Budget constraints force revision of plans, but Sukhoi Su-30 acquisition moving forward

Malaysia has reduced and delayed its planned acquisition of Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, but appears to be moving forward with a reduced purchase of Sukhoi Su-30s.

Malaysia requested pricing proposals for 18 F/A-18Fs and 18 Su-30s and planned to go forward simultaneously with both deals this year. But industry sources say budget constraints have forced it to revise its requests to 12 aircraft of each type, while political issues could prompt Malaysia to complete the Sukhoi transaction ahead of the long-expected Super Hornet purchase.

Budget and political issues also threaten to delay Malaysia's acquisition of three or four unspecified airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.

US companies fear the Iraq war and its impact on relations between Malaysia and the USA could slow the Super Hornet purchase and other potential acquisitions of US equipment. Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has criticised the USA's involvement in Iraq and, politically, it would be difficult to buy US arms until hostilities fade.

Mahathir visited Embraer last month as part of a trade mission to Brazil. Embraer is offering Malaysia EMB-145SAs with Ericsson Erieye radar. Northrop Grumman is pitching ex-US Navy E-2C Hawkeyes upgraded with technology from newer Hawkeye 2000s and Boeing is offering its 737AEW&C.

Sources say Malaysia favours a jet, given its long coastline, but the 737 is too costly. Budget constraints could delay a selection until at least 2004.

Source: Flight International