Aermacchi fighter trainers being offered for sale by Ernst & Young on behalf of New Zealand government

Malaysia is negotiating to buy 17 ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force Aermacchi MB339CB lead-in fighter trainers, being remarketed by Ernst & Young on behalf of the New Zealand government.

The consultancy has made an offer to Malaysia, but funding could be a problem because the country is prioritising the acquisition of an airborne early-warning capability, Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet and Sukhoi Su-30 fighters, and army and navy helicopters.

A decision by Malaysia to acquire New Zealand's MB339s would be a setback for BAE Systems, which is trying to secure a follow-on Hawk purchase. Even if the MB339 deal is concluded, however, the UK company could still benefit from a Hawk attrition purchase later this decade.

"BAE Systems recognises the Malaysian air force's need for more trainers and is discussing the situation with the customer," says the manufacturer. "A Hawk solution is on the table and it is up to the customer to decide."

Ernst & Young declines to comment on discussions with Malaysia, but confirms it is talking to several potential buyers for theMB339s, which were built in 1991-4 and are available with a full spares package.

Aermacchi and engine maker Rolls-Royce are assisting Ernst & Young's attempts to place the aircraft. New Zealand put them up for sale in August last year following the disbandment of the air force's air combat wing.

Malaysia has eight early-model MB339Atrainers, but would need to expand its support infrastructure for the type significantly if it bought the MB339CBs.

BAE has been working with the Malaysian air force and local companies Airod and Zetro Aerospace this year to improve serviceability rates for the country's 24 Hawk 100/200s, and the UK company says the availability rate is expected to exceed 90% by year-end.

Source: Flight International