Saturday, May 23, 2020

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Claims American Fighters Are Only Useful for Airshows - Why F-18s Can’t Fight Without Washington’s Permission

In an interview with Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad provided insight into his country’s experience operating American manufactured F-18 Hornet fighter jets and the considerable limitations imposed on operations by Washington. The Royal Malaysian Air Force currently operates three classes of fighter, including the high end heavyweight Russian Su-30MKM as its most modern platform and small numbers of older medium weight F-18 and MiG-29 platforms. Mahathir noted regarding the terms imposed by the U.S. on clients for its fighter aircraft that the source codes for the jets were not provided, meaning: “we cannot program the plane for any attacks against other countries without getting the programming done by Americans. So although the planes are very good, in terms of performance very powerful engines, but we cannot program the plane by ourselves. You have to refer to the United States for putting the program for any raid on foreign countries for example. So our planes were costly. We have them. We can fly them at airshows. But we cannot use them to fight any other country because we don’t get the source code.” 

Mahathir further elaborated: “The way they treated Malaysia as a buyer of the F-18, we find that the planes are only good for airshows. But we cannot program it for, say, attacks against other countries or for any other use. That is the experience of Malaysia. But I suspect that other countries also did not get the source codes… the planes are not really a weapon that you can control. The control is with the Americans.” He noted that European states may be provided with source codes, but indicated that few non-Western states would, and that even munitions for the F-18s could not be purchased to update the aircraft without approval from the U.S. government. The interviewer thus concluded that clients for F-16 of F-18 fighters “can only use them against targets designated by the United States, not targets that they themselves would like to hit.”

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