The Boeing Company has a distinct advantage over its competitors in offering its Super Hornet jet fighter deal to Malaysia as the aircraft represents an "extremely affordable" offering over the long-term.
"No aircraft in this competition will come close to the affordability that the Super Hornet brings," Howard M Berry, Boeing vice-president for F/A18E/F international sales, global strike, defense, space & security told Bernama.
"When you look at the total lifecycle cost, from acquisition to support for the aircraft throughout its lifetime, including training, logistics and eventually taking the aircraft out of service, the support typically takes up 70 per cent," he said.
He said that Boeing was aware that every nation, including Malaysia, faced challenges at the moment due to falling oil prices and weaker currencies. However, he expressed optimism that "in an ever changing world, oil prices will rebound."
"We have been discussing and working with the Malaysian government. We can do a lot of things financially and deal with any funding challenges it may have in the near term. "At the end of the day, it will obviously be a political decision and we have to see how that plays out," Berry said.
Boeing has been negotiating since 2002 on the Super Hornet deal with the Royal Malaysian Air Force, which currently operates eight earlier generation Classic Hornets, the F/A-18Ds.
"We are prepared to stay engaged. This is an important sale for us. We will do everything possible to facilitate the acquisition when the government is ready to move ahead," he said.
According to Berry, the version of the Super Hornet to be sold to Malaysia is called the Block II, which went into operation in 2007, and could easily integrate into current aircraft systems as Malaysia has already been flying the Super Hornet.
Also, the Super Hornet has only been flying for about seven to eight years, making it arguably the newest aircraft in service with the US military.
Berry said so far the aircraft has 1.4 million plus flight hours, thus it is a mature aircraft and operationally relevant. Berry said the benefit that RMAF would get is that the Super Hornet is of a low-risk design.
"When you buy from my competitors, their aircraft are relatively immature and have immature key systems, most notably the radar. They are still developing the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar," he added.
He said the Super Hornet is flying the most advanced AESA radar, the APG-79 by Raytheon, which is without doubt at the forefront of AESA technology and combat-proven. Berry also noted that the Super Hornet F/A-18E/Fs is extremely well suited for its roles.
However, he said that Malaysia has some issues to deal with, such as very long coastlines, Sabah's invasion, maritime patrol as well as air superiority challenges.
"To deal with, you need to have patrol capability. Super Hornet aircraft, for an example, brings the range, the persistent. It brings the two-seat cockpit and twin engines. Twin engines are key, any pilot who spends a lot of time over water will tell you that they like having twin engines.
"The F/A18F is certainly well suited for maritime operations. The two-seat cockpit is key (and) when you are out there over water, looking to exercise sea line control and maritime surveillance, having those second pair of eyes in the jet is important," he said.
At the Langkawi Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2001, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who was defence minister then, flew on the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter, making him the first defence minister to fly on the two-seater fighter jet piloted by Boeing chief test pilot Dave Desmond.
A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world's largest defence, space and security businesses specialising in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world's largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. (BERNAMA)