KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s air force located on Friday the wreckage of a jet fighter that went missing during a training run, a day after the aircraft’s two pilots were found dead in a forested area.
An air force helicopter on a search and recovery mission found the British-made Hawk 108 in the Chukai district of the northeastern state of Terengganu, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) said.
“A safety perimeter has been set up for the purpose of investigation and security. The RMAF is in the midst of clearing the wreckage,” the statement read.
The bodies of the jet’s two pilots - Major Hasri Zahari and Major Yazmi Mohamed Yusof - were found with their parachutes unfurled in a swamp in Terengganu on Thursday, several hours after the air force lost contact with their plane.
This is the first fatal incident involving a Malaysian-owned Hawk 108 since 2003. The RMAF has ordered a temporary suspension of its Hawk 108 fleet pending an investigation.
Malaysia’s plans to upgrade its ageing fleet of fighter jets have been complicated by defence budget cuts, as Prime Minister Najib Razak grapples with growing public discontent over the rising cost of living.
French arms maker Dassault Aviation SA, which builds the Rafale fighter jet, is seen as a frontrunner to supply up to 18 new aircraft to Malaysia’s air force in a deal that could be worth more than $2 billion.
Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Robert Birsel