Boeing pins hopes on Malaysia order for boost to F/A-18 fighter jet

Wed Mar 18, 2015 4:51am EDT
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By Praveen Menon

LANGKAWI, Malaysia (Reuters) - U.S plane manufacturer Boeing (BA.N: Quote), in talks with Malaysia for the sale of 18 F/A-18 fighter jets, is pinning its hopes on an order to give a boost to the struggling product, executives of the planemaker said on Wednesday.

The F/A-18 model, French firm Dassault's (AVMD.PA: Quote) Rafale, Swedish manufacturer Saab's SAABb.ST Gripen, and European consortium Eurofighter’s Typhoon are all being assessed by the Southeast Asian nation to replace it aging fleet of Russian MiG-29 fighters jets.

While the purchase was earlier expected by Malaysia to be completed this year, the country's recent fiscal troubles due to plunging oil and commodities prices means likely delays in placing the order, aviation executives have said.

"Given the current economic situation, we would not be surprised to see the acquisition delayed a bit more. But we remain in an active dialogue with the customer," Howard Berry, Boeing's vice president for F/A-18 international sales, told Reuters on the sidelines of an aviation conference in Langkawi.

Last month, Dassault Aviation said that it is in talks to supply 16 of the multi-role combat jets to Malaysia.

Malaysia's Air Force Chief General Roslan bin Saad said all options were being considered for replacing the MiG29s.

"When fighter jets come to a certain number of years, it's normal to look for options. We are talking about whether we should continue with these (MiG29) jets or not. Nothing is final yet," he said, adding that "affordability" was a key consideration.

A recent slump in oil prices has led to a depreciation of the Malaysian currency and weakened the economy of the net oil exporting nation.   Continued...

An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) after conducting strike missions against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State, targets, in the Gulf, September 23, 2014, in this handout picture courtesy of the U.S. Navy. REUTERS/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Stephens/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters