Defending the nation from temptation
December 26, 2009 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Air force personnel stole Malaysian fighter jet engine(s) from a military warehouse to sell on the black market abroad. Chaos ensues. Humour lurks. Rumours fly. Previously.
posted by infini (30 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
i know this might be newsfilter, but sitting here in singapore watching it break on the news as the most ridiculous thing to happen made me consider it worthy of an fpp, as in "darwin awards" for national security.
posted by infini at 9:18 PM on December 26, 2009


Newsfilter is posts that report on the American media's obsession of the minute. This is genuinely interesting news. Good insider links, too.
posted by shii at 9:24 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The General Electric J85-21A engines, each worth about M$50m ($15m), were spares for the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s Northrop Grumman F-5E Tiger II fighters, which fly from the Butterworth air base near the country’s northern border with Thailand.

Don't mess with Mrs. Butterworth. Just don't. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:29 PM on December 26, 2009


Can we get a fund together to start mefi's own air force?
posted by jourman2 at 9:52 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now that you mention it, I think this computer used to have two processors.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:55 PM on December 26, 2009


Is today jet engine day or something? Like "Jet Engines: The Untold Story, today on Metafilter". If so, I very much approve. Keep the jets coming, guys!
posted by telstar at 9:56 PM on December 26, 2009


i know this might be newsfilter

No, no, this is awesomely hilarious.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:13 PM on December 26, 2009


You gotta admit, a GE J85-21A would be a lot cooler in your backyard than a bunch of jerry-rigged Saab parts.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:13 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know much about sourcing jet fighter parts, but $15 million seems a hellishly high price for an engine on a baby jet fighter. The entire aircraft sold for $2.1 million new in 1962, which is about $15 million now adjusted for inflation. Seems like the Malaysians are getting ripped off in more ways than one. Welcome to military capitalism, I guess.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:00 PM on December 26, 2009


The exact value of spare parts like that may be difficult to determine. I don't know where FT is getting their numbers from, but if they were just taking the contract value for x engines and dividing by x, they might get some very high value — some foreign military sales spare-parts contracts can be complex, and include not only the parts themselves but also what in the IT world would be called a "service level agreement", or a tiered arrangement where a buyer has a certain number of units physically on-hand, with a number of other units guaranteed within a certain amount of time (basically pooled with the spare parts of others), or the spare parts can be part of a deal involving training and other stuff.

The part probably does at some point have an actual per-unit pricetag attached, and that price may well be very high (it's kind of a captive market, after all), but it's also possible that the numbers are being skewed in some way. Without knowing where they got that $15m number it's impossible to really say. It does seem awful high though.

From a quick Google, J85 engines are very popular with people doing all sorts of (potentially suicidal) stuff, from ultralight aircraft to jet cars. Someone is even unloading one for $15k; if the Malaysians are definitely getting taken for a ride if they paid $15m/ea. A 1000x new vs used markup seems a bit steep.

I was very surprised at how small they are ... it's a little less unbelievable that one got stolen, given that it's something you could pretty easily put in the back of a truck or van. It's only about 18" x 48" without the afterburner and 400 lbs; a couple of guys could carry one off, no problem at all. Easier than stealing an ATM, and those things disappear all the time (albeit not usually from presumably-secure military storage facilities, but still).
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:05 AM on December 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


Port Klang Free Trade Zone
posted by Meatbomb at 12:18 AM on December 27, 2009


I'd pay big money for my own cute little F-5 fighter plane. With engines of course. They're adorable.
posted by Skygazer at 12:48 AM on December 27, 2009


kadin2048 could they be referring to the price of the jet itself, passing that on to the FT and then FT doing some adhoc currency conversion? the price has been different in almost every article I read
posted by infini at 2:46 AM on December 27, 2009


Air force personnel stole outdated Malaysian fighter jet engine(s)
fixed that for ya.

F-5... seriously? they still use that as anything other than a trainer? wow.
posted by krautland at 5:31 AM on December 27, 2009


From a quick Google, J85 engines are very popular with people doing all sorts of (potentially suicidal) stuff, from ultralight aircraft to jet cars. Someone is even unloading one for $15k; if the Malaysians are definitely getting taken for a ride if they paid $15m/ea. A 1000x new vs used markup seems a bit steep.

I'd like to be all LOLMALAYSIA about this but I am Canadian and we bought four used diesel submarines for 750 Million cdn + £1 from the British Navy which have killed more members of our own navy within moments after being driven off the used sub lot than any enemy action since so I guess I have to just STFU.

The reality is that it was probably a cash transfer to satisfy our lack of contribution to NATO's aggressive machismo posturing.
posted by srboisvert at 5:37 AM on December 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Someone is even unloading one for $15k

Best. Tags. EVAR.

Keywords/Tags: Jet engine , J85-5 , GE , Turbojet , $15000 , For sale , runs great , already crated , you need a jet engine , peppy .

All it needs is "flown by little old lady to church every sunday."
posted by eriko at 5:52 AM on December 27, 2009


Also missing was the jet engine maintenance and service record.

It was learnt that no buyer would take possession of the jet engine without the maintenance and service documents.


Yes kids, when you buy a stolen jet engine on the international arms market, be sure to get the service record. And get a receipt, you can redeem it for an online gift card.
posted by marxchivist at 8:54 AM on December 27, 2009


This story is useless without zany sound effects.
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 AM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


F-5... seriously? they still use that as anything other than a trainer? wow.

New Zealand's air force combat wing was using Skyhawks this decade.

We spent our money on public healthcare and education instead.
posted by rodgerd at 10:44 AM on December 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


This story is useless without zany sound effects.

Ah, you've got the wrong room, the Insane Filipino Little Person Action Spy Intrigue Movie is just next door.

This really sounds like a plot from one of Weng Weng's movies.
posted by chambers at 10:48 AM on December 27, 2009


infini: “kadin2048 could they be referring to the price of the jet itself, passing that on to the FT and then FT doing some adhoc currency conversion? the price has been different in almost every article I read

Totally possible as well. That would be even lazier on the part of FT than I had been imagining (I figured they had found a US/Malaysia military sale involving engines, all of which is public information, and then divided the contract value by the number of engines, neglecting intangibles) but if they were getting a cost for the whole plane instead of the engine, that would also produce an erroneously high number. Without any idea of where they got the value, tough to say.

The correct way to get the value of the engine, I think, would have been to look it up (or have someone look it up) in the Military Article and Service List (MASL) maintained by these guys. That's as close to a "master price list" as I'm aware exists. That might involve a FOIA request; I don't know if they normally handle press inquiries. (Although they do put out regular press releases, which are interesting in themselves. You can see who's going to get some serious presents in their stockings this season.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:53 AM on December 27, 2009


rodgerd: New Zealand's air force combat wing was using Skyhawks this decade.

We spent our money on public healthcare and education instead.


Well, I guess it's cheaper when your defense is mostly handled by your allies.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:02 AM on December 27, 2009


My understanding is that the J85's are highly prized by the natural gas and oil industry. Apparently they use them to propel material through their pipelines.

(A quick google search shows that they will pay $200-$400k just to refurb one).

So maybe not so outlandish for someone to be willing to grease some palms for a brand spanking new pair.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2009


F-5... seriously? they still use that as anything other than a trainer? wow.

Many air forces, like Malaysia's, have no illusions about taking on a larger air force like the US, China or India. The F-5 is still more than capable for what they need it for, such as civilian interdiction (ie. smuggling). Malaysia also has squadrons of F-18s and Mig-29s, which may or may not be largely for show.

Well, I guess it's cheaper when your defense is mostly handled by your allies.

This sounds like right-wing talk radio. What kind of strategic threats does New Zealand have to worry about?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:43 PM on December 27, 2009


This sounds like right-wing talk radio. What kind of strategic threats does New Zealand have to worry about?

Here is a reasonable discussion about the strategic value and position NZ currently holds.

I think you would have to concede at least a bit that most of NZ's primary defense is handled by countries other than NZ, therefore you have the luxury of not needing a self-reliant defense structure. You don't have to be a right-winger to be able to read a map.

Howrver, in 50-100 years, if the westernization of China causes a general change in their strategic policy (that has not changed much in the last 2000+ years), a wise Chinese military planner would have to consider Australia and NZ a potential threat to their flank, and plan accordingly.
posted by chambers at 1:38 PM on December 27, 2009


We spent our money on public healthcare and education instead.
yeah but who would want to attack new zealand anyway? all you have is a bunch of sheep and insanely high land prices.
posted by krautland at 4:39 PM on December 27, 2009


Well, I guess it's cheaper when your defense is mostly handled by your allies.

Our defense has mostly been handled by not invading other countries, murdering random civilians, and generally making arseholes of ourselves on a world scale..

Exceptions include World Wars II, where New Zealand entered at the start of said wars - unlike some jingoist riddled countries I could name that spent much of them focused on war profiteering - and bore some of the heaviest casualties per-capita outside the Soviet Union.

I think you would have to concede at least a bit that most of NZ's primary defense is handled by countries other than NZ, therefore you have the luxury of not needing a self-reliant defense structure. You don't have to be a right-winger to be able to read a map.

The conclusions for most of the threads you link to are that the only countries with the ability to project force to New Zealand are superpower-class nations with carrier groups and the like. It's a bit pointless trying to construct a millitary to face down nuclear-capable nations with carrier groups in a country with 4 million people and no great strategic value.
posted by rodgerd at 6:29 PM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a bit pointless trying to construct a millitary to face down nuclear-capable nations with carrier groups in a country with 4 million people and no great strategic value.
posted by rodgerd


which is probably what the malaysian airforce was thinking...
posted by infini at 6:42 PM on December 27, 2009


It's a bit pointless trying to construct a millitary to face down nuclear-capable nations with carrier groups in a country with 4 million people and no great strategic value.

I'm not saying you need a huge military. Your country's conduct in the world political theater in the last 100 years is exceptional, and should be brought up as an example more often. NZ is just in a safe geographic and geopolitical location, and it has allowed your country to focus it's resources on addressing problems other than defense.

However, my point was that from the point of view as an aggressor in the South Pacific theater, NZ does have strategic value. That value is there regardless of the moral outlook NZ has toward war. In a theoretical ground war in the Southern Hemisphere, it could be used as a resupply and operations location for either side in any conflict. It would be difficult to hold onto territory in the South Pacific with NZ being a staging ground for any defense of the South Pacific. Its strategic value is secondary in itself, but a vitally important one in thinking about long term operations in the Pacific, for either side.
posted by chambers at 10:01 PM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bran Ferren, former Disney Imagineering president, now of Applied Minds, has appeared on these pages for various reasons. In his office facility he displays his collection of rocket engines, huge and complex sculptures. I believe some of them were purchased on Ebay.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:55 AM on December 29, 2009


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