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ARKIB : 16/04/2004

Super Hornets, Awacs may feature in RMAF modernisation plans

SUBANG April 15 - After the move to procure 18 Sukhoi SU-30MKM fighter jets, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) plans to move on with its modernisation programme, right into the five-year Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).

Among the military hardware expected to be procured were the new generation all-weather Super Hornet fighters as well as the Advance Early Warning and Control System (Awacs) aircraft.

RMAF Chief Jen Datuk Nik Ismail Nik Mohamaed said in the 9MP, which began in 2006, the air force would undergo further metamorphosis in terms of infrastructures, equipment and personnel.

"We have identified several development aspects which the RMAF needs in the immediate future as well as over the long term," he told reporters at the Defence Service Asia (DSA) exhibition here.

Nik Ismail declined to reveal the aircraft which RMAF had in mind.

However defence analysts believed the F-18F Super Hornets and Awacs planes would feature prominently in the air force's shopping list.

The planned procurement of Super Hornets was halted after the government decided to purchase the Sukhois last year.

Ismail did not indicate that the RMAF planned to totally ditch procurement of the Super Hornets, instead saying that the air force needed such agile fighters.

"The Super Hornets are among the best fighters, based on the performance of eight Hornet F-18Ds which are in our service," he said.

Malaysia began to use the American-made Hornets in the late 90s but the RMAF did not have enough fighters to form two squadrons of 18 jets.

Following this, the United States in 2002 offered RMAF the Super Hornets apart from the buy-back package for its existing Hornets.

It was learnt that RMAF needed at least 18 of the Super Hornets. Malaysia also hoped that the fighters would be equipped with the AMRAAM missile system, the Super Hornet's main armament.

However the missile system was only given to US close allies like Singapore and Thailand.

It was also reported that the RMAF needed four Awacs, at the cost of some RM1 billion. The plans to purchase this airborne warning system in the 8MP, was scuttled due to high costs.

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