Kuala Lumpur: Come September, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) will take over the operation of its Sukhoi aircraft and end the two-year help from Indian and Russian experts.
Fifty-odd Russian and Indian technical crew, engineering officers and instructor pilots will leave following the end of their two-year service tenure.
While the Indians provided flight instructors, engineering officers, technical experts and administrative staff here, the Russians provided their test pilots and engineers to verify, certify and standardise the SU-30 MKM Flanker.
It is learnt that the RMAF will still utilise the services of 300-odd staff from local maintenance company ATSC Sdn Bhd to support a similar strength of its own crew to continue running the base.
The New Straits Times on Monday said two dozen RMAF pilots will by then be fully trained to fly the Sukhois. The present team includes a woman pilot.
RMAF chief Gen Rodzali Daud said the departure of the expatriates would pose a strong challenge to the local airmen and women to stand on their own and operate the multi-role combat aircraft.
"We are confident (that we can) run the base and flight operations by ourselves, by which time there will be proper `life support` maintenance and support facilities available," he said following a visit by Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Rodzali said: "These pioneer RMAF crew members will train younger batches to replace them."
Hamidi said there were plans to expand the base to accommodate a new terminal for the arrival and departure of large transport aircraft, like the C-130 Hercules and VVIP jets.
The base here is now Malaysia`s foremost jet-fighter facility. It was established in 1993. By 2009, the ground-based 402nd air defence squadron and 11th Sukhoi Squadron were established. There are more than 1,000 servicemen and civilians stationed at the base.