A Starstreak missile system is demonstrated by British soldiers at Blackheath in southeast London. Thales UK hopes to market the system to the Malaysian military. (Carl Court/Agence France-Presse)
KUALA LUMPUR — With two Starstreak missile contract wins under its belt in the region recently, Thales UK is looking to extend its success by partnering with Global Komited to tackle an expected Malaysian requirement for very-short-range air defense weapons.
Thales used the opening day of the Defence Services Asia exhibition here to announce that the Belfast, Northern Ireland-arm of its British defense business had tied up with Weststar Group subsidiary Global Komited to market Starstreak to the Malaysian military.
Global showed a lightweight multiple missile launcher bolted on the back of a variant of Global’s GK-M1, a Humvee-like vehicle.
Thales has already inked deals in Thailand and most recently Indonesia to bolster very-short-range air defenses.
The Indonesian deal announced in January is valued at over £100 million (US $167.2 million) and includes radars, weapon coordination systems, the Rapid Ranger multi-missile turret and target tracking unit, and other equipment.
The British and South African armies also use the Mach 3 weapon for point defense against threats like helicopters, UAVs and cruise missiles.
The Malaysian tie-up with Global covers vehicle modification and design, and through-life support for a simple lightweight multiple launcher application and could extend to more sophisticated weapons like the Rapid Ranger, said Thales UK regional sales director Ian Fuller.
The British executive said there had been a renaissance in market demand for very-short-range weapons recently.
“I have never known as much interest in Starstreak in the four years I have worked for Thales, both here in southeast Asia and elsewhere in the world,” said Fuller.
That mood was reflected elsewhere at the DSA exhibition, most notably on the Saab stand where the Swedish company’s RBS-70 very-short-range missile figured prominently.
“Prospects are looking good and it looks like a pretty exciting future for air defense in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region,” said Geoff van Hees, Saab’s director of marketing and sales in the Asia Pacific region.
Thales supplied Malaysia with the earlier generation Starburst very-short-range air defense weapon but that effectively went out of service in 2010 and has never been replaced, although the International Institute of Strategic Studies annual Military Balance records Chinese and Russian man-portable weapons as still being in the inventory.
That diminished capability may be about to change as Malaysia looks to renew its short- and very-short- range air defense capabilities.
The Malaysians operate the MBDA Jernas system to provide short-range air defense and that too is up for replacement.
Yet nobody here is sure what sort of priority the programs have at a time when procurement projects are stacking up and funding is limited.
“Anybody who tells you they know whats going on in this sector is probably talking through their hat,” said one executive.
A Malaysian military project team is already looking at the requirements for a Jernas replacement but realistically, inclusion in the next five-year defense spending plan starting 2016 is the best industry can hope for, said several executives.
That likely applies to the very-short-range requirement as well, they said.
Saab with the RBS-70, the Russian Igla-S, Raytheon’s Stinger and others are likely to respond to any upcoming requirement.
Several of these companies responded to a Malaysian Navy request for proposals to supply a small number of weapons but that scheme fell apart in 2012 due to budget limitations, said the executives.