SHAH ALAM: Its down to either Typhoon or Rafale. Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein seemed to confirm that the race for the next RMAF fighter is between either the Eurofighter Typhoon or the Dassault Rafale. I am reporting that he seemed to confirm as he did not quite exactly say “Its either Typhoon or Rafale” but as usual, he say it in a much non-definitive way.
It was non-definitive that the reporter who was present at the press conference at the Parliament yesterday had to carefully explained what the minister had said. If I was there, I would have asked Hishammuddin to say it outright. But even then, from past experience, it is likely the minister will try to avoid giving a definitive answer.
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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 20): Minister of Defence Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein reiterated that Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF)’s order for new multi role combat aircrafts (MRCAs) will have to depend on the state of the country’s economy.
In a press conference at the Parliament lobby today, Hishammuddin explained that the choice of vendor for this procurement will depend on the affordability of the package offered, and the technical suitability. This purchase is widely seen as a move to replace RMAF’s Russian Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters, which have been in service since the 1990s.
“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.
So will it be Typhoon or Rafale then? Most likely but as I had written before the Super Hornet was still in the mix. Why is it then? Most likely as a fall back choice in case they got log-jammed in the final hurdle. Probably that was the reason, the minister refused to say it outright yesterday, so he has room to maneuver in the future in case they could not work out the deal with either Typhoon or Rafale.
As for when the decision will be made, even Hishammuddin was unable to answer it firmly – vague by 2020 answer – so it is unlikely that it will be announced at the presentation of the 2017 Budget later today.
I was told of the criteria for the green-light of the decision but that will have to wait for another day!
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