Norway's Air Force F-16 fighters (R) and Italy's Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighters patrol over the Baltics during a NATO air policing mission. Photo: Reuters, Ints Kalnins

(From Reuters)

With an eye on China’s more muscular stance in the South China Sea, Southeast Asian governments are stepping up efforts to replace ageing fighter aircraft fleets, paving the way for multi-billion dollar deals in a boon for warplane makers.

Saab JAS 39C Gripen fighter jets from F17 Wing of the Swedish Air Force demonstrate a mid-air interception over Sweden

Despite tight budgets across the region, sales executives say they are busier than ever after a five-year lull — and both industry and government sources say the next months could see several multi-billion dollar deals from Malaysia to Vietnam.

A trade conference held in Kuala Lumpur this week was thronged with would-be buyers and salesmen from Russian, French, British, Chinese, Pakistani and American firms. Held every other year, the conference this year was busier than ever.

A prime draw card was one of the region’s biggest prizes: Malaysia, which is set to finally replace its Russian 1990s-era MiG-29 fighters after several years of delays. Industry sources say Kuala Lumpur could buy up to 18 jets, a deal potentially worth more than $2.5 billion.

Options include the Saab Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian Sukhoi Su-30, and the Sino-Pakistani JF-17. France is optimistic about winning an order for Dassault-built Rafales but other bidders are also hopeful. Read More

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