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Royal Malaysian Air Force chief General Tan Sri Affendi Buang says there is no plan to conclude negotiations on the light combat jets by year-end. PIC BY MOHD YUSNI ARIFFIN

KUALA LUMPUR: “IT is a ridiculous figure!” That was the first reaction from the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) top general when asked about the purported RM36 billion procurement package for 30 light combat jets.

Calling it far-fetched, RMAF chief General Tan Sri Affendi Buang denied a foreign media report that the air force would conclude the deal by year-end.

He said there was no such plan to conclude negotiations on the light combat jets by such a time frame.

The New Straits Times learnt the Defence Ministry was looking at a procurement package of possibly up to only RM7 billion, in view of economic constraints.

Affendi said RMAF, via the ministry, was studying the options offered by manufacturers.

“We need adequate time to carry out a detailed study and come up with a comprehensive package before deciding on which type of aircraft we are interested in.

“As the end-user, it is pertinent to make purchases that suit our planning, specifications, training and operational needs,” he told NST.

He added that this was part of RMAF’s Capability Development 2055 (CAP 55) transformation plan on new procurement, enhancement and upgrading of assets.

“CAP 55’s focus is to ensure that RMAF stays relevant by shaping its war-fighting capability to ensure threats are deterred and contained.

“It takes into account the type of system platforms RMAF should possess by the year 2055.”

Affendi said there was no fixed time frame in making a decision as the procurement package was a long-term initiative to replace RMAF’s ageing fleet of jet trainers and fighters.

“Therefore, there is no need to rush to make a hasty decision.”

A Singapore news report said politics might be the deciding factor in a RM36 billion deal to supply the light combat aircraft over the next 10 years.

The report cited jet models being considered were the FA-50 by Korea Aerospace Industries of South Korea, Tejas by Hindustan Aeronautics of India, YAK-130 by Irkut Aerospace of Russia, JF-17 Thunder from Pakistan and the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master from Italy.

Singaporean newspaper
The Straits Times
reported that
a decision was pending in
the coming months.

It quoted unnamed defence industry executives as saying that the FA-50 was represented by a little-known private entity Kemalak Systems, Tejas by Forte Drus, JF-17 by Kharisma Wira, and YAK-130 by Sarawak-based Sovereign Strategic, while the Aermacchi’s representative was not known.

The defence purchases were said to be linked to trade-offs with Malaysian palm oil, which is facing a European Union ban on bio-fuels.

Russia, India and China appear to be supportive of Malaysia’s palm oil trade-offs involving defence procurement.

The Singapore report divulged that RMAF operated a mixed fleet of supersonic fighters and multi-role combat aircraft, comprising 13 Russian-made MiG-29s, which are now grounded, 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flankers and eight Boeing F/A-18D Hornets.

RMAF, it said, also operated 18 BAE Systems Hawk aircraft and seven Aermacchi MB-339 jet trainers from Italy.

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