Air Platforms

Malaysia considers mix of manned, unmanned aircraft for maritime surveillance requirements

12 August 2018

Leonardo’s ATR 72MP, seen here at LIMA 2017 in Langkawi. It is one of several aircraft types being considered for Malaysia’s maritime patrol requirements. Source: IHS Markit/Ridzwan Rahmat

Key Points

  • The Malaysian government is studying further options for the country’s maritime surveillance requirements
  • Country will likely operate a combination of manned and unmanned systems to fulfil the role

The Malaysian government is considering a mix of both manned, and unmanned aerial platforms to fulfil the country’s maritime patrol requirements.

In his response to a question from the member of parliament for Mersing, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu assured that the new administration, which came to power in May 2018, will honour plans made under the previous government. These include a programme to equip the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) with new maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).

However, the government is now making cost comparisons between manned, and unmanned aircraft, and may eventually decide on a combination of both types to fulfil the country’s maritime surveillance requirements. The minister did not give details on the types of equipment being compared.

“When we went to Farnborough, we were offered a variety of new technologies, but we will have to compare these with the types of expertise we have in Malaysia to see which will give better value,” said Mohamad Sabu, in a 9 August transcript of parliamentary proceedings retrieved from the Malaysian Hansard.

“We need [manned] surveillance aircraft and UAVs. A combination of both systems is important, especially with regards to the surveillance of the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca,” he reiterated, emphasising that the latter is a particularly important channel of commerce for the country.

In December 2017, the RMAF’s Head of Staff for Air Region 1 Headquarters, Brigadier General Yazid bin Arshad, disclosed that the service has shortlisted a list of four aircraft types for its MPA requirements. These include the Airbus CN205, and the ATR 72MP from Leonardo.

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