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LIMA ’23 opens with airshow by more than 70 aircraft

With the opening ceremony for the 16th edition of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition being held last night, this morning’s event to get the show going was only a matter of formality.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan and Transport Minister Anthony Loke jointly signalled the beginning of the opening gambit by pressing a button on the main stage.

Mere seconds later, a Royal Malaysian Air Force F/A-18D Hornet came screaming past from the rear, taking everyone by surprise and causing many to scream themselves and cover their ears.

That happened once again later on, this time as a Sukhoi SU-30MKM Flanker roared past even as two more of the Russian-made jets were passing the gathered crowd from the front of the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre.

That was at the very end of the opening gambit — a superb show of the Malaysian armed forces’ capabilities — and as the lone Flanker pulled up almost vertical, it released flares and the ground in front of the tarmac exploded, again surprising the crowd.

In between, those among the crowd, including VIPs and exhibitors — and, in truth, the throngs of people gathered outside the perimeter fence — were treated to fly pasts and manoeuvres by other Malaysian military aircraft.

They flew solo at times, in formation or as pairs.

Of the RMAF assets in the air there were three Hornets, four Flankers, a similar number of BAE Systems Hawk aircraft, nine Pilatus PC7 trainers, three Hercules C-130H transport aircraft and an Airbus A400M transporter.

The air force also showcased four of its Eurocopter EC725AP and three of its AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters.

However, it wasn’t all about the air force as the Army Air Wing sent in three AW109 light observation helicopters and two of its McDonnell Douglas MD530G.

The latter, in fact, played a part in the lead-up to the “big bang” as it circled the air close to the ground as part of the cover for two RMAF EC725s as they dropped two “chalks” of commandos.

At the launch of the exhibition the night before, both Mohamad and Loke extolled the importance of the show.

With Lima being jointly organised in a 60:40 ration between the ministries, the ministers pointed out that the exhibition was important for both the defence and commercial sectors.

Mohamad welcomed the presence of eight defence and an equal number of transport ministers to Lima ’23, saying that in these challenging times, it was important to keep lines of communication with each other open.

Meanwhile, Loke emphasised the possibilities in the commercial sector in both the maritime and aviation industries.

He spoke of the proposed RM28 billion Carey Island Port project, which he said could strengthen Port Klang’s status as the main maritime hub for Southeast Asia, as well as the redevelopment of the Sultan Abdul Aziz Airport in Subang, Selangor.

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