March 21, 2015 By Nigel Pittaway – Defense News
LANGKAWI, Malaysia — Speaking on the eve of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) show, Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein had bad news for the world's fighter manufacturers who are lining up to sell their product to replace the country's MiG-29Ns.
The country's defense focus, he said, is on local threats, including those from the Islamic State group.
"We need to look at what we see as the threats. What you see is the story unfolding in Syria and Iraq and which fighter is not there at the moment? You've got the Super Hornets, you've got the Typhoons and yet it is still unfolding before our very eyes," he said.
"And secondly, the threat from IS is different from our traditional terrorist threats that we have faced in the past, [which] don't compare with the threats that we're facing from IS."
Malaysia's MiG-29 replacement program has been stalled for some time and the latest focus on terrorist threats has meant a lower profile for many of the fighter manufacturers at LIMA 2015.
Speaking aboard the Royal Malaysian Navy warship Jebat on March 16, Hishammuddin said that any future defense acquisition will be based on the possible threats Southeast Asian countries will have to face.
The Malaysian government is already responding to the 2013 militant incursion in Sabah, on the island of Borneo, by transferring some of its Sikorsky S-61A Nuri helicopters to the Army and arming them with 7.62mm door guns. More importantly, it has begun fitting Army AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopters with a 7.62mm M134 gatling gun.
"So whatever acquisitions we make in the future will depend very much on threats, the perceived threats and the real threats, that we have to face," Hishamduddin said. "I believe that it is important for us to think outside the box, it is important for us to work in tandem with the other neighboring countries that we have in this region, because there are common enemies."
"IS is a threat to all of us, and today all 10 [Southeast Asian] nations have stated categorically our fight is against IS.
"You will see the gatling gun that we have fitted on our A109s and maybe the threat that we face just requires a gatling gun."
Dassault was the only manufacturer to fly its aircraft, with a French Air Force Rafale performing daily and also providing a series of demonstration flights for Malaysian officials.
Philip Dunne, UK minister for defense equipment, support and technology, was also at LIMA and provided insight into the campaign for the Eurofighter Typhoon in Malaysia.
"At the moment we are responding to requests from the [Malaysian] Ministry of Defence. We think we have got a competitive proposal," he said on March 17.
"We are aware the Malaysian government will be entering into its next five-year plan shortly and we are hopeful there will be a line [of funding] in that plan for the MRCA, which will allow them to proceed, but it's up to the Malaysian government to make that decision."
Malaysia is converting disused oil rigs into offshore military platforms and the first will be towed into position off Sabah next month.
Hishammuddin said that the platforms will be used as a base for patrol boats, helicopters and UAVs to reduce response times to a future threat. He also revealed that Malaysia is also looking at converting oil tankers into offshore bases.