Where was the RMAF when MH370 disappeared?

March 21, 2014

Where was the RMAF when MH370 disappeared?

by Mariam Mokhtar


What is the SOP for a breach of our air space? The Air Force Chief’s explanation of the radar incident exposes the poor communication between the military and civil aviation authorities


Chief of the RMAF, Rodzali DaudWhere was the RMAF when MH370 disappeared? In any investigation, the first few hours are the most crucial, when searching for clues. In the early hours of Saturday, March 8, 2014, around the time that air traffic control lost contact with MH370, we are told that military radar detected the presence of an unidentified aircraft traversing Malaysian airspace.

What role, if any, could the RMAF have played in these crucial first few hours? Was precious time wasted in the search for MH370? Five days after MH370 went missing, the Chief of the RMAF, Rodzali Daud, finally acknowledged that the Malaysian Air Torce had radar information which may have had some bearing on the aeroplane.

All the while, we have seen a confused response from the authorities, ranging from retraction of statements and denials, to people giving the impression that they were withholding information. When MH370 veered off course and was possibly picked up on military radar, what did Rodzali do? He justified the delay in announcing the military’s information, because of the need to check the data, with the experts.

That is understandable, but in times of warfare, would it take several days? Military radar showed that an unidentified aircraft was around 200 nautical miles north west of Penang, and at 29,500 feet above sea level. When MH370 went missing, the transponders and all communications equipment were not working.

It is curious that the radar operators knew it was a civilian plane but did not think to check with the civil aviation authorities. So, what is the standard operating procedure (SOP) for a breach of our air space? When asked why fighters had not been scrambled to intercept the unidentified aircraft, Rodzali said that radar operators had recognised it as a civilian aircraft.

How did the radar operators know it was a civilian aircraft and was not hostile? What is the definition of hostile used by the radar operators? Will an unidentified plane be considered hostile only if the plane is armed? Can the radar man confirm hostility by looking at his screen? The Boeing 777 is an enormous plane and fast. The C-130 and other military transporter planes are also big and bulky, but they are slower than the sleek Boeing.

Government lackey

Rodzali said: “It is not classified as hostile. We only do an intercept or respond when they are classified as hostile.” The two jets which smashed into the twin towers in New York may not have carried missiles, but the aircraft were used as weapons. So, how could Rodzali confidently say the plane was not hostile. His response is far from satisfactory and is like an invitation for any plane, hostile or friendly, to pass unchallenged through our air space.

All planes must file a flight plan with the civilian aviation authorities, avoiding no-go areas. Aircraft straying into that air-space will be contacted by radio, and then escorted away. If the pilot refuses to comply, he risks an aerial engagement. Did the RMAF contact the civilian aviation authorities and confirm the flight plan of the aeroplane?

Rodzali’s explanation of the radar incident exposes the poor communication between the military and civil aviation authorities. A quick phone call by the air force to Subang would have sufficed. An air force officer of sufficient rank could have decided to scramble a jet to investigate. It does not matter if someone had to be awoken. In addition, the chief of the armed forces, Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, made further confusing remarks.

After claiming that the unidentified aircraft was first noticed in the spot where MH370 was known to have disappeared, he said, “We sent some ships immediately from Lumut that particular night to where we suspected that aircraft would be. That morning at first light, we sent a C-130 (aircraft) immediately to scout the area. It is a possibility (that MH370 is there) and at the slightest possibility, I must respond for the sake of the passengers on MH370.”

Zulkifeli’s remarks seem to suggest that he thought an aircraft had come down somewhere in the Strait of Malacca, and yet, Najib Tun Razak had directed the search and rescue (SAR) mission to be conducted in the Gulf of Thailand. Does Zulkifeli know something we don’t?

It is baffling that Zulkifeli was prepared to send the ships from Lumut, which is south of Penang, but he did not see the need to send a jet, as soon as the unidentified aircraft entered our air space. It is clear that the air force has messed-up and wasted an opportunity to solve the mystery of the unidentified aircraft. It is imperative that military and civil aviation authorities improve communications with one another.

The RMAF should spend more time on defence of the nation, instead of being a government lackey which protects the interests of UMNO-Baru. The persecution of Major Zaidi Ahmad for making a police report on the indelibile ink used in GE-13 is a prime example of the displaced loyalty of the RMAF. If only the armed forces would get their priorities right.

55 thoughts on “Where was the RMAF when MH370 disappeared?

  1. Ahmad, sorry, I think Dato Din is free to post articles and comments of his own choice since he is the bloghost. But I am sure, he will note your comment.

  2. Din,
    Me don’t what to say about RMAF man. Last heard that DCA’s radar men & military radar men are stationed side by side. Apa macam takdak correlation & collaboration between both of them. Shit man, no wonder MH370 end up far far away

  3. RMAF aka TUDM, is like a bucket of loose screws which prides itself as being top-gun. They have the hardware, without the software. That’s akin to a brain made completely of white matter which conducts, but lacks self awareness. Why? Because they have lost morality, accountability and ability in times of adversity. And this is a Civilian Disaster. Imagine what happens in a true life Military confrontation?

    Not to mention that they sent a 3-star Flier to brief the grieving in Beijing – something like 2 weeks too late. You see, the Chinapek have this yearning for Face, not Force. They want to speak with and to Authority, in times of Crises. But all they are going to get is a couple of Loose Screws. Yup, Malaysia Boleh!

    So while we hammer TUDM, wherewithal our most Splendorous Ambassador to PRC? Surely, a JUSA A civilian diplomat cannot retract his head like a turtle in the Name of his God or under pretext of Military Classifieds?

    But then – we also have a superfluous, stupefied, silly-goat of a Special Envoy to Eastern Asia, who was suspended next to the most awesome Minister of Defense cum Transport – who was taciturnly fielding ‘planted’ questions during todays Press Conference?

    Whether God had inadvertently made this bloke the Lord of all he surveys, or as Punishment is left to be seen. I guess Parliament will be much more lively next week, when these Imponderables will have to be answered by the Plodders.

  4. 1. Main criteria for promotion to become military top brass
    in Malaise-sia is …….
    absolute loyalty to UMNO Baru-BN regime ??

    2. And are the Malaise-sian armed forces top heavy with these
    types of generals ??

  5. Top heavy in the sense that there are too many (politically-appointed, incompetent) generals in relation to ordinary ranks (such as the armed forces of Burma).

  6. TUDM is like the police force – its another UMNO branch… look at how they court martial Mejar (Udara) Ahmad Zaidi for speaking out on the indelible ink used in the recent GE13…. this TUDM chieftain needs to be put in his proper place ie defence of the country like the IGP should be to fight crime, stop being UMNO lackeys….

  7. My youngest son say TUDM’s planes are only seen during 3 occasions – LIMA in Langkawi, Merdeka August 31st flypast and Formula 1 Sepang….

    And escorting Perdana 1 jet when it enters Malaysia airspace escorting on all 4 flanks until the plane touchdown at Terminal Bunga Raya at KLIA…. to prevent any surface-to-air missiles attacks….

    He also reminded me how the 2 A4 Skyhawks and 1 SU-29 missed the targets at Lahad Datu….

    And the white livery Blackhawk helicopter landing on weekends in Bagan Datok and now at Sembrong Johore is really a nice-looking bird….

  8. CLF,
    Again your good “friend” & alter ego, ktemoc says that RMAF is not willing to reveal radar information in order to protect RMAF radar capabilities to be revealed to other countries. Apa macam? Hahahahaha! Heard of Thales Group……Hahahaha! Let say I know them……..Hahahaha!
    Anyway, one problem with Malaysia & certain asian countries especially PRC & ROC (Oh shit, first time me complain about china lei)……..seldom talk to each other one even though they are under roof. The not my problem syndrome causes so many things gone haywire. The end result is……..The mystery of MH370. In SEA, the only country that’s on the ball is Singapore……Hahahaha!
    As for Hisham, the only improvement I can see is that he was seldom to be seen using his binocular. Anyway, now the search is in aussie land. Time to summon CLF, the next gen Underdog………Hahahaha

  9. CNN is now talking about the cargo on board MH 370 supposedly some lithium ion batteries which is a hazardous cargo under ICAO rules.
    MAS has in the past shipped hazardous cargo under false declaration. They lost a brand new A 330 when the cargo spilled and leaked through the floor of the aircraft causing severe corrosion. The hull of the A330 was parked at KLIA for a long time minus rotables. Timbang kati also no one wants.

  10. There was a report in the 21-Mar Star about a malay lady seeing what she thought was a plane in the Indian Ocean from a fright she was on on the 8 Mar. I did not see any comment by the authorities on this report. Did I miss anything or maybe the authorities and everybody else do not read the Star any more. At the very least say they are checking on her report.

  11. I don’t wish to add on to the mounting criticisms aimed at the military. Suffice to say that the problem crept in when only the “kaki ampus” were deemed fit to be promoted back in the late 1970s. We used to say this when I was still in service. “We don’t mind a brilliant fella being promoted but not a moron.” That has been the scenario since.

    You don’t have to go far just look at the service chiefs’ appearance, especially the Armed Forces Chief. He doesn’t have the oomph and doesn’t inspire much confidence. No, not with a pot belly and puffy cheeks to boot. Once he goes another of his kind will fill his place. What to do, that is the quality of officers today. Just like the ailing civil service, it is quantity over quality.

    Most of the chiefs, unfortunately, can’t even string a proper sentence in English or argue intelligently when confronted. And that’s a fact. I rest my case.

  12. Semper,
    Frankly, it happened to any airlines. The issues would be that it takes so long to reveal the existence of such items

    Seriously, Malaysia should sign a contact with Singapore on Sabah defence. Instead of having huge amounts of fighter jets in aussie land & USA. Park some in Sabah & Sarawak. Problem solved. Brunei housed some singapore military jungle training. As for Thailand, it’s artillery life firing……hehehehe

  13. Ucncle Din,

    Two lessons be learnt from MH 370 disaster are:
    1) TUDM chief and the chief of the armed forces behaviours could only confirms the security of the nation are in the in the hands of irresponsible leaders.
    2) MAS is cutting corners on safety matters by not hooking it more than 10 year old aircraft the manufacturer’s continuous health monitoring system.
    Obama now will be knocking Najib’s door to remind him that ” gua tolong lu sekalang lu tolong gua. Please sign the TPPA”

  14. Calling out for Pak Bean from New York……We need to know his take on MH370……..Time to get Pak Bean out of New York & back to Malaysia boleh land

    Meanwhile, the searching still continues

  15. Tok Chik: thanks for the write up on the armed forces chief.I did not see his pic till the Lahad Datu incident.The other day when he was the guest artiste on the comedy central show which we see everyday now at 5.30pm he was oozing to say something.God was great I heard his voice and that made my day: His eyes were full blown, face wide and voice loud : my day was made.
    Can’t wait for he 5.30pm today!

  16. Folks, let’s get this straight with a couple of Truisms:

    1. ‘Nature abhors a vacuum.’ In the absence of Information in this Age of Information, all Hell breaks loose with a whole gamut of pseudo-scientific theories, alchemical speculation (e.g. Li-Mangosteen connection), predictions/prophecies, fables, parapsychology, remote sensing and magic. Heck, someone even mentioned an eagled eyed supergravida grandma (10 children) who developed hyper-visual acuity that can see from 7 miles up. Shows how often One flies.

    Fact is, we don’t know – and may never know, what transpired or expired on MH 370. Frightening, isn’t it? So i think it’s best to keep all that to ourselves, and not play the Fool, in here parts.

    2. Then we have Loose Screws who babble all over the place and who exhibit infinite recursive logic (e.g. Zeno’s Achilles and Tortoise paradox) who is unable to see truth because they can never reach it. Totally irrelevant and demented sidetracking and cackling.

    3. The issue is not merely criticism and cynicism. It’s about Incompetency with failure of accountability and transparency, when we need it most. Trust Deficit. Heck, it’s not even about National Security – it’s about the State of our Humanity.

    4. Perceived Image is not important, Truth is. As it stands: Menang tak tahu; Gaya(Style) pun tak de! So much for the Jaguh Kampung types, with playgrounds in their minds.

  17. Politicians shouting ‘ for race and religion ‘, it will mobilise some extreme Muslims to immediately come forward to fight……it has worked against their fellow non Muslims citizens.

  18. looes74 – besides Singaporeans using the Temburong district as a training ground for its army recruits and national servicemen, Temburong is also the place where Singapore has about 20 Super Puma helicopters… the servicemen always come out to Gadong for dinner at a popular Chinese restaurant there and I always meet them there as I was based in Bandar Seri Begawan for 6 years myself… and many are actually helicopter pilots and maintenance engineers…. the Super Pumas displayed in the annual Brunei national day flypast are contributed by Singapore… and they are publicly acknowledged…

  19. Let me hazard some wild guesses :

    1. The top brass was still sleeping and protocol says not to wake them lest you want to be posted to some remote island to want brids fly past.

    2. Their radar was actually not working.

    3. The radar men were out at the mamak stall jnstead of watching tbe skies.

    4. We don’t have any military planes. They were leased only for ceremonial occasions.

    5. The planes were under repairs.

    the list goes on …..

  20. Siang,
    Heard that one regiment from Brunei is quite tough. Anyway, Brunei has some form of joint military training within Brunei itself. I dare to say that these ns men are well trained. Of course, there are always black sheep within any military armed forces.
    As for some idiots who asked questions about the cost, any military forces would be extremely happy to have such activities especially SAR. That would enhance their capabilities & tried out some technologies

    Guys & Gals,
    I really hope that Malaysia government better buck up. These folks ain’t as docile as Malaysians

  21. @ Rightways,
    Forgive me for not going to your blog. I’m a sucker for proprietary. I’ll answer your queries here.

    No One country has the assets to investigate this. The Aussies don’t even have any permanent station on that uninhabited Heard and McDonald Islands, which are slightly closer to where both the US commercial and now, the PRC survey satellites have revealed. This is open water in the Roaring Forties. If you have a globe (preferably, one with physical geology – if not, drop by Toys R Us), you will see what the World is up against – even discounting the horrible weather. Look at the coordinates given. Don’t use an atlas – cuz the Mercator projection gives a false perspective.

    If that is truly found to be the debris of MH370 (which i’ve doubts about), then it becomes a strictly search and recovery mission. Even if anyone had survived the landing they would have perished through exposure or hypothermia by now.

    That doesn’t solve the problem of getting to the Black Boxes, which will be under a minimum of 2.5-3.5 km of water. All nations involved (i heard even the Italians and UAE are also actively engaged), by good intentions/motives or anguish need to cooperate.

    The only nation who actually have those assets are the US (and possibly France). That’s why i mentioned the Intitut Grafik Lautan Lubang Kayu, in a previous posting. The Black Boxes will be opened and scrutinized by the Americans first. Say hello to Taikor..!

  22. Who will pay the huge cost in searching MH370 ?

    If Malaxia agree to cover all SAR cost by other countries … Yes .. they can continue their effort … If Not … they have to stop to search our MH370 immediately ….

    Let to show to the world that our Ketuanan Mulayu lead by UMNO can find our MH370 without help from the others … and then we can say that all bad things already happen in this country were made by the others who hate Mulayu …

    Malaysia BOLEH

  23. Fellas,
    Isn’t it obvious? RMAF was caught napping. The blip on the radar was probably found after a replay of the recording. Otherwise the controllers on duty would have alerted their bosses. Or may be they did, only that their bosses decided to sleep on?
    What this episode and Lahad Datu and there show is that despite the billions spent, any invader can come in and go out at ease. They can come across the borders in the north and those from Kalimanran any time! Muslim pirates have repeatedly proved that they could sail in, kill and walk out with hostages to make a living.
    So that’s a lot of truth that RMAF is entrusted with the onerous tasks of ferrying their boss home for then weekend break and escorting NR1 when it’s flying within our airspace? Abd the aurforce generals are perhaps working hard to convict the major who alerted the nation about the washable ink used in GE13?
    God save Malaysia.

  24. Dato, things are moving pretty fast now. I just heard that a Aussie commercial Bombardier crew have sighted some ‘tangible’ debris at the search area. Best to keep this channel open to discussion for us fans of yours, without the usual moderation and delete the loose screws, spammers and trolls, when you have the time?

    I let MCMC know and plead for special dispensation? Haha..

  25. Jawa,
    Like I say so many many times, besides for humanity sake, no nation would even bother about the cost. In fact, countries would love to engage in these activities. It’s also a way of testing & enhancing one’s capabilities & competences. In Singapore, RSAF would spend lotsa money just to organise national day parade. Guess why they do that

  26. God Allah did not want to save Malaxia … but God Allah cursed and crushed us, especially Malays who ruled this country, for all of our hypocrisy and arrogancy to claim that God Allah is ours … not for other human being … Hahahaha

  27. All the comments in Dato Din’s blog and others only confirms the fear that Malaysia’s future is bleak. The MH 370 episode has exposed the very weak leadership at all levels be it civilian or military. There is no more pride in performing to the best of one’s ability. The urge to strive to achieve unfortunately began to take a back seat in the late 70s to be overtaken by bodek-ism, cronyism and political prostitution-ism. Look at the leadership in politics, in education, in business, in whatever and now including the military?
    God, please don’t abandon Malaysia!

  28. Dear Din M,
    If I can, I sack the Armed Forces Chief, immediately, for

    (i) not doing his job (our jet should have been deployed to meet MH370 in real time);

    (ii) for not telling the truth upfront;

    (iii) seemed stupid during PC (no calibre, terrible grammar – speak Malay Language with translator would be a good option, more so, stupid emotional statement); and

    (iv) thus, making us Malaysian (in CNN, BBC, etc.) appeared like bloody fools.

  29. You can spend you money to buy state of the art radar system. It is only useful if the information obtained is utilized in real time. That is the advisory from the manufacturer.

  30. @ HT Low,

    Tell us something we don’t already know. If you’d read my comments from earlier posts here, you’d notice that your links just confirmed the information (or lack of), some of us already had – that the TUDM blips should have been traced to MH 370 as soon as the transponder was silenced. And immediately analyzed and reported. It wasn’t. By late evening on the 8th, there were rumors that there was indeed radar tracers. If even a mangy underdog like me, noticed that – tell me how does the TUDM personnel live this down, unless they have no conscience? I would agree that interception was out of the question. The Thais weren’t looking at their scopes too and belatedly came on-line cuz they weren’t asked..

    What appalled many was the massive delay in announcing the findings, thereby causing the unnecessarily confusion – with costly, lethal consequences of searching in the Gulf of Thailand and stretching the cooperation of ALL SAR folks concerned. It was so bad that the desperate PRC blokes even released a fake satellite image! Never underestimate Chinapek propensity to xerox.

    The Indians admitted that they had no inkling because they didn’t have their radars up at Andaman. But i’m sure the Indonesians picked it up, even though they said Aceh didn’t. Notice, both the Vietnamese, Indians and the Indonesians disallowed PRC from overflying their territories. Herein shoild be the stuff of ‘Conspiracy Theories about PRC spying. The Southern route was already marked by Inmarsat within 48 hrs with corroboration with a ping from Perth.

    All the confusion, contradictions and conflicts should not have occurred if there was a Competent Technical Committee in Control – with a single spokesman in charge. Er.. certainly not the non-telegenic DCA chief. The MAS CEO was better, but that’s because he’s more fluent.

    Instead we have Datuks here and Tan Sris there all mumbling, fumbling and tumbling like One Ringgit headless chickens. Where is there Accountability in Crises? Everybody tries to ‘finger’ the next flur, and pretend Oblivion.

    And they say, regular folk like us only know how to ‘Cari Pasal’..

  31. The,
    That’s why in singapore straits times editoral, there have been talks about setting up a comprehensive committee handling these matters. That explains why singapore radar including the eye of the sky covers the southern half of Malaya

    HT Low,
    Didn’t I tell you guys that CLF would bite? Heard of Canis Lupus Flamiaris. Thank God, it’s not canis lupus. Then you would be kaput.

    I have seen considerable number of thesis written by china men. Some of them from PRC

  32. Din,
    The video link of Najib Press statement. I don’t know about CLF but I am not sure if that’s really affirmative. So many doubting questions to be answered

  33. Din,
    Seriously this won’t go away till MAS or Malaysia government were to do the Japanese style…….Apologise & Resign. I understand it’s unprecedented but then in this case, it’s done for. Malaysia government should have done from day one in including all members including the opposition leaders. The Hijack of Air France by PLO renegades to Entebbe is one good example how opposition leader was asked to join in in every cabinet deliberation. Including the decision to send troops to rescue passengers trapped in Entebbe. In short, Malaysia government really just got a suwey potatoes

  34. Where is our RMAF? Obviously either they are sleeping during their duties or fooling around like nobody’s business. What a bunch of useless people. Corruption kill. This is a fact.

  35. Rightways,
    You think! Come to think of it, I do have satellite comms course based on Inmarsat material in my uni……hehehehe

    Guys & Gals,
    LKS’s take

  36. The word “scramble” is normally used by fighter jets of RMAF to intercept any enemies aircraft that entered our airspace…RMAF assets and the fighter jets however will not be utilised for the sake of intercepting a commercial aircraft that had veered off its original course and destination…That is DCA responsibility… for heaven sake any Airforce in the wprld are meant to defence the nation airspace…not chasing a ‘phantom’ aircraft.

  37. Military radars and its technology normally have the ability to differentiate whether an aircraft tact that entered any assigned airspace is hostile or otherwise., thus the reason why in the 9/11 incident USAF did not scrambled their fighter jets to intercept the two planes that crashed into WTC as their radar screen indicated it wasn’t hostile, but rather a commercial flight.

  38. Let’s be reminded again that Military assets are designed to defend the sovereignty of the nation against any foreign military threat from the sea, air or land forces in peace or war. The task of overseeing commercial civil aircraft operations and activities lies solely in the hand of DCA. However SAR is a different spectrum as we’re duty bound and the responsibility of every entities to save human lives whether civilians or military , no matter what it takes, wherever it maybe and at whatever cost.

  39. “Where was the RMAF when MH370 disappeared?”

    Malaysia plane saga: Your questions answered – http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/28/world/asia/malaysia-plane-questions/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

    Next to share this…

    Airspace shutdown: Two Aussies helping with police probe – http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20080124-46384.html

    L.A.M: The Day When 2 Australians Shut Down Singapore’s Airspace for 50 Minutes – http://johnislam.blogspot.sg/2014/03/lam-day-when-2-australians-shut-down.html


    You be the judge.


  40. Flyer160,
    Let me share you the open secret to you. The pilots who fly the RSAP fighter jets may not be singaporeans. No! No! No! I am not talking about Permanent residents. It could be………top secret……..One thing for sure……Some of them may look like this……….And it’s not CLF……Hahahaha or Lupus of Air……..Hahahaha

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