JET-FIGHTERS: Move means increase of lifespan to 40 years
PARIS: RUSSIA'S official arms sales agency has offered an upgrade package for the Royal Malaysian Air Force's 18-year-old MiG-29N Fulcrum jet-fighters.
Rosoboronexport's upgrade package will extend the aircraft's lifespan by 40 years.
Sources said Rosoboronexport believed this to be a better option than the Malaysian government's plan to replace the Fulcrums in its multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) replacement programme due to lower costs involved in an upgrade package compared with purchasing new aircraft.
However, the sources said cost was not the only factor which needed to be evaluated.
"There are a number of other things which need to be factored in. For instance, there are many things which need to be upgraded on the MiG-29s to ensure that the aircraft are on par, or at least as close as possible, with newer aircraft.
"Maintenance costs will also have to be factored in. So, yes, while an upgrade will allow us to keep an aircraft which is loved by the pilots who fly them, there are still many factors which need to be considered," said the source.
But Rosoboronexport deputy chief Victor Komardin told Paris Airshow News, published by AIN Publications, that if the upgrade package is rejected, Russia would want to be involved in RMAF's MRCA replacement programme.
To this end, Russia would offer additional Sukhoi SU-30MKM Flanker aircraft, currently the most advanced jets that RMAF operates.
Komardin also said Russia would also consider a request for a fifth-generation fighter, should the Malaysian government be interested in one.
This would mean that the Sukhoi PAK FA or the more advanced version of the Flanker, the SU-35.
Although the PAK FA is generally considered by the world as the only fifth-generation fighter in Russia, Sukhoi also considers the SU-35 a fifth-generation jet-fighter.
The PAK FA, however, is still in development, one of only a handful of stealth jet programmes in the world.
Though it is no secret that Malaysia intends eventually to replace the Fulcrums, the MRCA replacement programme had to be put on the backburner.
At present, without the entry of Russia, four aircraft are said to be in contention for the MRCA programme.
Saab's Gripen and Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet are two of the aircrafts said to be in the running, though not much is known of the other two companies.
The Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Aviation's Rafale, on the other hand, have been keenly vying for the programme, with Dassault Aviation and Rafale International chief executive Eric Trappier firing the latest salvo last week, ahead of the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget.
Trappier had said that any bid for the MRCA replacement programme would include an offer to set up an assembly line for Rafale in Malaysia.
At present, however, there is still no official call for a tender from the Malaysian government.