Our Bureau
01:26 PM, August 26, 2015
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Planform of Dassault Rafale B-10 (Image: Ronnie Macdonald via Wikimedia Commons)

Sale of Dassault’s Rafale fighter aircraft to Malaysia could be on agenda during the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit to Kuala Lumpur this weekend.

The French media has reported that Le Drian is expected to visit the South East Asian nation on August 30. In the past, sudden visits by the French defence minister have resulted in contracts signing as in the case of Egypt and Qatar.

Dassault had offered a 10 year financial package to Malaysia from a French bank guaranteed by the government of France for procurement of its Rafale fighter jet at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition earlier this year.

Dassault Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier had expressed willingness to have a long term business deal in Malaysia. He had said that Dassault is looking at different types of industrial packages that includes final assembly line of aircraft, production of some parts, development, maintenance and support to local industries if they were willing to collaborate with them.

"We believe we can succeed in Malaysia. We have a good aircraft to offer and as far as I am concerned, good government-to-government relations as well," Trappier had said during the exhibition.

Malaysia is eyeing to replace its fleet of Russian MiG-29 fighters. Boeing's F/A-18, Saab's Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon are the other alternatives that Malaysia may eye.

With fiscal troubles due to low oil and commodity prices, Malaysia might delay its decision to buy fighter jets, local reports said. However a French government financial package, along the lines of what sealed the deal with Egypt might tempt Kuala Lumpur which needs new aircraft to serve as deterrence against Chinese aggressive maneuvers in the South China Sea.

That Malaysia could be a candidate for a Rafale sale has been indicated earlier. "There should be two other export contracts for the Rafale by the beginning of next year," not including India, Reuters had quoted an unnamed source as saying in July this year.

"The most advanced discussions are with Malaysia and the UAE," the source added. France is aiming to sell 16 Rafale aircraft to the Malaysian military.

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