KUALA LUMPUR: Despite being more than 20 years old, the Hawk 108 fighter jets operated by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) are still serviceable, said Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
He said it was not appropriate to use the unfortunate crash yesterday to downplay the capability of the aircraft.
“I have been told by RMAF that they are still satisfied with the plane. Not only that, many other countries also still operate similar aircraft.
“We should not let a single incident like this to adversely affect opinions of the plane’s performance, credibility and capability,” he said at a media conference at the defence ministry here.
The British-made Hawk 108 went into service with RMAF in 1996 and, since then, there have been five air accidents involving the planes.
The aircraft is used for advance pilot training and as a light attack plane as well as in a close air support role.
Hishammuddin said the ministry planned to enhance and build up the Hawk squadron and several other assets.
He did not reject the possibility of buying more Hawk fighters from Saudi Arabia which has a squadron of BAE Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft operated by the Royal Saudi Air Force.
“InsyaAllah, I am in the midst of talks with several parties. Yesterday’s incident has not affected our assets adversely.
“We still have other assets, such as assets for training, helicopters. We are also thinking of transforming our assets at sea and in the air,” he added.
Two pilots of the RMAF were killed yesterday when the Hawk 108 they were flying crashed and their emergency parachutes malfunctioned.
RMAF chief Jeneral Affendi Buang said the bodies were recovered from a mangrove swamp in Chukai, Terengganu, but the wreckage of the plane had not been found yet.
The previous air accident involving an RMAF plane occurred last year when a Beechcraft King Air 200T crashed at the air force base in Penang, killing its pilot.