Malaysian defense minister omitted mentioning big purchases like Rafale fighter jets and Mistral aircraft carrier ahead of French Defense Minister’s visit to the nation.
Malaysian defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein said last Friday, “Malaysia will proceed with acquiring armed forces’ assets under the 11th Malaysian plan despite current economic challenges. Upgrading of the ‘Nuri’ Sikorsky S-61A-4 helicopter, Hercules C-130, Admiral Class Corvette and the acquisition of other assets for the three wings of the armed forces (ATM)”.
“The economic situation will not harm the core of the ministry's "business" which was to ensure national security and boost the morale of ATM personnel and its veterans,” he said.
Hishammuddin omitted to mention big purchases highlighted in French defense news portals about the possible purchase of one of the Mistral aircraft carriers ordered by Russia which was cancelled by France citing Ukraine crisis.
The cost of buying and running just one of these Mistral warships will be cost Malaysia a minimum of RM4 billion (USD $1 billion) at the very least.
“It can be done in the near future, and with transparency. The assets are not cheap, and it must be accepted by the public. It must be something that we need, but at the same time we must be realistic on whether or not we can afford it,” Hishammuddin said.
The French defense minister is reported to be in talks with Malaysia to sell us one of these Mistral aircraft carriers, International media reported earlier last week.
France is likely to pitch for the sale of Dassault Rafale fighters to Malaysia under a financial package.
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.
According to Hishammuddin, the acquisition can only be carried out if the financial package offered fulfilled the requirements set by the Finance Ministry.
"If it is within our ability, I would like the acquisition to be considered. The technical aspects will be accessed by the air force.
"The economic viability and buying power is under the purview of the Finance Ministry," he said.
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.