TigerTalk  |  MARCH 18, 2015 11:30AM

Flying white elephants?

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tiger-talk-2zBetween the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) finally receiving its A400M planes from Airbus, as well as the news that there will be a replacement of an ailing governmental transport jet, Tiger gets the feeling that too many ringgit notes are taking flight.

When Tiger heard that the RMAF was going to finally receive their Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft, Tiger had only one thing to say…finally!

With the order having been made back in 2005, waiting 10 years for the delivery of the first aircraft seems a bit much.

Of course, Airbus came back and said that there were supplier issues, which led to the delay of aircraft delivery to any nation that had ordered the A400M, but 10 years is really a little too long, is it not?

But still, the RMAF has received their new toy, at an estimated cost of RM875 million per unit.

Of course, this includes training and logistics, but Tiger can’t help but have a nagging feeling that the RMAF got the short end of the stick in this particular deal. Then again, there is the argument that the logistics may be for the entire time the plane is owned, or remains in service to the RMAF.

There is a question that has to be raised once again, though. No, it is not the question of whether Malaysia needs it, considering it is better to be prepared and not need something than to need it and not have it, but rather, did Malaysia overpay for the four aircraft?

Flight supervisor leads Airbus A400M into position for ILA Berlin Air Show in SelchowAfter doing some research, Tiger managed to come up with some information connected to the A400M. France, as one of the countries involved in the development of the A400M had a unit cost of RM777.3 million, which covers production, as well as research costs.

So how is it that there remains a disparity of almost RM100 million between the purchase agreements of both of these countries?

Another interesting point is that South Africa had also made an order for eight of these aircraft in December 2004, and had even become an industrial partner of the Airbus Military team. The eight aircraft had a price tag of 837 million euros, which according to exchange rates at the time, totalled about RM4.27 billion.

That would place the price of each plane in the South African deal at about RM533.6 million.

However, this was also a discounted price, with the discount coming from industrial offsets noted as worth at least 400 million euros. In the end, South Africa had pulled out of the deal, and received a full refund, as the delivery had been met with constant problems and delays.

However, Tiger knows that maintenance for the engines of these planes, at the very least, will not be a problem, considering a deal has already been made with Global Turbine Sdn Bhd. The bumiputera company, today signed a support service agreement with Europrop International (EPI) for the maintenance of the TP400 engine used by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) A400M military transport aircraft.

The agreement, signed at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace 2015 (LIMA’15), did not disclose any figures.

At the price paid, Tiger hopes that the new planes will be put to good use, maybe in the volatile situation over in Sabah?

Tiger knows for a fact that the new planes have almost double the capacity of the Hercules aircraft the RMAF has right now, so does that mean more reinforcements for the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) making their way to Sabah? Tiger hopes so.

Speaking of new planes, Tiger heard that someone else was getting a new toy to play with. A decision had been made to replace one of the “ailing” planes in the governmental transport inventory.

malaysia govertment airplanes aircraft aeroplanes jetsAccording to some “friends”, the Boeing 737-700 BBJ (big business jet, not what those minds in the gutter are thinking), will be sold to make room for a new Airbus A320. The decision was based on the point that the Boeing was old and had a high maintenance cost due to its age, and would be sold to “avoid waste”.

Of course, these reasons are all well and good, but when paired beside the reasons the Airbus is being purchased, well, Tiger just thinks that the humour is apparent.

The first reason listed by these “friends” was that this is the first aircraft change since Najib Abdul Razak took up the post of prime minister six years ago.

The other reasons listed were actually quite reasonable, with the plane to be used by not only the prime minister, but also by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, as well as, according to the infographic, the sultans. The plane was also said to be safer, as well as having a lower maintenance cost due to the plane being new.

Putting aside the obvious humour as well as the arguments, some of which are sound, Tiger has but this one question about this decision: Is now really the best time?

Malaysia is looking at a scenario of increased debt, while the price of oil remains low, hurting the economy while the ringgit weakens against other currencies.

At the same time, the rakyat are entering a state of continued confusion due to the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), which, despite its imminence, is still being debated by some quarters. Is now really the time to buy a new plane?

With LIMA’15 exhibition going on and all these planes roaring about, Tiger is rather thankful that the place Tiger calls home is not on Langkawi Island.

Tiger rather enjoys the peace and quiet, and would really rather not have to listen to those metal birds tearing up the sky.



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