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ARKIB : 12/04/2003

Malaysia buys Polish battle tanks

KUALA LUMPUR April 11 - The Malaysian Armed Forces will take delivery of its first battle tanks from Poland in February 2006, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Friday.

Malaysia Friday signed an agreement with Poland to buy 48 PT-91M battle tanks and 14 support vehicles.

"These PT-91 battle tanks with additional features are needed by the army. These are the most modern tanks in the world as they have various sub-systems from European countries and suited to Malaysia," he said after witnessing the signing of the contract for the purchase of the tanks and support vehicles.

The purchase contract was signed by Mindef Secretary-General Datuk Hashim Meon and the President of Poland's Foreign Trade Enterprise Bumar Pte Limited Andrez Spis.Poland's Defence Minister Jerzy Smajdzinski was also present.

Najib said the tanks would top up the combat power of the army which waited for 20 years for the signing of the contract.

The Alvis Scorpion vehicles that had been in use since the 1980s were turned down by defence observers as they were classifed more as reconnaissance vehicles even though they looked alike.

The purchase of the PT-91M battle tanks was a significant development in the annals of Malaysian defence history, according to military observers.

Malaysia had earlier acquired the ASROS 11 mutiple rocket launching vehicles which also impressed defence experts.

The PT-91M battle tanks, the letter "M" denoting the Malaysian series are equipped with a new hunter-killer computer system, laser trigger, guided missile warning system, explosive reactive armour and protection from chemical and nuclear attack.

The cost of the battle tanks and support vehicles amounting to RM1.4 billion would be paid over the next 10 years until the Ninth Malaysia Plan, he said.

The 48 tanks would form the basis for the setting up of the Armour Brigade and Combined Armed Division, he said.

With the setting up of the Armour Brigade, Najib did not discount the possibility of Malaysia buying hundreds of battle tanks in the future.

"The Defence Ministry will send nine army officers and 150 men to Poland for courses on handling the tanks and tank warfare."

The battle tanks and support vehicles would be maintained in Negeri Sembilan by MMC Defence Sdn Bhd.

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