Malaysian company chosen to head refurbishment of seven air force fighters

Malaysia's Airod will this week sign partnership agreements with Caledonian Airborne Systems, Northrop Grumman, Smiths Aerospace and Thales to provide equipment for Northrop F-5 upgrades. Airod has been selected by Malaysia to lead the refurbishment of seven air force F-5E Tigers, with its new partner companies having agreed to supplier roles. The exact package of equipment has not yet been selected by the Malaysian air force.

Airod also aims to later export the upgrade package, with Middle East operators the primary target. Additional agreements with the suppliers will be needed on a case-by-case basis to support export sales.

The company is finishing an upgrade to an F-5F prototype equipped with new avionics supplied by Caledonian as part of a controversial contract awarded in 2001 to the UK firm and local company Langkawi R&D. The latter dropped out before the contract, which also included options for nine F-5E upgrades, was completed. Airod and BAE Systems tried to convince Malaysia to oust Caledonian from the project, and Airod has succeeded in taking over the prime contractor role.

Caledonian has been able to remain a supplier, joined by Smiths and Thales. Northrop will support Airod with certification and provide the structural components and possibly the radar. BAE has not yet been selected as a supplier, but could join the programme later.

Most of Malaysia's F-5Es were reactivated last year, but there were no funds to begin the proposed upgrade. Budget constraints still threaten to limit the project's scope, which may include new ejection seat, head-up display, radar warning receiver and GPS satellite-navigation equipment.

For Airod, the project could bring important new business following the loss of a maintenance contract for Malaysian army AgustaWestland A109s and its failure to win a renewal for an existing US Air Force maintenance contract covering Lockheed Martin C-130s.



Source: Flight International