KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 7, 2011): BAE Systems, the world's second-largest defence company by revenue, is not backing off aggressive efforts to clinch a multi-billion ringgit fighter jet deal with Malaysia, despite the latter's decision not to purchase new military assets for now.
The UK-based firm hopes to persuade the defence ministry to buy 18 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).
BAE's Eurofighter Typhoon was reportedly in the running for the contract, along with four rivals — France's Dassault Aviation's Rafale; the US' Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen and the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E.
However, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Sept 26 Malaysia had no plans to purchase new military assets in the near future, including the long-awaited deal to replace RMAF's fleet of MiG-29N Fulcrum.
BAE head of communications for East, Louise Robson, said the company had submitted a response to Malaysia's requirement for new fighter aircraft to its defence ministry in the first quarter of this year.
"We are positive. We hope that Malaysia will choose Typhoon. We believe it is the best aircraft of its kind out there," she told SunBiz in an interview.
"We hope to continue working with Malaysia toward a successful conclusion, but it is still early days. Obviously, we have elections coming up here and until that is over, I think a decision won't be made," she said, although she expects the defence ministry could make a decision as early as the middle of next year.
Robson declined to disclose the contract value of BAE's Typhoon package for Malaysia, saying much depends on the weaponry, electronic systems, training and support requested, among others.
"We responded specifically to the questions they asked and I think there was reference to support and training. But the exact requirements are confidential," she added.
Robson said an important part of the package is industrial partnerships with the Malaysian aerospace industry to transfer technology and skills.
"We look to work with local small and medium enterprises and academia whether it is specifically on Typhoon or other things on the back of Typhoon in terms of technology or innovation in engineering. That is the norm in all of the countries we operate," she said.
As a show of commitment and support to the Malaysian aerospace industry, BAE will participate in the upcoming Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima) 2011 from Dec 6 to 10.
"We will have two booths — one for BAE and the other, Eurofighter. We may deploy the Typhoon there," said Robson.
Malaysia's air force and navy are significant BAE clients, having purchased 10 Hawk Mk108 and 18 Mk208 aircraft in the early 1990s.
Typhoon, which is jointly built by BAE, Italy's Alenia Aeronautica and the German-Spanish giant EADS, has been ordered by six nations namely Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Austria and Saudi Arabia, with more than 300 aircraft delivered and 707 under contract.
Apart from Malaysia, BAE is also hoping to win new Typhoon deals shortly with countries including India and Japan, which are looking at 126 and 42 of these multi-role combat aircraft, respectively.