#LIMA17 : cracking event
What I learned from the best Aerospace AND Maritime show in the world
Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace 2017 (LIMA17), in Malaysia, is the main event where Asia’s military top chiefs can see latest state-of-the-art weapons and equipments to meet their strategic needs. It took place from March 21st to March 25th, 2017.
According to SIPRI Institute, 43% of regional arms imports are in South Asia. It is true that expanding threats from islamic groups in this part of the world motivate the exhibition. But let’s say a specific interest of concern to military VIPs at LIMA, is defense of the Strait of Malacca, specifically against pirates. All maritime trades between North Asia’s powers and the rest of the world pass through the Strait. No other sailing trail between North Asia and the Gulf (and Europe) is possible if you don’t go through Malacca. As a matter of facts, Malaysia, is « sharing » responsibilities with its neighbors, in securing that shallow sea, and LIMA is the meeting point to share these concerns and associated needs. So no one can doubt on the reason why LIMA’s is a growing success since the first event of the kind in 1991. As I previously reported, trade shows in Europe are becoming airlines forums - with you military issues - while in Asia, or in the Gulf, trade events are growing as the « new » military airshows. There were 555 exhibitors, 40.000 trade visitors, and more than 140.000 public visitors in LIMA17. It is interesting that among the 36 participating countries, ten were new ones, and you would not have tossed a coin to see some of them taking part in an event in this part of the world : Austria, Estonia, Poland or Ukraine. You could also visit the largest Belarus booth I have ever seen anywhere there, featuring the JSC 558 Repair Plant, probably eyeing an upgrade of the RMAF MiG-29 fleet (1).
I have learnt much about the effects of tropical storms on an airshow, especially when the show flights have to be dealt with airlines daily activities from the airport. It was not an easy activity for participating air forces to rehearse before the launching of show. Sunday March 19th, and Monday March 20 ath were plagued with tropical storms, and I was pleased to report on that strange matter on local TV media http://m.utusan.com.my/video/lima-2017-mula-jadi-tumpuan-1.459572 . Most flying participants were waiting for a gap between two airline slots from Langkawi airport, as much as between two storms as well. Walking along tarmacs, I could cross some of the teams pilots, and I could see they were much concerned always looking up. Very few slots were available to rehearse daily. I could witness the problem faced by the Russian Knights on Monday. Having landed on Saturday March 18th, the Russian Knights all four Su-30SMs had only rehearsed once on the 20th. At last, Russian solos rehearsed an additional routine each, after 5-30 PM on March 20th, and it was less training than they may have planned. The ROKAF Black Eagles have rehearsed only once before the show launch, as well.
Official show was inaugurated on March 21st, at 8-30 AM. It started with a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 flypast. Than was a Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) contribution, including six Hawks 108/208s, three F/A-18 Ds, and three Sukhoi Su-30MKMs. Surprisingly, no less than three Airbus A400Ms were flying in a common formation, paying tribute to the delivery of the fourth and last A400M having been ordered, and just delivered to the RMAF only a few days before LIMA. That fourth A400M was in the static display. Also on flypast were eight PC7 MKIIs. I could notice the performance of a sole Hornet flying up to the limit of Mach 1.
Every day, from the 20th to 22nd, was a two hours international display involving all participants. On last three days, were two international programs : one in the morning and one in the afternoon. As usual, international participation included many asian air forces. many flew Korean manufactured airplanes that you can’t see at any other event away from Asia. Tt was the Indonesian Air Force « Jupiter » team flying eight KAI KT-1Bs, and for the first time ever at LIMA, Korean ROKAF « Black Eagles » aerobatic team flying nine KAI T-50B. I have no doubts that the « Eagles » team match their european colleagues in terms of aerobatics flying skills. Anyway, I learned more on aerobatic teams than elsewhere, thanks to an interview with the Russian Knights : http://www.sky-lens.com/articles-news.php?recordID=263
Awesome were the two USAF B-1Bs flying in a formation on inauguration day, and closing their path with a marvelous break. This could conduct more than a UK Tattoo organiser to become jealous of LIMA.
Solo jets flyings reflected the strange MRCA fighter procurement program that is still not solved. Displays were performed by a FAF Dassault Rafale, and a local Su-30 MKM. Surprisingly, the Royal Thai Air Force kept on a Jas -39 Gripen flying in the show, even though a previous solo Thai Gripen had crashed on January 14th, at Hat Yai, during an event dedicated to children, and killing Squadron leader Dilokrit Pattavee. So sedate the Thai display was. Probably that Gripen came to feature the Saab brand possibility for any south-east asian force. Though neighboring Thai Air Force chose the Jas-39 Gripen, this fighter is said to be the RMAF second choice in the MRCA fighter deal to come, with Rafale as a prime choice. 11 Fighter Squadron declare they are satisfied with their Su-30 MKM as a close air combat aircraft, but only dream about Rafale’s weapons system when it comes to speak about next MRCA procurement. Anyway this procurement is stalled on budget grounds, but when I come across locals, saying that I am french media, there is always somebody starting to talk about Rafale « as their next one ». Given the locals low background on weapons systems, I was astonished to hear how sure they are that their forces will fly Rafales. Nevertheless they have not invented what they already have heard somewhere in their national media. Boeing seems to have no faith with MRCA, as its Super Hornet desperately remained on static ground. Last but not least, the Typhoon was demonstrated with a RAF fighter deployment (named LIMA) last winter. Interestingly in the meantime, the RMAF does not display any its fly MiG-29s anymore in the show, as only two of these jets are reported to be still flyable (1) the whole fleet being short of spare parts. Gone are past LIMAS famous « Smokey Bandits » four MiG-29s team. A serious british journalist published a tweet saying that the RMAF may plan to sell its Fulcrum fleet to India.
Apart from airplanes, I have learnt more with the LIMA event, than anywhere else, on military maritime affairs. I was pleased to be invited on Malaysian Minister of Defense boat, to take part to the Fleet Review, in the Resorts World Langkawi port. So, sailing from the Resorts, in the Bay around warships, we could watch 25 Malaysian Navy and Maritime Enforcement ships, and also warships from all over the world. I saw top-of-the-art ITS Carabinieri (Italian Navy), and JS Teruzuki (Japan) with two SH-60 on board. Many more ships took part such as INS Kora (India), PNS Saif and Nasr (Pakistan), HMAS Launceston (Autsralia), RSS Tenacious (Singapore), HTMS Phuket (Thailand), SLNS Sayura 5Sri Lanka), USS Coronado, DINH Thien Hong (Vietnam), KRI Banjarmasin and Halansan (Indonesia), BRP and Andres Bonaficio (Philippines). As if it was not enough, there were many maritime displays, involving boats, commandos, and Royal Malaysian Navy Super Lynx and Fennec helicopters firing lots of sounding artifacts altogether. As a french gentleman it is always marvelous to watch a Canadair CL-415 as exotic as one of those that are operated by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
Still having additional reports to publish on this amazing event, I remain sure LIMA is the growing international military event. No doubts, I will make an extended coverage on #LIMA19.
I would like to thanks warmly all #LIMA17 Langkawi Media and Public Relations Staff for having been so reactive, so friendly and helpfull with everything. See you at #LIMA19.