14 Agustus 2010
First Aermacchi MB-339A, M34-12 at TUDM Museum at Sg Besi Air Base. (photo : Sager Ahmad)
SHAH ALAM : The first of the last remaining batch of the Aermacchi MB-339As was put on display at the RMAF Museum at the Sg Besi Airbase last week. The plane serial number M34-12 is pictured here courtesy of NST journalist Sager Ahmad, who has a long history working with the museum.
Sager reported that the aircraft was transported to the museum on a low-loader with the wing taken out. The appearance of the M34-12 I believed marked the retirement of the As following the delivery of the 8 MB339CM last year. However there is no official confirmation from the RMAF just yet. But since the engines of the As had been taken out to be refurbished before they were fitted on the CMs, the argument is purely academic of course.
Only in Malaysia, so claimed DHEagle to me. He said such thing has never happen anywhere else. No other airforce he claimed would put an old engine into a new plane! How did this thing happened one may asked?
Well the short answer, based on conversations I had with DHEagle and confirmed by other sources, the RMAF had been planning to replace the As since 2000. But due to long negotiations plus an added requirement from the Ministry of Transport – extra landing rights to Malaysia Airlines for Rome – the deal was finally struck in 2006. However, by that time the allocation to purchase the new CMs had been fixed at around RM600 million. That means RMAF can only purchase 4 new CMs with new engines and eight, if they used the old engines from the As. We all know what happened next.
I was told that RMAF did not pursue the option of refurbishing the As into the CM version as it was expensive as buying new airframes. I am told that the As were retired prematurely as the airframes and engines had still half of their service lives when the deal to purchase the CMs was finalised, which was a pity of course…
The LOI for the 8 CMs was signed at DSA2006 while the contract was signed a few months later. The deal to refurbished the engines of the As (Viper Mk623.43) for the CMs was signed at Lima 2007. All of us (reporters) , including myself, missed out on that small print as we were always looking for bigger, newer things at such functions. Oh well, at least the museum got a new toy for display….