December 24, 2009: Malaysia is investigating 40 people (civilians and members of their air force) for complicity in the theft of a General Electric J85-21A jet engine in 2007. Two of these engines power the six F-5 fighters used by the air force. Packed for shipping, the engine would be a box about eight feet long and weighing half a ton. At first, the engine was believed shipped out of the country, from a Malaysian air base, and sold into the black market. It was thought that the most likely customer would be Iran, which would probably pay a million dollars, or more, for it. Iran has been under arms embargos for decades, and is desperate to obtain spare parts. Iran has about sixty F-5 fighters, purchased in the 1970s. Iran has used the F-5 as the model for domestically designed and built aircraft. So they are definitely in the market for J85-21A engines.
But on further investigation it was found that the engine probably never left the country, but was instead taken apart, and the components sold to a South American broker, or back to the Malaysian Air Force. The government has promised to punish those responsible, but has not named names. Corruption is a common problem in the region, and stealing spare parts, or money allocated for equipment maintenance, is common.