Govt may buy Batch 2 Lekiu Frigates under 10th plan

LANGKAWI: The Government may buy Batch 2 Lekiu Frigates under the 10th Malaysia Plan after the earlier work done by BAE Systems for the project was suspended.

In July 2006, BAE Systems, a UK-based global defence, security and aerospace company, received a letter of intent from the Malaysian Government to procure two new frigates to be based on the Lekiu design.

However, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, announced deferment of the project due to the global economic crisis.

BAE Systems Group Business Development Director Alan Garwood said the company was keen to participate in the project and had conveyed its interest in a meeting here with Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Royal Malaysian Navy Chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar.

"We still want to build the frigates but with the combination of the economic crisis and substantial escalation in supplier prices, we mutually agreed with the Defence Ministry over a year ago to suspend the project.

"We have to re-confirm with the Malaysian Navy on their current needs as it has been over a year since we stopped working on the old proposal.

"The old agreement has lapsed, we have to talk again with the Malaysian Government on what they want for the future.

"Then, we can submit the new proposal," Garwood told BERNAMA and RTM in an interview on the sidelines of the 10th Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Exhibition 2009.

Dr Ahmad Zahid had said earlier Batch 2 Lekiu Frigate project was not cancelled but declined to say when the project would re-start and the time-table for the project completion.

It is reliably learnt funding for the project would come from the 10th Malaysia Plan budget.

It is uncertain whether BAE Systems will still be the main choice for the project or a fresh tender will be called.

At the initial meeting with Government officials here, Garwood said the Government wanted one ship to be built in Langkawi and the other in the United Kingdom where local talents could be sent there to learn new technologies used by BAE Systems.

The Batch 2 frigates are reportedly slightly bigger than "KD Jebat" and "KD Lekiu", the Malaysian Navy's largest surface combatants and are to be armed with new anti-air missile system.

Admiral Abdul Aziz said BAE Systems should submit a fresh proposal for the project as the navy needed more vessels to bolster current fleet capacity and operations.

"We are looking for cost-effective vessels, It can be in any form, not just Frigate Batch 2, as long as there is a platform for us to operate," he said when asked on the second batch frigate project.

The first batch 2,300-tonne frigates are armed with Exocet MM40 II SSM and Sea Wolf VLS point defence SAM systems and one Westland Super Lynx helicopter. - Bernama

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