KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Malaysia is reviewing a proposal from France to buy Rafale fighter jets but any decision would depend on how affordable the aircraft are, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Tuesday.
Malaysia, which wants to replace its fleet of Russian MiG-29 fighters, is said to be looking at the Rafale, Boeing’s F/A-18, Swedish firm Saab’s Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
French manufacturer Dassault Aviation, which builds the Rafale, is said to be in talks with Malaysia to supply 16 of the multi-role combat jets.
“It’s too soon to announce anything about it,” Hishammuddin told a joint news conference with French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in the Malaysian capital.
“It’s part and parcel of the industry and it’s a proposal we look at and I have been very transparent with the Malaysian public that it’s a question of affordability,” he added, when asked about Malaysia’s interest in the fighter jet.
A Malaysian decision had been expected this year, but aviation industry executives have warned that fiscal troubles stemming from lower prices for oil and commodities could lead to delays in placing the order.
Hishammuddin also said he had no discussions on Tuesday with his French counterpart on the procurement of Mistral helicopter carriers, which the French are trying to sell.
France last year suspended the sale of two Mistral warships to Russia, after coming under pressure from its Western allies over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
President Francois Hollande has said there were a number of potential buyers for the carriers. Countries said to be interested in the helicopter carrier included Malaysia, Brazil, Singapore, Canada and Egypt. (Reporting by Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah; Writing by Praveen Menon, Editing by Clarence Fernandez)