SHAH ALAM: As widely reported in the media, no decision had been for the MRCA programme. To me it was expected as the time-line for a final decision would be in the middle of next year. This could change of course depending on the results of the general election.
At DSA 2012, BAE Systems, Rafale Malaysia and Saab were in full attendance. But Boeing which did not take part push ahead with its promotion albeit through a back door means when it was announced that its Insitu subsidiary inked a RM10 million deal with CTRM for the ScanEagle unmanned aerial system. The deal was surprising as publicly, both the Defence Ministry and CTRM had touted the Aludra as the solution for Malaysian UAV needs. Suddenly CTRM now has plans to local manufacture the ScanEagle for Malaysia and regional buyers!
I asked the group CEO whether this deal was an offset for the Super Hornet programme, he hesitated but said yes when the Boeing representative said it was indeed. Yes Boeing chose predictability above anything else. Of course technically it is really not an offset programme as the Super Hornet has not been selected for the MRCA deal.
As this was happening, Rafale International chose the French way of dealing with the local participation requirement.
As reported by Janes: “Turbomeca and Snecma – subsidiaries of French group Safran – have expanded their presence in the Malaysian aerospace and defence market through investment and industrial collaboration deals with local firm Global Turbine Asia (GTA), it emerged at the Defence Services Asia (DSA) exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Both deals have strengthened Dassault’s hand in bidding for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) requirement.
Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, GTA will service the Snecma M88 turbojet engine that powers the Dassault Rafale if the French fighter wins the USD1.5 billion MRCA contract, which is also being contested by Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30MKM, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Saab’s Gripen NG.
GTA confirmed to IHS Jane’s on 17 April that Turbomeca has recently completed the acquisition of a 30 per cent stake in the Malaysian company. Meanwhile, Snecma signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with GTA that is intended to provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services to Snecma engines in service in civil and military sectors in Malaysia.”
Although Jane’s used the headline “Safran’s Malaysian expansion strengthens Rafale’s MRCA bid” to me the deal only weakened the Rafale bid. First of all who are the people behind GTA? Are they really involved in the local MRO industry? A Google search only found their own press announcements. I know a little bit more about them but since I do not know too much at the moment, I rather let them reveal themselves in the future as the situation remains fluid.
Lets just say Rafale International is copying the playbook of its French counterparts like DCNS and Eurocopter in dealing with defence procurement programme. They don’t want to know about predictability. I am not saying that the French way is the wrong way (with the deals DCNS and Eurocopter already secured it could be the right way) to do business but this time around Rafale International will have a more assertive and more importantly well connected industry sector against them as well as a service which knows what it wants.
BAE Systems which had been in country for some 30 years, as expected opted for predictability. On third day of DSA it announced an MOU covering software integration with CTRM. This was a follow-up on what I had reported before about software integration and local manufacture of composite parts as part of the off-set programme for the Typhoon.
Anyhow, as I mentioned at the start, real development will only come after the general election unless the unthinkable happened. Do I need to state “the unthinkable”?. Even with unthinkable, I was told that if the MRCA programme is allowed to go through , it is likely the 2002 DSCA notification will become an official request albeit with a few modifications of course.
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