‘NO RUSH TO BUY MRCA’
Govt to look into its budget, says Hisham
THE government will look into all aspects in its budget before making any decision to buy the next-generation multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) for the air force.
Factors include the necessity, affordability, solution packages that come with the aircraft and what the aircraft manufacturers have to offer to Malaysia.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the government wanted what was best for the country and would not rush into making MRCA procurement deals.
“Procuring MRCAs is not only about buying, and everybody knows my approach in this matter. The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) will have to decide what is best for us, although it does not necessarily mean that we can afford it, while the ministry will look at the offset programme, as well as the benefits of this purchase to the Malaysian industry.
“The decision will be made along the timeline that I have mentioned before... it can be either this year, or by 2020, or it can even be between 2020 and 2050.
“French president Francois Hollande is coming here in the next few days, (United Kingdom prime minister) Theresa May may also come to our country, and I had also spoken to Harriett Baldwin (UK Defence Procurement and Export Minister) about their Typhoon, so let’s see what they have to offer.
“We are in the best position to decide what is best for Malaysia. So, there is no hurry,” he said at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition 2017 yesterday.
Hishammuddin was answering a question on whether the government had decided to procure the Eurofighter Typhoon or the Dassault Rafale.
In fact, he denied that the government had narrowed the field down to those two aircraft, saying that the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Saab JAS-39 Gripen were still in the running.
The government, he added, would also have to take a look at whether money should be spent on the MRCA replacement programme or whether it would be better served spent elsewhere.
“The cost of each aircraft is expensive, and the government also has to decide whether to have these planes or to build schools, or whether it is better to use the money to build roads so that our people in rural areas can have access to development.”
To a question from a Russian journalist on the relationship between Malaysia and the Russian defence industry, Hishammuddin advised industry players to “keep up” with offers from other countries or lose out in the Southeast Asia market.
He said Russian contractors would be left behind if they failed to match or offer better solutions in aircraft maintenance and repairs to go with their fighter jets.
“My advice to the Russian industry is, you have to work very hard. You need to get up to speed and not rely on past successes.
“Southeast Asia now has the advantage... we have other options. If you don’t show your support (to customers), then we have to look at other alternatives, like what we had done in procurements of ships from China, (in looking at) multi-role support ships from Indonesia and also MRCA from the British and French,” he said.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein taking a selfie with a visitor to Lima 2017 yesterday.