PARIS — French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has formally pitched the Dassault Rafale in Malaysia's tender for fighter jets, the Defense Ministry spokesman said.

"France has submitted an offer of the Rafale, marking the start of official discussions on this subject between France and Malaysia," spokesman Pierre Bayle told journalists Thursday, Sept. 3, referring to remarks by Le Drian and his Malaysian counterpart, Hishammuddin Hussein, at a joint news conference in Kuala Lumpur. 

Le Drian, with a high-level political and industrial team, landed Sept. 1 in Malaysia Tuesday and visited the Sudang airbase where Malaysia’s first Airbus A400M transport aircraft is stationed. The two ministers underlined at the news conference their strategic partnership and the strengthening of bilateral cooperation in maritime security, anti-terrorism and anti-piracy.

The Rafale competes with the  Boeing F/A-18, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon as Malaysia seeks 18 new fighters to replace its MiG-29s. Kuala Lumpur is unlikely to make a pick before 2018 as the Asian nation has been hit by a fall in the price of oil and commodities.