By Zulkifli Abdul Rahman and Embun Majid
LANGKAWI - Malaysia's intention to sell the Royal Malaysian Air Force's MiG-29 fighter jets has attracted the interest of two parties.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said 10 would be sold by June 2010 while the remaining six jets would be sold by the end of next year.
"The interested buyers had agreed to buy the Russian-made aircraft lock, stock and barrel," Zahid said.
He said the sale would depend on the requirements stated in the sale and purchase agreement signed between the Malaysian and Russian governments and the United Nations security council regulations, which denies sales of military assets to countries deemed as a threat to international security.
However, Zahid declined to reveal the identities of the interested parties. "The replacement aircraft that Malaysia needs will be in the form of a multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA)," he said.
"The Malaysian government will advertise tenders by invitation to the suppliers and the competing bidders will be finalised to five countries.
"We are also looking at a deal that will give us benefits arising from the plane's capabilities, its price, and the seller's offer to offset transfer programmes and training for Malaysians," he told reporters after visiting the exhibition booths at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (Lima) 2009 show here yesterday.
To a question, Zahid said the MiG-29 could still be used for the next 20 years.
However, he said the sale would help reduce maintenance costs that amounted to RM262mil annually.
"We are not keeping one in a museum for posterity," he added.
Zahid had told Parliament in October that Malaysia had bought the MiG-29s at a relatively low price in 1993.
The jet was considered the most capable and versatile fighter aircraft at the time.
But the RMAF had to contend with higher expenses in spare parts replacement and maintenance work.
Two MiGs had crashed in 1998 and 2005.
-The Star/Asia News Network