Boeing is waiting to discover whether its pending sale of F/A-18F Super Hornets to Malaysia could face a delay following prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's surprise decision to step down next year.

Meanwhile, the UK's Caledonian Airborne Systems is in talks with Malaysian systems integrator Zetro Aerospace about launching a programme to upgrade Malaysian air force Northrop F-5E/Fs.

Government sources say Kuala Lumpur could issue a letter of request for up to 16 two-seat F/A-18Fs by August. They do not expect the handover of power to deputy prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to delay the contract. The aircraft would be delivered from 2005, probably in exchange for the air force's eight F-18Ds.

The deal would see Malaysia become the launch export customer for the Super Hornet. The country is also expected to purchase Sukhoi Su-30MKs from Russia's Irkutsk Aircraft.

Langkawi R&D Academy, in partnership with Caledonian, was awarded a RM48 million ($12.6 million) contract at last year's Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition to upgrade one F-5F. This agreement has since been terminated and Caledonian is understood to be seeking a new local partner to bid for F-5 upgrade work after receiving confirmation that Mahathir wants the project to continue.

Zetro confirms it is in talks with Caledonian, which has also approached defence technology company Sapura.

Industry sources say the air force is sceptical of the need to upgrade its 15 F-5s. Under the plans, the aircraft would be equipped with two multifunction displays, a head-up display, hands on throttle and stick controls and a 1553 databus.

The Indonesian navy has ordered eight Mil Mi-2 and two Mi-17s from Russian arms trade agency Rosoboronexport.

Source: Flight International