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Thursday October 29, 2009

MiGs to make way for Sukhoi

THE MiG-29 fighter jets will be gradually phased out and replaced by the Russian-made Sukhoi SU30MKM interceptor aircraft by the end of next year, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

This was due to the rising maintenance and operational costs for the MiG-29 jets, he told Datuk Abd Rahman Dahlan (BN – Kota Belud).

He said the MiG-29 jets were nearing the end of their 10-year lifespan and incurred heavy maintenance costs. Two MiGs had also crashed in 1998 and 2005.

“The MiGs will be replaced by 18 Russian-made Sukhoi SU30MKM fighter jets which the Government has just acquired,” he said.

With this, the Government would save RM260mil a year in maintenance costs and the sum could be used to maintain other aircraft in the Royal Malaysian Air Force inventory.

For now, the ministry aimed to have only 10 MiGs for airspace defence and would reduce the number to six by next year.

At the Parliament lobby later, Zahid said Malaysia was also assessing whether to buy new fighter jets from the United States, France, Sweden or Britain.

“The deal depends on the country’s level of economic recovery,” he added.

To questions in the Dewan by Abd Rahman on why Malaysia had bought MiGs in the first place, Zahid said that when Malaysia bought the 18 MiGs in 1993, the jets were considered the most capable and versatile aircraft.

“Malaysia bought the MiG at a relatively low price but later, the RMAF had to contend with higher expenses in spare part replacement and maintenence work,” he said.

Each MiG also needed to undergo preventive and restoration work which cost RM10mil and RM7mil for engine overhaul every year after it completed a flight time of between 1,000 hours and 4,000 hours, he said.

Zahid said the cost of maintaining the MiGs was also high as the jets needed to be sent to Russia for overhaul.

According to the minister, many countries had also moved towards obtaining fighter jets with multi-role combat capabilities.

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