Malaysia signed a deal with Airbus SAS' military division Thursday to buy four A400M transport planes worth 2.8 billion ringgit (US$740 million; Ђ628 million). Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who witnessed the signing of the purchase agreement at an air show on northern Malaysia's Langkawi island, said the aircraft would replace part of the armed force's aging fleet of C130 Hercules freight planes.
Airbus Military, a subsidiary of the Toulouse, France-based Airbus, will deliver two of the new planes in 2013 and the rest the following year, national news agency Bernama quoted Najib as saying. "The government decided to purchase the aircraft, as we need aircraft with the latest technology and with high capability to replace the C130," he was quoted as saying. He said that under the deal, Malaysian manufacturing company Composites Technology Research Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. will receive contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) to take part in the development of the A400M. "The procurement must be seen as a package, not only to fulfill the armed forces' needs but also as an effort to expand the nation's aerospace industry," Najib said in the Bernama report.
Airbus Military has orders from the government of countries including Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa and Turkey, with deliveries for the A400Ms scheduled to begin in 2009. Najib had earlier said Malaysia would also consider buying attack helicopters to bolster its army's capabilities, but is in no hurry to do so. The army's air wing will look at possibly buying more new assets after it soon takes delivery of 11 European-made surveillance helicopters, Najib said Wednesday evening. The air wing, which was formed in 2003, is expected later this week to receive a batch of A109M light utility helicopters from the European company Agusta Westland, a joint venture of Italian and British companies. Malaysia's navy already has several Super Lynx 300 assault helicopters, reports the AP. N.U.