Saab is the only manufacturer in the world that has leased its fighter aircraft to other countries and other manufacturers, said Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific consultant, aerospace and defense, Ravikumar Madavaram.
“Malaysia must make a viable decision and prepare itself before leasing from a company that does not have any leasing experience and must be prepared for any eventuality when leasing fighters from other countries,” he said.
While this may present a hurdle, its unit Saab International Malaysia Sdn Bhd, which is linked to Malaysia’s business tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al- Bukhary, is confident that the decision will side the Gripen.
Its MD Thomas Linden said Saab is banking on the Gripen aircraft’s affordability and cost-efficiency that is suitable for moderate defense spenders like Malaysia.
Analysts said Saab has offered to lease up to 24 Gripen combat aircraft together with two GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, similar to its deal with Thailand, with an option to buy when the RMAF has the allocation.
Saab was one of the first to submit a proposal for the programme. RMAF chief Tan Sri Rodzali Daud said it was looking to lease at least 18 Gripens from Saab and that the company’s experience with leasing to other countries provides an edge.
“The Gripens had been leased to European air forces, so there is nothing new about such a deal as the aircraft also meets all of our MRCA requirements although I admit it is short on gas and range due to its small size,” he had said.
Frost & Sullivan’s Madavaram said leasing fighter aircraft is a new trend, with Czech Republic and Hungary being the only two countries in the world to have leased fighters, both opting for Saab’s Gripen.
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