PETALING JAYA: Industry insiders are saying that the Government is more likely to fund the purchase of AEW aircraft within the next few months or so. The reason for the selection of the AEW ahead of the MRCA, I am told is simply, money or the lack of it.
A deal to buy at least three Saab 340 AEW is around RM1 billion (together with the support and training packages) while another two or so 340 in the MPA guise would cost another RM70 million each (read here). The decision to get the 340 AEW has been made sometime back I am told but as usual we procrastinated.
With the current economic crisis and Spratly crisis in mind, spending around RM1.2 billion for a capability we do not have at the moment sounds reasonable. Yes I have written before that a 737 AEW would be cheaper to maintain but the cost of a single plane (around RM500 million with the radar) would bust our budget.
It is likely that the signing ceremony will be at next year’s Lima, if everything goes well of course.
What about MRCA then? I believe the RMAF has already made up its mind and the candidate is already known to the powers-that-be. However, as there is not enough funds to pay for both purchases (unless they are going for the Gripen NG), it is likely the signing will only be done after 2015.
I forgotten to add earlier that the Embraer ERJ145 Erieye had been selected for AEW requirement during 2005-2008 period but it was cancelled following the 2008 economic crisis. I was told later that the order was cancelled as the local agents had a falling out with the powers that be. This time around Saab is working with DRB-Hicom, so chances are high that they won’t be left standing at the altar again.
One of the former PAT had told me during that time that the air force preferred a jet compared to a turbo-prop mostly due to higher transit speed.