The government today sealed three pacts worth RM304.65 million to buy assault rifles and equipment in the first round of a defence shopping spree.
Defence ministry secretary-general Hashim Meon signed letters of acceptance with representatives of three companies on the sidelines of a major Asian defence services exhibition here.
Two contracts were to supply mobile military bridges, comprising a RM113.2 million deal with a joint-venture firm involving Britain's Vickers Bridging, and a RM106.9 million agreement with another firm involving France's Constructions Industrielles DE LA Mediterranee.
Under the third pact, Malaysia will buy RM84.5 million worth of Steyr assault rifles from local firm Syarikat Malaysian Explosive Ordnance.
The ministry also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a joint-venture firm involving Norway's Nammo group for the supply of ammunition and technology transfer.
Meon told reporters that the MOU was worth RM76.7 million. The government expects to take delivery of the orders by early next year, he said.
Industry sources said Malaysia, which has embarked on a major defence procurement programme as its economy picks up, would sign contracts with more Russian and British firms on Wednesday.
Tanks and submarines
Defence Minister Najib Razak said yesterday that Malaysia had revived its armed forces modernisation programme which was derailed by the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.
Najib has dismissed fears of a regional arms race, saying Malaysia's weapons procurement is not designed to attack perennial rival Singapore or any other country.
Malaysia has announced plans to buy tanks from Poland and is considering a deal to buy Russian Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jets. It also harbours ambitions to establish a submarine fleet.
French state-owned naval shipbuilding firm DCN International said at the Kuala Lumpur exhibition that it was still in talks to supply submarines to Malaysia.
DCN regional director Didi Arnaud said the company has proposed the transfer of an ex-French navy submarine, the Agosta 70, for initial training and two new Scorpene-class submarines at a later date.
"Nothing is decided yet, we are still discussing," he said.
In a recent report, Jane's Defence Weekly said the DCN deal was worth RM3.8 billion but that it hinged on the French government granting more landing slots for Malaysia Airlines in Paris.
Arnaud, however, said the airline issue was "totally disconnected" from the submarine deal.
DCN faces competition from German Turkish Submarine Corp and RDM Submarines of the Netherlands, the defence journal said.