This posting is made with the above in mind. A lot has been said
about the disappearance of the MH370. Most of what has been said are
purely speculations, with some that might have qualified to be nominated
for best screenplay at the Academy Awards. I, too, have some idea of
what might have happened but I put them aside so I could listen to the
daily press conference with an open mind. I will also attempt to
maintain some form of ethics because I also have the feelings of the
family of the passengers and crew in mind when I write this.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has come under intense attack by
both foreign and local media alike. The Air Defence system has also
come under intensive fire by members of the opposition party for its
failure to detect the MH370 upon deviating from its intended path and
the subsequent failure to scramble our fighters. Some even say our air
defence personnel were asleep on the job, and that at least one air
defence radar was not working.
It is easy for keyboard warriors to criticise the RMAF without
knowing what or how our air defence systems work. Perhaps when they
think of an air defence system, they had the following in mind:
Why I write this is to give a general understanding of how our air
defence system works, and what really happened that night. I have been
generally quiet on this matter as at the time of writing, I am grieving
the passing of my younger brother exactly 100 days today. But duty
calls, I guess.
I left the RMAF almost 20 years ago. A handful of my squad-mates are
still serving senior officers. Back in September 2012, a number of
bloggers (including I) and some senior editors of the Malaysian media
(including those that are opposition-leaning) were invited to a media
open day organised by the then Minister of Defence. Everything was
displayed to us, including some of the very sensitive information, so
that we could acquire enough background and understand how the RMAF
works. Out of the 80 or so people who were there that day, I guess I am
the only one to come to the defence of the RMAF.
First of all, this is how a typical air defence centre looks like from the inside:
It is no longer the one-man show you see in the movie “Tora! Tora!
Tora!” There are several air defence centres around Malaysia covering
both the Peninsula, Sabah, Sarawak and FAR beyond. I have a photo of how
far our air defence radars reach, but although I was allowed to take
photos of the main display, I opt not to put it up here. Suffice to say,
what we have is enough to tell us way ahead if a hostile aircraft is
approaching our airspace. When we were at the air defence centre, we
were shown a live interception of two bogeys by two of our MiG-29N
If I may say, what we all saw on the screen was what would have been
seen by all the operators of the other RMAF Air Defence Centres around
the nation that if one failed, it would not jeopardise what the others
During this display, not one journo nor blogger could come up with a
sane question related to what was shown to them. In the end, I and a few
of my blogger friends had to ask the questions to get the RMAF clarify
on issues that the media and bloggers have been attacking them on. Even
the Deputy Chief of Air Force, Lieutenant General Dato Seri Haji Roslan
bin Saad thanked me for my participation and for helping the RMAF
clarify some issues.
Let us go back to that wee hours on Saturday, 8th March 2014. MH370
took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 0041 hours (Local
Time). At 0107 hours, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and
Reporting System (ACARS) transmitted that all was well with the
The aircraft soon after arrived at waypoint IGARI, about 78 nautical
miles from Redang island, bearing 056 degrees) which is a point in the
South China Sea between the Malaysian border with Vietnam. At this
point, Lumpur Flight Information Region (FIR) would hand over the
control aircraft to Vietnam. At 0119 hours, a person believed to be the
co-pilot transmitted the final vox transmission, “Alright, good night.”
At 0122 hours, the aircraft disappeared from secondary radar coverage
without any distress call suggesting its transponder had been switched
off by someone on the flight deck. However, it was only at 0240 hours
that Malaysia Airlines was notified.
The RMAF Air Defence radars saw the MH370 tracked West Southwest to
waypoint VAMPI (68 nautical miles East Northeast of Lhokseumawe,
Indonesia), then Northeast to waypoint GIVAL (69 nautical miles South
Southwest of Phuket International Airport) before tracking Northwest
towards waypoint IGREX (100 nautical miles East Southeast of Car Nicobar
airport on India’s Nicobar Islands), the last known position according
to the primary radar. Where MH370 went to after this point is unknown at
this point, but I believe the Indian Air Force’s Andaman and Nicobar
Command’s primary radar there would have caught the MH370 in its scope.
So, if the MH370 was seen to deviate from its intended course, why
didn’t the RMAF scramble its fighters to intercept the airliner?
Every bogey (unknown aircraft) would be tagged by an Air Defence
Officer and this data will be processed to ascertain whether it was a
threat to air defence or otherwise. In the case of the MH370, it was not
regarded as hostile. Is this a weakness on the part of the RMAF? Mind
you three jetliners took down the World Trade Centre towers as well as
the Pentagon in the sophisticatedly-defended United States of America.
Should our fighters have been scrambled? If you remember, the MH370
was no longer in our airspace. When the MH370 tracked West Southwest
from IGARI to VAMPI, she did not cross Malaysian airspace. She flew over
Thai airspace and into Indonesian airspace, then tracked up to GIVAL
near Phuket and subsequently to IGREX near India’s Nicobar Islands (see
When she tracked from IGARI to IGREX she entered an area with two
Royal Thai Air Force fighter bases namely the RTAF 7th Wing in Surat
Thani and the 56th Wing in Hat Yai. They, too, were not scrambled. Nor
were the fighters of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) scrambled from
Lhokseumawe or Banda Aceh in Aceh, or Suwondo in Medan. If you think the
Indonesians are as incapable as the RMAF, they forced a US military
transport down without scrambling their fighters at their base in Banda
Aceh on 20th May 2013 for entering Indonesian airspace without proper
The Chief of Air Force, General Tan Sri Dato Seri Rodzali bin Daud
have explained that the RMAF did not see the need to scramble its
fighters as the blip on the primary radar was deemed not hostile, and
that there was nothing wrong with the air defence system. I just find
this attack on the RMAF as another cheap publicity shot by a bunch of
losers who do not know how things work and why, and would just take pot
shots and see what gets hit.
I know the RMAF I see now is a far advanced RMAF than the one I left
almost 20 years ago, and I have faith in the officers, men and women in
their capability to defend this nation. I cannot say the same for the
group of losers bent on hitting out at any institution of His Majesty
Yang DiPertuan Agong.
To these losers, please just STFU!