Air Force caught napping. MH370 could have been saved


( – Hence the millions spent on the radar systems meant nothing to the nation. 

MALAYSIA Airlines MH370 flew over or near at least three military radar stations in northern Peninsular Malaysia, yet the four-man crew that operated each station somehow mysteriously missed the radar blips on their screens.

But this is hardly surprising since the Defence Ministry admitted that between 2008 and mid-2011, there were a total of 2,508 Malaysian airspace intrusions by the Singaporean air force.

The Singaporean intrusions are more easily detectable due to its location and predicable flight paths but what about other parts of the country?

Perhaps the air force realises this and has since equipped itself with advanced radar systems through the Malaysian Air Defense Ground Environment Sector Operations Center III (MADGE) Programme.

But then the air force failed in doing the very thing they were trained to do – detecting an unidentified plane flying in an erratic manner in our airspace.

In fact, the plane flew over Penang and one can only imagine what would have happened if the perpetrators decided to bring it down there.

The Malaysia military took full delivery of one of the advanced Thales Raytheon Systems early last year with an integrated Sentry command and control system and the Ground Master 400 3D radar.

According to Thales, the MADGE system operates in real-time and features multi-radar tracking and a flexible human-machine interface.

The GM 400 radar also provides long-range surveillance capabilities for the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

Its reach is up to 400 km and it is more than sufficient to detect the MH370.

It is now clear that the four-man crew in the three air defence stations, who were supposed to be watching the radar screens, either did not notice or failed to report to their superiors that an unidentified plane was flying across the country.

Had they done so, the air defence high command of the air force in Kuala Lumpur would presumably have scrambled fighter jets to identify the plane, make contact with it and finally guide it to a safe landing.

But then it was allowed to fly on and the rest is history. By the time the air force realised it, it was too late.

Military insiders say such incidents are supposed to be tracked real time and not based on recordings.

Hence the millions spent on the radar systems meant nothing to the nation. The Sukhois in Gong Kedak, Terengganu and the FA-18s in Butterworth, Penang were stationed there for years for exactly this type of situation.

We now wonder whether they will ever see any action.

So were people sleeping on the job or was lackadaisicalness enveloping the air force?

When Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hisammuddin Hussein was posed this question, all he had to say was that all standard operating procedures were followed and the priority was now to locate the missing plane.

Whether it is a flawed system or our men sleeping on the job, one thing for sure, this episode exposes Malaysia’s vulnerability.