TAWAU: JET-FIGHTERS, such as the Sukhoi SU-30MKM and Boeing F/A-18, will be patrolling Sabah’s skies in the near future as part of plans to expand Labuan’s airforce base.
Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) air operations commander Lieutenant-General Datuk Seri Affendi Buang said while the BAE Hawk squadron had been based in Labuan since Nov 7, other fighter squadrons would soon be attached there as well.
“There is a Hawk squadron placed here for Sabah, but in the future, aircraft like the Sukhoi and F/A-18 would be deployed to the state,” he said after a working visit to RMAF’s Tawau air operations relief centre here, yesterday.
Affendi witnessed several aircraft sorties demonstrations, including hostage rescue operations performed by the Hawk and helicopter squadrons.
The relocation of the Hawk squadron from the Butterworth base to Labuan was announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during the tabling of the 2015 Budget in October. It was part of the efforts to strengthen security in the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone).
Affendi said the presence of the Hawk squadron would instil public confidence in the government’s commitment to ensure the safety of Sabah.
“Placing our fighter aircraft in Labuan is a strategic move to monitor Sabah’s east coast and the South China Sea.
“The Hawk aircraft will help us to strike and intercept. At the same time, we have an air defence radar that detects air traffic. We also will improve our assets from time to time.”
On the announcement by Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri that the armed forces would acquire six attack helicopters to reinforce operations in Esszone, Affendi said this would be done as soon as possible.
“The helicopters would be equipped with Gatling guns, which should be effective in assisting the security teams on land.”
Apas assemblyman Datuk Tawfiq Abu Bakar Titingan who was present, expressed gratitude that security assets in Sabah were given priority.