24 March 2002 (Business Times)IT's confirmed. Malaysia is buying the PT-91 main battle tanks from Polandto boost its defence capabilities.
The announcement, made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad ata Press conference yesterday, means that this will be the country's firstreal combat tanks as currently it only has light Scorpion tanks in itsarmour.
"We have made up our minds already. We will buy the Polish tanks and nowit is up to the officials of both sides to work out the details of thepurchase," he said in response to the first question from the Polish mediaat the conference held at the end of his three-day official visit to therepublic.
The reply seemed to have pleased the Polish Press delegation which hadbeen seeking a firm answer from him throughout the visit.
The PT-91 tank is an upgraded version of the famed T-72, dubbed theRussian Tank, which has gained reputation as a mean machine.
The Prime Minister, accompanied by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib TunRazak, had spent about two hours watching a demonstration of the tank onThursday.
The tank has impressive mobility and is said to have a top speed of 60kmper hour, very fast for a 45-tonne chunk of steel. It also hasstate-of-the-art firepower with day and night vision capabilities.
Details of the purchase to be worked out include crucial elements like thecost and payment arrangements as well as how many of the tanks would beacquired and when.
Dr Mahathir said payments, for instance, could be made in kind through theexport of palm oil.
At the moment, however, Malaysia has decided to only settle for the mainbattle tanks and not other logistical support vehicles and like tankrecovery armoured vehicles and anti-aircraft support tanks.
Asked whether the decision was due to pressure from the Polish Press, DrMahathir said Malaysia had been evaluating military equipment from severalcountries already.
"So if we decide to buy, it is because we want to buy and not because ofany pressure from anybody," he added.
It is understood that one of the factors considered was the economicspin-offs expected to result from the purchase. Apart from a boost to palmoil exports, support industries are expected to on the cards to complementtank batteries to be established.
The Prime Minister was also asked to sum up his whirlwind tour of thenorth eastern part of Europe which had taken him to three countries -Russia, Germany and Poland - in less than two weeks.
"It has been a useful visit," Dr Mahathir said. "Useful contacts havedefinitely been established with the government and business sectors ofthe countries and I'm glad to say that we have been well received."