Leaner Air Force by 2055

The Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM or Royal Malaysian Air Force) has announced a 35-year road map, outlining a leaner order of battle and plans for future acquisition of new platforms up to 2055. Known as the Capability 55 or Cap55 programme, the key highlight is the reduction of aircraft types in the TUDM.

Currently the TUDM operates five combat aircraft types across six squadrons: the Su-30MKM, F/A-18D Hornet, MiG-29N, Hawk 108/208 and the MB339CM. The MiG-29N has been grounded since around 2016 and the Su-30MKM leet is facing airworthiness issues following a lack of funding for maintenance and depot level checks.

Cap55 calls for a TUDM fighter leet equipped with two squadrons of a future multi-role combat aircraft and three squadrons of light combat aircraft/lead-in fighter trainer.

Cap55 will see four transport aircraft types and missions being separated into to a single squadron of strategic airlift or multi-role tanker and transport, and two squadrons of tactical transport aircraft. The roles are currently fulilled by the A400M, C-130 and CASA CN235. More recently, the A400M was certiied with underwing-mounted hose and drogue refuelling pods, enabling tanking capabilities and strategic airlift, a function used during the ferry of F/A-18D Hornets to Australia for Exercise Pitch Black 2018.

The TUDM will also streamline its two current helicopter types into one type for SAR and combat SAR. Other planned acquisitions include a squadron of airborne early warning and control aircraft, a squadron of unmanned combat aerial vehicle or medium altitude long endurance UAVs, and a squadron of maritime patrol aircraft. None of these capabilities currently exists with the TUDM, except for a small leet of Beechcraft King Air B200Ts used for maritime patrol and surveillance duties.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force hopes the transformation can better optimise assets and spares, and move from a platform-centric to a network-centric force. By doing so, the TUDM hopes it can better focus on operational roles and tasks, and improve mission outcomes. Chen Chuanren