Malaysia could issue a request for proposals for four airborne early warning and control system aircraft in mid-2008, with funds for the acquisition likely to become available during the nation's next five-year spending plan.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force has indicated a tentative requirement for a relatively lightweight, low-cost system to improve the situational awareness of its Boeing F/A-18D, RSK MiG-29N and Sukhoi Su-30MKM pilots. The surveillance aircraft should also be capable of monitoring naval vessels, it says, especially in the Malacca Straits.

Candidate systems will include Northrop Grumman's E-2 Hawkeye and Saab 2000 turboprops to be equipped with Saab Microwave Systems' Erieye radar. The Swedish company announced during the LIMA air show in Langkawi on 4-8 December that its proposal would have a loitering capability of at least 9h with five onboard operators.

Air force commander-in-chief Gen Azizan bin Ariffin says AEW&C aircraft "will be the next major acquisition after multirole fighters", but industry sources suggest Kuala Lumpur's immediate priority is to buy new utility helicopters to replace its Sikorsky S-61 Nuris (Flight International, 11-17 December).

Russia has offered to supply Kamov Ka-31 picket helicopters carrying Oko surveillance radars, but its Ilyushin Il-76-based A-50 has been deemed too large and expensive to take part.

Source: Flight International