Malaysia plans to replace the MiG-29N aircraft (photo : Jetphotos)
THE Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) is expected to seal several contracts at this year's Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition (Lima 2011).
Air force chief General Tan Sri Rodzali Daud said among the contracts lined up were for the acquisition of radars, sensors and communication equipment, which would beef up the country's air defence.
"Several letters of offer and acceptance will be inked during the exhibition. However, owing to budget constraints, the government is unable to approve the procurement of larger assets for the air force for the time being.
"This includes the purchase of new-generation aircraft and defence equipment."
Rodzali's comments indicated that the proposed acquisition of multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) might not take place during the current 10th Malaysia Plan (2010-2015).
It is learnt that the RMAF was evaluating five new-generation jet fighters under its ambitious MRCA programme, worth billions of ringgit, to strengthen its defence capability in protecting the country's maritime assets within the exclusive economic zone, including oil and gas assets like those in the Spratly Islands and the Ambalat oil block off Borneo.
Among the jets considered were France's Dassault Aviation Rafale, the United States' Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Europe's Eurofighter Typhoon, Swedish JAS-39 Gripen and Russian Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E.
The MRCA programme is to replace 16 Russian MiG-29N Fulcrums purchased in 1995 which are due for replacement by 2015.
"But things could change in the future should funds become available," said Rodzali.
Plans to take delivery of 12 Eurocopter EC725 and four Airbus A400M in 2013 and 2015, respectively, were on schedule, he said.
"The A400M has successfully undergone tests, while the EC725 is expected to be fully assembled by July next year to undergo tests before delivery to us in early 2013."
On the fate of the aging Sikorsky S-61 Nuri fleet, he said the RMAF had proposed for 15 new helicopters as replacements.
"Ideally, we need 27 new helicopters for proper and smooth operations. Should new helicopters not be purchased, then our option is to refurbish the Nuris to complement the EC725 fleet."
Rodzali added that the RMAF preferred to acquire new helicopters instead of refurbishing the Nuri as it would not only incur a huge cost, but also more frequent maintenance.
On Lima 2011, Rodzali said it was an ideal platform to promote the local defence industry while providing exposure for servicemen.
In Kuala Kedah, state police chief Datuk Ahmad Ibrahim said 600 extra policemen would be stationed at various locations in Langkawi during the exhibition. This included the ferry terminal here, the Kuah terminal on the island, the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre and Tanjung Malai, where the maritime display would be held.
Ahmad said with 60,000 people expected to attend the five-day event beginning on Tuesday, police would not take things lightly.
He said policemen would also assist visitors in any way possible.
"We have distributed a 17-minute DVD to ferry operators to show to tourists coming to Langkawi. This will remind them to be careful and alert during their stay."
(New Straits Times)