| LANGKAWI, Malaysia, March 28
LANGKAWI, Malaysia, March 28 Malaysia has
shortlisted five manufacturers as it seeks to buy 18 combat
aircraft by 2015 to replace its ageing fleet of Russian-made
MIG-29s, the defence minister said on Thursday.
The choice was between the Britain-backed Eurofighter
Typhoon, Sweden's SAAB JAS-39 Gripen, France's
Dassault Aviation Rafale, Boeing's F/A 18E/F
Super Hornet and Russia's Sukhoi Su-30, Zahid Hamidi told
"We've made the shortlist," Zahid said on the sidelines of
the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition.
"We don't know the cost yet."
Industry sources said the purchase could run into billions
of dollars. The deal will help modernise the air power of the
Southeast Asian nation, which is in dispute with China over
parts of the South China Sea and with militants from the
southern Philippines over its far eastern state of Sabah.
A decision on the fighters is only expected after the
country holds elections, which Prime Minister Najib Razak has to
call by the end of April. His Barisan Nasional coalition is
predicted to win narrowly in a tight contest.
All five manufacturers were represented at the Langkawi
airshow. Four manufacturers told Reuters they would be able to
deliver aircraft to meet Malaysia's requirements, while
officials from Sukhoi were not immediately available for
Mark Kane, managing director of the Combat Air division at
BAE Systems, which is one of the manufacturers of the
Typhoon, confirmed that the company has had informal talks with
the Malaysian government.
"Of course there isn't going to be a great deal of movement
before the elections," he added, speaking at a briefing also
attended by British Defence Equipment Minister Philip Dunne.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is on prominent display at the
entrance of the exhibition.
Dassault meanwhile said in a statement that it is ready to
develop long-term business ties with Malaysia in major civil and
military aviation programmes.
Industry sources said Dassault has initiated talks with
Malaysian companies for support services should Malaysia choose
to buy the Rafale aircraft.
On Tuesday, SAAB signed an agreement for industrial
cooperation with Malaysian conglomerate DRB-HICOM Berhad with a
view to including the firm in the global supply chain for the
And Michael Gibbons, Boeing's vice-president for the Super
Hornet programme, told Reuters: "No doubt about it, we're
looking at industrial participation for Malaysian companies."