Malaysia to postpone airborne early warning competition By Siva Govindasamy
Malaysia could delay a competition for airborne early warning and control aircraft until the middle of the next decade due to a shortage of funds, says the country's top military officer.
Kuala Lumpur needs up to eight AEW&C aircraft to undertake 24h aerial surveillance of its coastline, says Gen Abdul Aziz Zainal, chief of the Malaysian defence force. While the nation's air force has sought funding for the requirement since the start of the decade, other pressing needs mean that the money is unlikely to be available until the 10th Malaysia Plan, covering 2011-15, or even the subsequent plan, spanning 2016-20, he says.
"We will leave it to the government for consideration. The question is whether we can afford it now or later," says Abdul Aziz, who adds: "We understand the government's financial situation." Malaysia has already cut its defence budget allocation for 2009 to channel more money towards boosting the local economy and on social welfare programmes due to the ongoing global economic crisis.
Abdul Aziz says the cuts will only slash unnecessary expenditure and will not adversely affect the armed forces' preparedness. However, one victim of the belt-tightening has been a planned purchase of Eurocopter's EC725 as a replacement for the army's Sikorsky S-61 "Nuri" utility helicopters. The government scrapped its October selection citing worsening economic conditions, and could delay a new tender until at least 2010.
Kuala Lumpur has held preliminary talks with several companies for its AEW&C requirement, with contenders likely to be the Embraer EMB-145 and Saab 2000 equipped with Saab Microwave Systems' Erieye radar, and Northrop Grumman's E-2C Hawkeye 2000.
Malaysia could hold a competition for additional multirole combat aircraft around the middle of the next decade, although a follow-on order for more Sukhoi Su-30MKMs seems possible. It also has requirements for maritime patrol aircraft and anti-submarine warfare helicopters.
PICTURE: First flight for Malaysia's MB-339CM trainer By Siva Govindasamy
Malaysia is set to start taking delivery of its Alenia Aermacchi MB-339CM advanced trainers in the first quarter of 2009 after the type made its first flight in Italy this week.
The 1h debut allowed the manufacturer to conduct a check of on-board systems and avionics, and it says the successful test marked an important goal in the MB-229CM programme. The CM version of the Italian trainer is similar to the MB-339CDs delivered to the Italian air force, and features advanced avionics.
"In January 2009 the Malaysian pilot-training activities - which are to begin at Alenia Aermacchi - will proceed and the delivery of the first two aircraft is scheduled for the first quarter of 2009," says the Finmeccanica subsidiary. "The six remaining aircraft will all be delivered by the end of the next year, thus fulfilling the contract for the supply of eight MB-339CM advanced trainers signed in late 2006."
The 88 million ($113 million) deal includes the supply of spare parts, ground equipment and support for two years. An industrial offset agreement calls for Malaysian companies to provide maintenance services, ejection seats and some avionics for the MB-339CM. They will also produce composite parts for the civil aircraft programmes in which Alenia Aermacchi participates, and could eventually be involved in the development and maintenance of an MB-339CD flight simulator.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force still operates eight of the 13 MB-339As it bought in the early 1980s. The MB-339CMs will play a key role in the training syllabus for pilots destined to fly its Sukhoi Su-30MKM multirole fighters.