the registration M45-01.
“It was on March 19, 1997, when the first four Hornets were officially received by then defence minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar in St Louis, Missouri.
“The first batch of aircraft arrived at the Butterworth air force base on May 27 that year, after making stopovers in Hawaii and Guam, and performing 20 air-toair refuelings.
“Our squadron was officially formed on July 1, 1997, and this no different.
The target was for 70,000 public visitors yesterday and a similar number today. There were no estimates available yesterday, but judging from the crowd, it came close to the target, if not hitting or surpassing it.
The lines grew steadily once the sun began peeking over the horizon. Before the gates to the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC) compound could open at 8am, there was a huge crowd waiting.
And more came still, walking was followed by the arrival of the remaining four aircraft on Aug 28,” he told the New Straits Times after the airshow yesterday.
Hazman, who is a weapons systems operator (WSO), said The Mighty Hornets were given “Operationally Ready” status on March 1, 1998, after training for its pilots and support services were concluded.
Lima holds special significance for 18 Squadron. It was at Lima 1993, when the show was held in slowly but surely to the show. They came to see the displays, but above all, they came for the airshow.
So it was for 8-year-old Abdul Harith Iskandar Bokhori from Permatang Sungai Dua, Penang.
Looking as excited as if he were in a toy store, Harith knew just what he was talking about and was even able to spout off the names of the aircraft he saw.
It was obvious he was a fan of fighters as he named the Dassault Rafale, Sukhoi Su-30MKM and Boeing F/A-18D Hornet as December, that the government signed its contract for the Hornets.
Hazman said although the aircraft had reached 20 years of age, their capabilities were on a par with modern machines.
The Hornets have the latest 25X software, which was presented by Boeing during Lima 2015 after a successful system integration.
Speaking about the squadron’s functions, he said its core duties were offensive counter-air and defensive counter-air missions, which included intercepting possible threats that entered the country’s airspace.
Among the notable operations that the squadron were involved in was Op Daulat in Lahad Datu, Sabah in 2013. Three of the aircraft were sent to Eastern Sabah to drop smart bombs against Sulu intruders.
For the anniversary celebration, Hazman said they were planning activities at their base in Butterworth, including a reunion gathering of all former RMAF F/A-18D pilots, WSOs and ground support crew; a tahlil kesyukuran (special prayer to give thanks to God), as well as a fly-past. among his favourites.
“This is my first time at Lima. I came with my father and two elder brothers. I felt overjoyed to see the jets performing aerobatic moves. I think I want to become a fighter pilot.”
This year’s Lima was the second for 38-year-old housewife Adlynna Arshad, and she was thrilled that there was more to see this time around.
“The airshow was a lot more interesting compared with the one in 2007. There are also more participants,” she said.
Public visitors at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition yesterday.
Royal Malaysian Air Force’s 18 Squadron operations chief Major Hazman Harun with an Hornet at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2017 yesterday.