up Display (HUD), navigational forward-looking infra-red (IFR) system, NAVFLIR and Damocles laser designation pod. The aircraft carries a missile approach warning sensor and laser warning sensor manufactured by the Avitronics company of South Africa (a subsiduary of Saab). The electronic warfare (EW) system, phased array radar, optic-location system with laser range-finder are all produced by leading Russian manufacturers.
The Su-30MKM can legitimately claim super-maneuverability via its digital fly-by-wire system, canards, and two thrust-vectoring Lyulka AL-31FP engines producing 27,500 lb thrust each with afterburners. This gives them an edge in close-in fights, allowing the pilot to rapidly point the plane at potential targets to draw them within the AA-11/R-73 Archer missiles infrared seeker cone, launch and then quickly change direction. For longer range aerial combat, the Su-30MKM also bears a phased-array radar system that can track up to 15 targets and simultaneously engage four. The standard aerial weapon for beyond visual range (BVR) engagements is the AA-12/R-77, but the aircraft can also carry infrared-guided AA-10s.The Su-30MKMs are truly multi-role aircraft, with strong ground attack capabilities, assisted by the Damocles targeting pod for air-to-ground capability. For strike missions, it can carry up to 8,000 kg/ 17,650 lb and diverse weapon loads over a large un-refueled combat radius of more than 700 nautical miles.
This SU-30MKM in the static display sported very stylish fin markings
This Royal Malaysian Air Force Bombardier BD.700 from 2 Skuadron at Subang brought in VIPs for the event
A number of RMAF Lockheed C-130 Hercules visited LIMA throughout the week
#M30-02 above is a KC-130H tanker version
The MMEA also operates the Eurocopter AS.365 Dauphin in the search & rescue (SAR) role
#M70-01 is seen about to depart Langkawi to perform its demo at the maritime exhibition
#M43-03 wears a nice 55 year anniversary scheme
As with Australia, Singapore is another regular attendee at LIMA events
This LMTAS F-16D Fighting Falcon in the static belongs to 145 Sqn
As previously mentioned there was a maritime display held twice daily at Resorts World, Langkawi. Three helicopters were present in a small static display (Navy Fennec and Super Lynx, plus a Maritim Malaysia AS.365 Dauphin). The aeriel display was performed by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and from an aviation point of view included demonstrations from one of their Dauphins and an Agusta-Westland AW.139, which included a search & rescue (SAR) display. But without doubt the most exciting display was provided by the Bombardier CL.415MP water bomber. The demo' included a water landing, taxi and take-off, but most noticeably a display of its ability to drop huge amounts of water from its under-belly tanks, which are used to extinguish fires.
The Maritim Malaysia (Coast Guard) CL.415MP is based on the successful CL-215. The 415 has an updated cockpit, aerodynamic enhancements and changes to the water-release system creating a modern fire-fighting amphibious flying boat for use in detecting and suppressing forest fires. Compared to the CL.215, the 415 has an increased operating weight and speed. The 415 can scoop up to 6,140 litres (1350 Imperial gal or 1,620 US gal) of water from a nearby water source, mix it with a chemical foam if desired, and drop it on a fire without having to return to base to re-fill its tanks.
The team was routing back home with the formation being led by an Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircraft that provided support for the team. Having mis-understood directions from air traffic control, the IL-76 pilot led the formation into a wrong turn and towards a mountain. Dense fog hampered conditions at the time and three Russian Knights Sukhois (2x Su-27 and 1x Su-27UB) crashed into the mountain, killing all four pilots. The other team's aircraft, along with the IL-76 avoided impacting the mountain and landed succesfully at Kam Ran Air Base.
Another CASA aircraft in the static display was this Malaysian Air Force CN.235-220M from 21 Skuadron at Subang Air Base
How much longer the team will exist is very much up for debate as the MiG.29s have been slated for withdrawal for a number of years due to the high costs involved in keeping them airworthy. During LIMA '13, French, British, American and Swedish manufacturers were much in evidence attempting to win orders for the MiGs replacement, with the Rafale, Typhoon, FA-18E/F and Gripen respectively. The MiGs have been facing the axe for a number of yearsnow, so whether the Smokey Bandits will still be around at LIMA '15 is anyones guess, we can only hope that they are.
17 Skuadron ground crew prepare a MiG.29N for its display
The RMAF already operates the FA-18D Hornet and the United States is hoping this may work in their favour and lead to an order for the Super Hornet
Two Boeing FA-18Fs from VFA-106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia were providing the U.S competition for the RMAF's new fighter
Another support aircraft was this Singapore Air Force Fokker 50-UTA based at Changi with 121 Squadron
The MMEA's latest acquisition is the Agusta-Westland AW.139, three of which have been delivered
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG.29s, led by one of two MiG.29NUB twin-seaters acquired by the TUDM
Undoubtedly the highlight of LIMA '13 for many people was the appearance of The Russian Knights aerobatic team, who returned to LIMA for the first time since 1995. Having demonstrated at LIMA '95, disaster struck on their return to Russia, when on the 12th December three of the team's Sukhoi SU-27s flew into a mountainside near Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during their approach to the nearby air base for a refuelling stop.
An SU-27A taxi's back to its parking spot after demonstrating at LIMA
LIMA 2013 would see the return of the 'Russian Knights' for the first time since that fatal accident. As with many display teams the Russian Knights rarely display outside of their native country and so they were a welcome addition to the display aircraft. Accompanied by the obligatory Illyushin IL-76 transport aircraft the team brought three SU-27A single-seater and two SU-27UB two-seat aircraft to Langkawi. As with the RMAF 'Smokey Bandits' team their routine is again somewhat staid, but nevertheless more than welcome.
The only U.S Air Force aircraft on show was this Boeing C-17A Globemaster III from the 15th Wing at Hickam AFB, Hawaii
The Royal Thai Air Force support was provided by a couple of Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules from 601 Squadron
The Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat Malaysia (Fire & Rescue) had two helicopters on display
One Mil M-17V and one Mil Mi-171 (above). The aircraft are used for water-bombing
Formed in 1996 and initially equipped with eight British Aerospace (BAe) Hawk Mk.53 aircraft from 103 Skuadron, the Indonesian National Air Force-Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU) aerobatic display team performed for the first time on 23rd September 1997. In 2001 the team was renamed Jupiter Blue and flew a mix of Hawk and Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons until a fatal accident in March 2002, which later resulted in the demise of the team.
The Royal Australian Air Force are regular attendees at LIMA and their contribution for 2013 was this Boeing E-7A 'Wedgetail' AWACS
The RMAF's latest asset and indeed the planned replacement for the S-61A above is the Eurocopter EC.725 Cougar
Both the first and second aircraft delivered were seen at LIMA '13
Bae Hawk Mk.208 is one of 18 delivered to the TUDM and is operated by 15 Skn at Butterworth
The sole Malaysian Government Airbus A.319 brought in the Malaysian Prime Minister
Classic lines of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG.29N 'Fulcrum'
The CL.415 scoops water into its tanks
With the Royal Malaysian Air Force's requirement to fulfil its need for a new-generation Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) to replace their ageing MiG.29 and Northrop F-5 aircraft, all the principle contenders were on show
Above is the Eurofighter Typhoon, a Royal Air Force 3 Sqn example providing the demo for this particular contender
Langkawi International Maritime
& Aerospace Exhibition 2013
The Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM) was well in evidence at LIMA
This Eurocopter AS.555SN Fennec from 502 Skuadron, was one of three Fennecs at LIMA
The Bombardier CL.415MP drops in low on its approach to the Andaman Sea to scoop water into its under-belly tanks
In addition to the Jupiter Team, The Indonesian Air Force had a recently delivered CASA 295M from 2 Skuadron in the static display
Unlike most air forces its camouflage was in a nice glossy paint scheme
The Smokey Bandits routine is somewhat staid when compared to the enthusiastic displays given by teams such as the Red Arrows and Freece Tricolori for example. However it is not often you get the opportunity to see a large aircraft such as the MiG.29 flying in tight formation, and that in itself is reason enough to get excited about them. Combine their rarity value in that they do not perform very often, rarely if ever outside of Malaysia, added to the fact that they fly such an iconic aircraft and you can understand why they are eagerly awaited and enjoyed by the thousands of onlookers at LIMA. Because of the compact nature of the LIMA flying schedule due to the airport remaining open throughout the show for normal passenger flights, not every performer displays every day and we had to wait until day three before the 'Bandits' managed to get into the air.
Alongside the F-16 the Republic of Singapore Air Force showed off one of an AH-64D Apache Longbow
Finally, the dramatic water-bombing demonstration in front of the crowds
The Malaysian Army is relatively small and operates eleven Agusta A.109LUH light utility helicopter
A.109s are currently taking part in 'Operation Daulat' in Lahad Datu, where 230 armed Filipino insurgents are trying to claim territory
Two-seat SU-27UB landing at Langkawi and showing off the aircraft's dual brake-chutes to good effect
One of eight FA-18D Hornets operated by the TUDM was on display in the static park
Another contender is Sweden's Saab JAS.39 Gripen
The Royal Thai Air Force had two JAS.39Cs at LIMA for demonstration to the Malaysian dignitaries
The Aermacchi MB.339CM trainer is operated by 3 FTC at Kuantan
Having re-formed in 2008 as the Jupiter Aerobatic Team using four Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) KT-1B Wong-Bee trainers, the new team's first public show took place on 4th July 2008 in Yogyakarta. After two years of stagnation the team began a training programme with assistance from the Royal Australian Air Force 'Roulettes' display team, and in 2011 the team increased its aircraft complement to six aircraft, also receiving a new red/white colour scheme similar to the colours of the Indonesian flag. The aircraft and pilots are drawn from 102 Skadron Pendidikan based at Adisucipto International Airport, Yogyakarta.
The visiting aircraft highlight for me was this Indonesian Air Force Boeing 737-2Q8 based in Jakarta with 17 Skuadron
Many visiting aircraft made an appearance at LIMA '13, mainly transport and VIP aircraft bringing in support equipment and visiting dignitaries such as the Malaysian Prime Minister, high-ranking officials and support equipment for the display and static aircraft. As Langkawi is not a military airfield all the support equipment required for the display aircraft has to be brought in before the show commences and taken back out afterwards. An example of some of the visitors can be seen below;-