KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia
(AP) - Malaysia's air force received two Russian-made fighter planes Thursday, hailing them as a boost to its ability to deter any military threats.
The planes are the first of 18 Sukhoi-20MKM jets Malaysia ordered in 2003 in a US$900 million deal
. Officials have said the purchase will make Malaysia
one of Asia's largest operators of the high-tech jet after India and Vietnam. Royal Malaysian Air Force Chief Azizan Ariffin signed a certificate of receipt for the two planes Thursday in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, where he met with representatives of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport and jet manufacturer Irkut, national news agency Bernama reported.
"This gives us the power of deterrence against any party that might think of disturbing Malaysia's sovereignty and security,"
Azizan was quoted as telling Malaysian journalists after witnessing a 10-minute acrobatic display of the aircraft's' capabilities.
The two jets will be delivered to Malaysia next month, while the remaining 16 will be sent in stages over the next 12 months,
Moscow has agreed to allow Malaysia
's purchase to partly offset a US$25 million (euro20 million) space program in which Russian officials are training Malaysia
's first astronaut to join a Russian scientific mission on the International Space Station in October.
However, the purchase has also stirred political controversy after opposition leaders recently claimed that hefty commissions were paid to middlemen. Malaysia
's defense ministry has rejected the allegations.