LIMA at Langkawi was back the calendar, so we decided to take a look again at this great airshow.
The Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) is always on our agenda. The 2021 edition was cancelled due to Covid, but expectations were high again this year. The show is characterised by the excellent opportunities for taking photos, so on Tuesday, 16 May 2023, a group of photographers came together to make the trip to Malaysia. We would meet three travellers on the spot, so the long journey to Malaysia started with eight. After a stopover in Istanbul, we landed in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday 17 May where we met the rest of the group. After picking up the rental vans, the course was set for the hotel for the first night.
On Thursday, 18 May, we were already on our way early for the first base of the trip; RMAF Butterworth. This base is often used by the RMAF to temporarily station the fighters participating in the opening ceremony at Langkawi. This was also the case this year: Six Su-30s of the 12 Skuadron stationed at Gonk Kedak were temporarily stationed at Butterworth to practice together with the F/A-18Ds and the Hawks. According to a local spotter, they were due to leave for Langkawi today after practicing over Butterworth for the past week. There was also a large number of helicopters present that would cover the same route. Meanwhile we were still getting used to the oppressive heat that is known in this region. Soon we were treated to a landing A400, followed by a C-130 with which the first aircraft of the tour were photographed!
In the afternoon the many helicopters took off, and two Su-30s and four F/A-18Ds, a great result! Some Hawks also flew a local mission. For us it was time to look for the same destination, but by boat. After parking our cars we took the boat that took us across in just over an hour. There we picked up our ‘new’ rental vans and drove to our resort for the coming nights.
We arrived early today, Friday 19 May, at the gate and there was already enough activity on the field. Already around 08.00 the first aircraft were started up for a test run. According to our information, the practice of the opening ceremony would start at 09.30 and that turned out to be the case. Many helicopters (AW139, A109, MD500, EC725) took off, followed by the Su-30s and the F/A-18s. The Hawks were not present on Langkawi. At 09.30 the demonstration started with an F/A-18 passing the base at high speed, followed by Flankers, and Hawks with a lot of flares. An A400 was flanked by a group of PC-7s while three C-130s did a tight flypast followed by a large group of helicopters. A lot of spectacle in a short time that was finished by a flypast of all aircraft. There was not much time to enjoy, because a few minutes later the demonstration was practiced again! For the afternoon program we had found a nice spot on the other side of the runway, but the weather had turned into a tropical downpour that lasted for a few hours, so there were hardly any flights. Time to head for a dryer environment and find a nice restaurant to discuss the next day.
The weather forecast for today was not too good, but that turned out to be not too bad in practice. As a starting point for today, Saturday, 20 May 2023, we had chosen the Langkawi outlook point, a hill that gives a nice view of the airport. While waiting for the opening ceremony to be practiced, we were able to photograph departing Korean Hercules. This morning’s show was again very cool, especially from this point of view. Very spectacular to see the fighters revolve around the hill from close by! The demonstration teams also did their first exercises today, allowing us to photograph the teams from China (August 1), Korea (Black Eagles), Indonesia (Jupiter) and the UAE (Al Fursan).
In the afternoon we moved to the Resort World, where the maritime demonstration is held during LIMA. In addition to a large number of boats, helicopters always participate in this, as was the case this year. With AW139s from the Navy and the Coast Guard and an AS555 from the Navy, it became a good demo to photograph in the blazing sun. A nice end to the day!
The promised tropical rain came today. The morning of Sunday (21 May 2023) was dominated by lots and lots of rain. In between, a little photography could be done because, among other things, the American delegation arrived today. Unfortunately, the rehearsal of the demo was cancelled this morning. In between the Thai C-130 and the Canadian CP-140 arrived and in the afternoon a number of demonstration teams practiced.
The morning of Monday 22 May was also dominated by rain. The planned Thai F-5 was postponed because of this, so we quickly went to the base to collect the press cards. The promised visit to the platform was cancelled because this morning was mainly devoted to the visit (and wishes) of the Minister of Defence. Nevertheless, we managed to convince security that we really wanted to be on the platform and after a few phone calls this was possible, with some restrictions. A little cherry on the cake on a rainy morning. In the afternoon our boat would go to the mainland so unfortunately we had to miss the arrival of the Thai F-5 and the Russian Knights. When we arrived at the harbor it turned out that the boat company had cancelled the last boats of the day. That was a disappointment for a while, but one we couldn’t do much about. We hastily extended the vans by a day and were able to find two hotels on the super busy island for an extra night.
On Tuesday 23 May we made the crossing to the mainland and our first destination was Alor Setar. The flying activities were limited here and the position of the sun was bad, so after a while we moved to Butterworth. On the program today was a “Friendship Flight” at the end of the day, in which three Su-30s and two Hawks from Butterworth would participate. A local spotter pointed out a nice spot for the afternoon at a temple. After asking permission from the managers, it turned out to be no problem at all to take photos from their site. Indeed, the promised aircraft left around 5:00 PM and returned around 6:00 PM. This place indeed turned out to be worth gold, the Su-30s could be photographed very beautifully when turning off the runway. A nice end to the day!
This day, Wednesday 24 May 2023, was dedicated to the RMAF transport base, Subang. In the morning there were many activities and we saw A400, C-130s, Falcon 900, Beech 200 and an S70. In the afternoon the activities were a bit less but we were still able to make some nice pictures. At the end of the day we left for our last hotel in Malaysia, near the airport.
On Thursday, 25 May 2023, we arrived early at the airport for our journeys home. We spent a week in Malaysia and were able to photograph a nice cross-section of the Malaysian Air Force, on to LIMA 2025!