LANGKAWI: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has downplayed the need to purchase new fighter jets to replace the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s ageing fleet of Russian-made aircraft.
At a press conference at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition 2019 (Lima ’19), Mahathir said Malaysia was interested in new fighter jets though not to the point of purchasing any.
“We find the old jets can still perform well and we can see this morning in the demonstrations, which involved the old jets which have been serviced well, their performance shows they can still be used.”
Mahathir said he was very impressed by the aerial displays and fighter jets during the Lima ’19 exhibition, jokingly adding: “If we had money we would buy a few hundred of them, we have to wait sometime for that kind of money.”
The RMAF has 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKM and 10 MiG-29 fighter jets which entered service in 1995. Reuters previously reported that the former administration had shelved plans to replace the MiG-29 fleet with new multi-role combat aircraft.
Asked about the exhibits from China at Lima ’19, Mahathir said the country’s exhibits were very attractive, including their planes and ground vehicles.
“China has made great progress and we are looking at their products.”
Over the weekend, Mahathir said Malaysia might buy fighter jets from China and other countries if the European Union (EU) continued with its plan to curb palm oil use, and that Chinese technology might be more advanced than that of European countries.
But Mahathir stressed there was no trade war between Malaysia and European countries and that he wanted to make known the problems Malaysia faced when European countries took action against the country.
“I told the world that it is grossly unfair for rich countries to prevent poor countries from getting richer by not buying their products. That was all, there is no trade war.”
Mahathir also spoke on investments into Malaysia, saying he had received many proposals for big investments in the country but these needed to be studied first.
He also revealed that he met several delegations today, led by ministers from France, Russia, and Japan, who had voiced their eagerness to work with Malaysia and possibly set up plants to manufacture aircraft components in the country.