THE MALAYSIAN Government has rejected as too expensive a local-industry initiative to upgrade its air force's remaining Northrop F-5E/F fighters.

Malaysian defence minister Syed Hamid Albar has ruled out as too expensive a M$500 million ($200 million) plan to modify the F-5E/F as a lead-in fighter trainer. Funding will instead be focused on buying new aircraft, he says.

The decision was in response to an unsolicited upgrade proposal from Malaysia Airlines Aerotechnology (MASA), in conjunction with Bristol Aerospace of Canada. Work would have involved a structural-life extension and the fitting of new avionics (Flight International, 1-7 May, P20).

MASA's proposal is understood to have won the limited backing of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). Its support however, was made conditional on extra funding and resources being made available for the F-5 upgrade.

The RMAF was keen to avoid having the proposed upgrade affect other aircraft programmes. It is already heavily committed to absorbing 18 Mikoyan MiG-29N/NUBs, 28 British Aerospace Hawk 100/200s and, from 1997, eight McDonnell Douglas F-18s.

There was additional concern that the air force would not be able to recoup the cost of the upgrade by selling the aircraft to foreign buyers. Malaysia's surviving F-5s are now likely to be withdrawn from service and offered for sale as is.

Source: Flight International