France dangled Tuesday the possibility of manufacturing its Rafale fighter plane in Malaysia if the latter selected the aircraft as its new combat jet.
“We are considering an assembly line in Malaysia,” said Eric Trappier, Chief Executive of the Rafale's builder Dassault Aviation, in a telephone interview from the Langkawi air show in northern Malaysia.
Malaysia is looking to buy 18 combat fighters to replace its ageing Russian Mig-29s, with the Eurofighter, Boeing's F-18 and Saab's Gripen also in the running.
The multi-role Rafale, which entered service in the French military in 2001, can carry out air-ground or air-sea attacks, reconnaissance, aerial interception or nuclear strike missions.
France is keen to make its first foreign sale of the Rafale, which has struggled to find buyers, to support a project that has cost tens of billions of Euros.
India has selected the Rafale, with most of the 126 fighter jets they plan to buy expected to be built there if the final contract is signed this year as hoped.
Malaysia is keen for its local companies to be involved in the manufacturing, and Trappier said that Dassault has spent considerable effort in lining up local suppliers should the Rafale be selected.
Dassault has already signed deals with Malaysian companies CTRM, Zetro Aerospace and Sapura, he noted.
Two Rafales are at the ongoing Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA; 26-30 March 2013) to provide demonstration flights.