F/A-18E/F would be potential candidate as a new MMRCA for RMAF (photo : Flightglobal)
KUALA LUMPUR: The Boeing Co remains hopeful of concluding a deal to sell up to 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters to Malaysia, which the US aircraft manufacturer has been negotiating since 2002.Boeing Defence, Space and Security president and chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg said the company has submitted a proposal to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) for its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and negotiations are ongoing."We are hopeful that things will move forward in the near term... We can accommodate customers' (delivery) schedules, both near term and long term.
"We have demonstrated the ability to produce the Super Hornets for multiple customers on schedule," he said here on Tuesday.
He declined to reveal whether Boeing had proposed that the RMAF buy the single-seater Super Hornet E model or the two-seater F model, although reports had suggested that up to 18 units of the two-seater version were proposed.RMAF currently operates eight earlier generation two-seater F/A-18Ds and was reportedly planning to buy eight to 16 more aircraft before the 1997 Asian financial crisis forced a spending cut.
Recently, however, Malaysian defence officials had indicated that multi-role fighter purchase was back on the agenda.Muilenburg said RMAF had expressed satisfaction with its fleet of eight F/A-18Ds from Boeing."They provide tremendous (day-night strike) capability, reliable and the cost of maintaining the jets is low.
"I think the expectation (of the RMAF) is to continue to operate and expand that fleet rather than replace it.
"In this regard, the Super Hornets are an attractive option because these fighter jets provide direct interoperability with the F/A-18Ds fleet.
"They will have common support equipment as well as common air crew and maintenance training systems."
Apart from the Super Hornets, Muilenburg said Malaysia had not indicated any other aircraft procurement plans.
"But as with all of our customers, we continue to provide awareness of the products that are available (from Boeing). We are ready to respond if specific opportunities come forward."
This was Muilenburg's first visit to Malaysia where he had a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and commercial customer, Measat Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd.
"During the meeting with the prime minister, one of the things that we talked about was how Boeing can help Malaysia achieve its New Economic Model goals and how we can be part of the industrial player (via offset programmes) going forward," Muilenburg said."
(For instance), if we are successful in bringing our Super Hornets to Malaysia, part of our industrial participation package will include composites manufacturing work being done in Malaysia.
"Structurally, the Super Hornet is built largely from aluminium alloys with extensive use of carbon fibre composite skins in the wings and titanium in several critical areas."
It's possible (through Boeing's Super Hornet industrial cooperation programme), our partners like Asian Composites Manufacturing Sdn Bhd and Composites Technology Research Malaysia Sdn Bhd in Malaysia can become a key supplier of composite materials.
"To date, they have both demonstrated terrific capability in composites manufacturing."
Boeing is also in discussions with Measat to supply two additional commercial communications satellites and Ku-band transponders.
Three of four Measat satellites in orbit today were built by Boeing.
(New Straits Times)