PAUL LEWIS / WASHINGTON DC
Malaysia remains some way off from finalising a deal for Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets and has yet to submit a letter of request to the US government. This is despite recent Department of Defense (DoD) notification to the US Congress of the possible foreign military sale (FMS). Kuala Lumpur confirms that one condition of a deal will be the trade-in of its eight F/A-18D Hornets.
The DoD's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has notified Congress of a proposed $1.5 billion arms deal for Malaysia packaged around 18 two-seat F/A-18Fs. Malaysian defence minister Najib Tun Razak says the country is looking "very seriously" at acquiring the Super Hornet, as well as the Sukhoi Su-30MKM, but it is still in negotiations with the US Navy and Boeing.
Najib adds that details on the number of fighters and configuration have to be finalised. The DSCA notification covers 18 F/A-18Fs, whereas industry sources suggest the purchase could involve only 12 aircraft. "We tend to err on the high side in terms of quantity and dollar value to ensure we don't end up having to go back to Congress," says the DSCA.
It is planned to equip the aircraft with the same Raytheon APG-73 radar as on Malaysia's F/A-18Ds, although the APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar will be available from 2005, around the time deliveries to Malaysia are due to start. The DSCA says the APG-73 is the only radar now available and any future switch to the AESA-design would require it being cleared for release to Malaysia.
Najib adds that the Malaysian air force will trade-in its F/A-18Ds as part of any Super Hornet deal. It is understood that at least four of the five-year-old Hornets are being offered to Switzerland, which is looking for additional F/A-18C/Ds for the reconnaissance role and to bolster its existing fleet.
The remaining fighters may be offered to the US Marine Corps, although it is unclear where funding for such a purchase would come from.
Source: Flight International