SHAH ALAM: Gripen E for Malaysia. Back in October, the Defence Minister seemed to confirm that the MRCA selection was down to either the Typhoon or Rafale. However, due to the economic uncertainties, the decision for the MRCA was likely to be made by 2020.
At the same function, he also said the other candidates – the Super Hornet and Gripen (and also strangely, Sukhoi) were not being considered for the MRCA project. However since the green light for the MRCA is three years away (which include a general election which must be called by 2018), we can be sure that marketing for all of the fighters named will continue.
“By the year 2020 we have to make a decision on the [purchase of the] MRCAs. It’s an open secret that we are looking at either the [Dassault] Rafale, or the [BAE Systems’] Typhoon from the UK, but we don’t have to make the decision now. What we need to do is look at the affordability, and that depends on [the state of] our economy,” he said
Hishammuddin also explained in the same press conference why Typhoon and Rafale were the final candidates.
“There are other reasons why we did not look at the [latest] Sukhois, [Boeing F/A-18] Hornets and the Gripen, which is a Swedish plane, but the most important [factor] is that whatever we do, we must be able to explain to the public,” Hishammuddin said.
However, as funding for the programm remained hazy, the marketing for the MRCA will be a much smaller much like the stealth campaign ran during the 2005 to 2010 period. So whats this got to do with the Gripen E then? For more on Gripen E go here.
As you might be aware Saab had offered the C/D model together with the AEW package for the MRCA programme. They offered the C/D models as the E was not yet available. Now, with the MRCA programme pushed back to 2020, Saab’s offer now involved 18 of the E/F models. The new offer was made late last year to the Defence Ministry, industry sources told Malaysian Defence.
If selected, I am told, deliveries will take place after Sweden and Brazil, the two countries which had already signed the contract for the aircraft. During the launch of the E, it was reported that both countries will receive their first aircraft in 2019 so if we buy them it is possible for us to get our first by early 2021 (depending on various other circumstances of course).
As Saab is pursuing other opportunities, there is also the possibility that the delivery could be made beyond that. So why is Saab still pursuing the MRCA deal even though it is obvious that RMAF wants something else? Because, Saab thinks the Gripen is the most affordable for us – even in better times.
For example, Brazil is paying US$4.68 billion for 36 Gripen Es. The cost for 18 Es will be around US$2 billion, much cheaper than the other two engine alternatives. Furthermore, there is no need for RMAF to buy new weapons for these aircraft (just like Typhoon and Super Hornets) as the missiles, rockets and bombs in its inventory are already cleared and operational on the Gripen (it will be cleared for the E as well).
Acknowledging, the economic circumstances, the E offer does not include the AEW or even the MSA aircraft. Saab will likely offer them in a separate deal. In the meantime, Saab’s offer to lease C/D models to RMAF pending deliveries of the E, is still valid.
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