MRCA Programme Heats Up

PETALING JAYA: In The Malay Mail on June 6, I wrote that:

“FRENCH aerospace company Dassault Aviation is set to open an office in KL soon, signalling its intention to win a lucrative fighter aircraft contract from the Malaysian government.

The Malay Mail was informed by defence industry sources that the decision to open the office here “within the next one month or two” was a clear statement by Dassault that “it was serious” in offering its Rafale – which the company described as the only omni-role fighter – for the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) programme.

Dassault’s move is being matched or even overshadowed by the British. Of course, BAE Systems office in Kuala Lumpur is not being expanded but the British has upped the ante by offering a deal that has the bean counters in the MOF salivating.

As I mentioned before, the British are offering Tranche 1 Typhoons – soon to be retired from the RAF as part of its cost savings programme – together with a number of Tranche 3 Typhoons.

The Tranche 1 Typhoons are not technically MRCA, they are basically interceptors and can be upgraded to Tranche 2 standard with air-to-ground capability (but not AESA) while the Tranche 3 are full fledged multi-role aircraft and AESA radars.

I do not have the full details of the British offer but it goes something like this. Apparently if we were to buy 10 Tranche 3 Typhoons, we will get some 20 or so Tranche 1 Typhoons (ex-RAF) for free. Well, almost for free, we need to pay to fit Malaysian specific items like radios and such, support, training and ordnance but it is much,much cheaper than getting 20 brand new Tranche 3s.

So for the price of 10 Tranche 3 Typhoons, costing around RM4 billion, we will get 30 planes. I dont think we can get 30 Super Hornets for RM4 billion, or Rafale and Gripen for that matter. On top of that British has another 50 or so Typhoons slated for retirement within the next few years, the most advanced Tranche 2 (no AESA).

Of course, the French could copy the British proposal and offer us ex-French Air Force Rafales and new ones but I have not heard about that, yet. Since the US Navy cannot get enough Super Hornets to go around with, Boeing cannot offer such a deal. And as for the Gripen, unless Saab raided the Swedish Air Force stocks, a similar deal cannot be offered.

For a take on the Rafale combat performance go here

Boeing in the meantime had not been idle either. Instead of offering super sexy deal, it had gone through the traditional route. On June 9, Boeing announced that its Defense, Space & Security unit has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with three Malaysian companies. The MOUs outline plans to explore business opportunities for manufacturing specialized components and equipment for use in the defense and aerospace sectors. One wonders whether this has the seal of approval from Blenheim or not?

It must be noted that with its used and new Typhoon offer, the British can fixed the date of delivery, to the exact date when the Fulcrums are retired in 2015. Since the contract will most likely be signed no earlier than 2013, those with new build aircraft on offer will be hard pressed to make the same commitment.

It must be noted that the Tranche 1 can be upgraded further but not to Tranche 3 standard, so it cannot be a full fledged MRCA as stated by RMAF. But this argument could also be said about the Flankers….

-Malaysian Defence

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