KUALA LUMPUR: The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) MiG-29 fighter jets will be gradually phased out and replaced by new interceptor aircraft by Dec 31 2010 due to rising operational and maintenance costs, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.
He said replacement aircraft was needed due to increasing maintenence costs and that the MiG-29s were nearing their lifespan limit of 10 years. Two such aircraft had also crashed in 1998 and 2005.
Zahid said only 10 MiG-29s will be used for airspace defence and this will be reduced to six aircraft until December next year.
“The Government will save RM260mil per year in maintenance costs and these savings will be used to maintain other types of aircraft in the RMAF inventory,” he told Datuk Abd Rahman Dahlan (BN-Kota Belud).
Abd Rahman also asked why Malaysia had bought the MiG-29s.
“Malaysia bought the MiG-29s at a relatively low price, but later on the RMAF had to contend with higher expenses in spare parts replacement and maintenence work,” he added.
Zahid replied that when Malaysia bought 18 MiG-29 aircraft in 1993, the jet was considered the most capable and versatile fighter aircraft that could be obtained at the time.
He also said that each MiG-29 needed to undergo preventive and restoration work which cost RM10mil and RM7mil for engine overhaul every year after it completes a flight time of between 1,000 hours and 4,000 hours.
“The MiG-29s will be replaced by 18 Russian-made Sukhoi SU30MKM fighter jets which the Government had just acquired,” he added.
Later, at the Parliament lobby, Zahid the cost to maintain the MiGs was too high because the jets also needed to be sent to Russia for overhaul work.
Zahid said many countries have also moved towards obtaining fighter jets with multi-role combat capabilities.
“We are assessing whether to get the new jets from the United States, France, Sweden or Britain. The purchase will also depend on the country’s economic recovery,” he added.