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LIMA 2019: Saab promotes ‘one platform’ approach to meet Malaysia’s air combat needs

28 March 2019
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Saab is positioning its Gripen to meet Malaysia’s fighter aircraft requirements. Source: Saab

Saab is offering to meet Malaysia's near- and long-term air combat requirements through a 'one-platform' approach centred on its Gripen multirole fighter aircraft, the company said at the 2019 LIMA exhibition, held in Langkawi from 26 to 30 March.

In the nearer term, the company is positioning its single-engine Gripen as a contender for the Royal Malaysian Air Force's (RMAF's) programme to procure a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

Saab said it responded to the RMAF's request for information (RFI) in support of the LCA procurement in February. The company's offer - supported by Swedish export credit - comprises 12 aircraft: 10 single-seat Gripen Cs and two twin-seat Gripen Ds.

Saab had previously offered Malaysia the Gripen to meet the RMAF's multirole combat aircraft (MRCA) requirement. However, the MRCA programme has been shelved due to a lack of finances and a push by the government to strengthen internal counter-insurgency capabilities instead of external territorial defence.

The newer emphasis has prompted the emergence of the RMAF's LCA procurement even if this programme also faces financial hurdles. The MRCA programme is still likely to go ahead but might not emerge as a formal procurement project for another decade or more.

Saab said its 'one platform' approach puts emphasis on the capability of the Gripen to meet both LCA and MRCA capability requirements.

While the RMAF has not detailed the full capability requirements of the LCA, RMAF officials have stressed to Jane's the need for a light and flexible fighter aircraft that can be used in ground attack and counter-insurgency operations, with a capability to take off and land on short runways.

Saab officials said the Gripen fulfils this requirement as well as the longer-term MRCA role to provide tactical defence and deterrence across areas such as the South China Sea.

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