LANGKAWI: Malaysia's ageing combat aircraft are still functioning well and can be used for several more years, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday (Mar 26).
Speaking during a press conference at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, Dr Mahathir said although the jets were purchased a long time ago, their performance was still at the optimum level as they were maintained well.
"Yes, we are interested (in buying new combat aircraft) but it is not time yet. We find the aircraft we bought some time back still can perform well," he said, when asked if Malaysia plans to replace its ageing fleet.
"We could see this today, the demonstration which involved all these old aircraft, they have been looked after and serviced well and we find, based on their performance, they can last longer."
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Last July, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu revealed that only four of the 28 Russian-made fighter jets owned by the Royal Malaysian Air Force were able to fly.
A month later, the minister said in Parliament that Malaysia’s defence assets were the "lowest ranked" in Southeast Asia.
“In terms of our navy, air force and others in Southeast Asia, we are at the bottom. Vietnam is far ahead, Indonesia is on top while Malaysia is the lowest," Mr Mohamad then said.
Over the weekend, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia may retaliate against an European Union (EU) plan to curb palm oil use by purchasing new fighter jets from China instead of European arms companies.
Malaysia is the world's second largest palm oil producer after neighbouring Indonesia, and recently threatened to challenge at the World Trade Organisation the bloc's plan to phase out its use in biofuels.
However, the prime minister noted that he was not "declaring war" on the EU as his country needed goods from the bloc, many members of which are among Malaysia's top trading partners.