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LANGKAWI, Malaysia (Reuters) – France’s Rafale fighter jet is emerging as the frontrunner as Malaysia looks to replace its aging fleet of combat aircraft, a source in the Southeast Asian nation’s defense ministry said on Wednesday, despite narrowing its defense spending this year.
French President Francois Hollande was expected to make a pitch for the Rafale, made by Dassault Aviation SA, when he and his team visit Malaysia next week, the source said.
Ministry - Leadership - Rafale - Source - Media
“The ministry’s top leadership have been promoting the Rafale,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak to media on the negotiations.
“It’s been done in promotional material for LIMA, and even at top government meetings,” the source said, referring to this week’s biennial Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition.
Malaysia - Jets - Deal - Source
Malaysia was looking to buy up to 18 jets in a deal potentially worth more than $2 billion, the source said.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was reported in media as saying that the race for new fighter jets has narrowed down to the Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon, built by BAE Systems.
Plan - Royal - Malaysian - Air - Force
The plan is to replace the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) squadron of Russian MiG-29 combat planes, nearly half of which are grounded.
Dassault, which declined comment when approached, has kept a low profile in the race. BAE has been on a consistent and public campaign over the past six years to win the Malaysia contract, even establishing a regional office in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Steve - Osborne - BAE - Sales - Director
Steve Osborne, BAE’s sales director for military air and information for the Asia Pacific region, said the Typhoon had a good chance of landing the deal as the company already supplied defense equipment to Malaysia.
“We believe this gives the government of Malaysia the confidence in us that they may go with...
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