Malaysia is looking to acquire a new ‘low-end’ fighter and attack aircraft as part of wider plans to better tailor its combat capabilities to meet current and future threats, an air force official said on 7 November.
Speaking under the Chatham House rule, the official said that the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) procurement programme is looking for a single-engined, supersonic platform to augment its fleets of single-seat BAE Systems Hawk and twin-engined Boeing F/A-18D Hornet and Sukhoi Su-30 ‘Flanker’ fighters.
“The Royal Malaysian Air Force [RMAF] is looking at its capabilities for the next 15-years-or-so, and how best we can suit our requirements,” the official said, adding, “As part of our future capability plans we are looking at a new [LCA] that will have some air-to-air and a full air-to-ground capability.”
The official noted that Malaysia’s traditional approach of acquiring large twin-seat and twin-engined aircraft because of its large maritime areas is now just too expensive given the downturn in the economy caused by the drop in the international oil price. “We cannot now do this because of our economic situation and so must now find something that is cheaper to buy and operate.” As well as being an air defender and ground-attack aircraft, the LCA should also serve as a lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) platform and should be ready for fielding in about 2021/22.
Although the official said that all options are currently being considered, he noted a preference for the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 Golden Eagle/FA-50 Fighting Eagle aircraft already in service with near-neighbours the Philippines and the Republic of Korea.
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