KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) yesterday detected 16 aircraft from the People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLAAF) flying close to the national airspace.
RMAF chief Gen Tan Sri Ackbal Abdul Samad said the suspicious flight of the PLAAF aircraft was detected by the RMAF Air Defence Radar from the Air Defence Centre in Sarawak at 11.53 am.
“The planes were detected flying in a ‘tactical in-trail ’formation at a distance of 60 nautical miles from each other. The long formation flew in the same pattern and direction using a single entry and exit point.
“They were later found to have changed the flight direction in the Beting Patinggi Ali airspace, which is of interest to the country,” he said in a statement today.
Ackbal said the planes were detected flying at altitudes of between 23,000 to 27,000 feet at speeds of about 530km/h through the Singapore Flight Information Region (FIR) before entering the Malaysian Maritime Zone (MMZ) airspace, Kota Kinabalu FIR and then nearing about 60 nautical miles off the coast of the Sarawak region, which was feared to threaten national sovereignty.
He said the RMAF then placed the Hawk 208 aircraft from Squadron No 6 at the Labuan Air Base on standby.
“Surveillance via air defence radar continued on the aircraft, while several attempts were made to direct them to contact the Kota Kinabalu FIR air traffic control.
“When the instructions were not heeded and the aircraft were found to have crossed the Kota Kinabalu FIR border heading towards the national airspace, the RMAF launched interceptor planes at 1.33 pm to perform visual identification,” he said.
Ackbal said through the process, the RMAF identified the aircraft types as ‘Ilyushin Il-76’ and ‘Xian Y-20’.
“These types of aircraft are strategic transport aircraft and capable of carrying out various missions,” he said.
He said the incident was a serious threat to national sovereignty and aviation security based on the air traffic density in the airways within the Kota Kinabalu FIR.
“This incident was handled by the RMAF in particular, and the Malaysian Armed Forces in general, in accordance with the laws and regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the National Air Defence Strategy,” he said.
According to Ackbal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken note of this matter through the Ministry of Defence.