Northrop Grumman and Saab are sizing up the potential to sell airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system aircraft to Malaysia.
For the first time since 2005's Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition, Northrop has a booth at the 26-30 March show. The focus of its presence is the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft, with its stand featuring a mock-up of an operator's tactical work station.
Tom Trudell, manager of international business development and AEW programmes at Northrop, says the company's presence at this year's LIMA is mainly to get a better feeling of Kuala Lumpur's future AEW&C requirements.
"One goal is to raise general awareness about the E-2D and the capabilities it provides," he says.
The US Navy's programme of record for the type is for 75 aircraft, and there is also capacity for international sales, Trudell notes. Four E-2Ds would allow Malaysia to maintain persistent surveillance, he says, adding that this is the same number deployed on board a USN aircraft carrier.
Thomas Linden, head of Saab Malaysia, is confident Kuala Lumpur will eventually buy AEW&C aircraft. The company's exhibit at LIMA contains a large model of an AEW&C-roled Embraer EMB-145 twinjet equipped with a Saab Microwave Systems Erieye radar system.
Any bid Saab may mount for a prospective Malaysian contest would involve the company's local partner, conglomerate DRB-HICOM, which would be the main beneficiary of any technology-transfer agreement contained within a procurement. Malaysian acquisition rules require that any foreign defence purchase in excess of M$50 million ($16.1 million) includes an offsets package worth 100% of the total contract value.
Linden notes the Swedish company has already integrated its Erieye system on a range of airframes, including the Saab 340, Saab 2000 and the EMB-145.
"We offer a very cost-efficient AEW&C solution," he says. "It provides 80% of the performance at 50% of the price."
Linden stopped short of linking an AEW&C deal with Malaysia's stalled competition for 18 multirole combat aircraft. Malaysia's northern neighbour Thailand has already received two Erieye-equipped Saab 340s (one pictured below) as part of a package also containing 12 Saab Gripen fighters.
Kuala Lumpur has long been interested in obtaining an AEW&C capability, but industry sources say funding has been a persistent challenge for the requirement.