Done Deal or Not…the AEW saga…

PETALING JAYA: IN my post AEW ahead of MRCA? I stated that it was mostly likely that the AEW programme will be funded ahead of the MRCA.

Since that posting, I was informed that the AEW programme was “a done deal” with the Saab A340 AEW as the chosen candidate. This was confirmed by a high ranking official which will be nameless. Yes, the plane had been chosen although the contract had yet to be signed and it was expected the signatures will be put on the dotted line at Lima 2013.

RTAF Saab 340AEW
RTAF Saab 340AEW

However, it is now an open secret that a long time competitor for the programme, the E-2C Hawkeye is being lobbied for the deal. These planes could be second-hand or brand new, depending on who you speak to but I am inclined to believe it will be refurbished E-2Cs and not the current US Navy variant, the E2D.

A Japanese Hawkeye in flight. Northrop Grumman picture.
A Japanese Hawkeye in flight. Northrop Grumman picture.

Do note that the offer has not lead into an official request from Malaysia (which is needed for any purchase from the US – a request does not mean the purchase will be made) which may indicate that the offer remained an unofficial one. But I have heard this from various sources (it was even discussed an AEW conference, held in Kuala Lumpur, three weeks back) which led to me believe that it is a serious offer.

Weapon System Officer inside an E2D Hawkeye. Northrop Grumman picture
Weapon System Officer inside an E2D Hawkeye. Northrop Grumman picture

So will this derail Saab’s supposedly done deal? As long as the offer for the Hawkeye remained unofficial my guess it will not. An official request to the US to purchase the Hawkeyes will up the ante of course, but as seen in the abortive Super Hornet deal back in 2001, it is also not the end game. But one thing for sure, the late entry seemed to indicate that money has or will be allocated to the AEW programme in the near future, ahead of the MRCA.

Timing as the saying goes is everything.

— Malaysian Defence

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