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US approves possible Sniper targeting pod sale to Malaysia

It is possible that Malaysia will acquire the latest version of the Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 Sniper airborne targeting pod, with the capability improvements as detailed in this 2021 Lockheed Martin infographic. (Lockheed Martin)

The US Department of State has approved a possible sale of Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATPs) for the Royal Malaysian Air Force's (RMAF's) Boeing F/A-18D fleet.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 7 May that 10 AN/AAQ-33 airborne targeting pods had been approved for sale, following a request from the Malaysian government. The proposed sale package, which includes technical data and publications, personnel training, software and training equipment, and related elements of logistics and programme support, has an estimated value of USD80 million.

“The proposed sale will improve Malaysia's capability to meet current and future threats by modernising its current F/A-18D platform with a common targeting pod,” the DSCA said.

“This proposed sale will also mitigate future obsolescence concerns and allow the [RMAF] to meet future operational requirements. Malaysia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces,” DSCA added.

According to Janes inventory data, the RMAF operates eight F/A-18D Hornets. The fleet has been in service since 1997. Together with 18 Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKMs, the Hornets comprise the RMAF's primary combat platforms.

Arming the F/A-18Ds with the Sniper ATP will almost certainly provide the RMAF with a substantial capability enhancement. According to Lockheed Martin, the AN/AAQ-33 supports “precision targeting and non-traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in air-to-ground, maritime, and air-to-air environments”.

The pod will allow flight crews to identify and destroy targets outside of threat ranges, according to Lockheed Martin.

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