Malaysia Mulling Russia’s Trade-in Offer for Fighters

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Malaysia is considering Russia’s offer of trading-in old, “problematic” Su-30MKM and MiG-29 jets for new Su-35, MiG-35 or Su-57 fighters under its fighter jet procurement program.

“Even though we are not looking at purchasing new fighter jets, the Defence Ministry is still studying the offer from the Russian government,” Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu told the parliament.

The country appears to be wary of spending too much on expensive new jets, and hence currently plans to maintain its current fleet of fighters. Overhaul of old jets is carried out by Aerospace Technology Systems Corp (ATSC), a Malaysian-Russian company formed especially for spares and servicing of Russian aircraft such as MiG-29 and Su-30MKI. This year, at Malaysia’s LIMA airshow, Royal Malaysian​ Air Force (RMAF) received its first locally overhauled Su-30MKM fighter.

“We only plan on maintaining the US-made F/A-18D Hornet and Russian-made Su-30MKM,” Sabu added.

In September, the country’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had told that Russia’s offer to take back older planes “had to be taken seriously since it would be difficult to sell them.” If Malaysia green-signalled the jets buy, it will get better planes with less expenditure, he had said.

“We are actually studying their proposal about taking back the old MiGs and providing us with the new version, MiG-35, I think. But, of course, even then we would have to pay quite a large sum of money. And Malaysia is not a country that spends too much money on defence,” the leader was quoted as saying by Sputnik when he was in Russia’s Vladivostok for the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF).

According to Sabu, Malaysia’s current requirement is to procure Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (MALE UAVs) and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

“We need Light Combat Aircraft to train our pilots and improve the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s capabilities and its combat readiness,” Sabu added.

At LIMA-2019, Malaysia kicked off its light fighter jet procurement by issuing request for information (RFI) to five manufacturers including Russian Yak-130, Indian Tejas, Pakistani-Chinese JF-17, Italian Aermacchi MB-339 and South Korean T-50.