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Malaysia considers ‘fighter exchange’ offer from Russia

28 November 2019
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Russia has offered Malaysia an exchange deal featuring old fighter aircraft for new aircraft, with the latter reported to feature the MiG-35 (pictured). Source: UAC

Malaysia has received an offer from Russia to part exchange its fleets of Russian multirole combat aircraft for new models, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu has confirmed in parliament.

Sabu said the government is considering the offer from Moscow but indicated that the priorities of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) are in procuring capabilities such as surveillance and light attack. He also indicated that Malaysia would not realistically consider buying a new multirole combat aircraft until after 2030.

The RMAF currently operates about 18 Su-30MKM fighters, which were delivered from 2007. The service has also recently retired what is believed to be 10 MiG-29s, which were operated from the mid-1990s.

In parliament, Sabu was asked if Malaysia "is willing to accept the Russian government's offer to take back 28 jets" and "replace them with new aircraft made by [Russia]". The deal - reported to include the transfer of new Su-35 or MiG-35 models - would also likely comprise the countertrade of Malaysian palm oil.

Sabu replied that although the acquisition of multirole combat aircraft "is not in the Ministry of Defence's plans, it is still scrutinising the Russian government's offer".

Sabu added that in line with the RMAF's long-term modernisation programme it will continue to prioritise maintaining its existing fleets of Su-30MKMs and eight Boeing F/A-18 Hornets acquired in the late 1990s. This sustainment priority will continue through to 2030, he said.

Sabu added that near-term procurement priorities for the RMAF include a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and a light combat aircraft/fighter lead‐in trainer (LCA/FLIT) to "supplement the capabilities and preparedness of the RMAF".

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