Malaysian Defense Ministry Plans to Add MPA, MALE UAV Capability Post-2020

Malaysia’s Defense Ministry plans to procure two maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs) and three medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during the upcoming five-year government spending period referred to as the 12th Malaysia Plan (RMK12).  This period will run from 2021 through 2025.

The new Maritime Patrol Aircraft capability is a long-standing goal the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), with a new platform outlined under the service’s “Capability 55” (CAP55) future force structure program.  The RMAF requirement calls for a total acquisition of four MPAs, enough to stand up one squadron.  But it appears that with economic and budgetary pressures continuing to restrict capitalization ambitions, the full lot will need to be split into separate batch purchases of two apiece with the remainder coming under the next spending plan, which begins in 2026.

The RMAF set up a technical team to evaluate several types in 2018.  Potential options going forward include the Airbus C-295, the ATR 72 from Italy’s Leonardo, Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon, the Kawasaki P-1, and the CN-235 from Indonesian Aerospace.

As for the MALE UAVs, the RMAF again has a larger requirement than what is outlined for the 12th Malaysia Plan, with six drones being the long-term goal but only three being sought from 2021-2025.  Options for the three-UAV goal during the upcoming investment period include the Wing Loong II from China’s AVIC, General Atomics’ MQ-9 Guardian, Turkish Aerospace’s Anka, and the Falco from Leonardo.

Additional help in the area of maritime surveillance and reconnaissance capability will be forthcoming in the form of 12 ScanEagle drones provided to Malaysia by the U.S. under its Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) program.  The first batch of six ScanEagles is due for delivery in November, with the remainder arriving through 2022.

Leonardo ATR-72. Image – Leonardo

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is Forecast International’s director of military and defense markets. In this role, Dan oversees a team of analysts tasked with covering everything from budgeting to weapons systems to defense electronics and military aerospace. Additionally, for over 17 years Dan has, at various times, authored the International Military Markets reports for Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. Dan's work has been cited in Defense News, Real Clear Defense, Asian Military Review, Al Jazeera, and Financial Express, among others, and he has also contributed commentary to The Diplomat, The National Interest and World Politics Review. He has been quoted in Arabian Business, the Financial Times, Flight International, The New York Times, Bloomberg and National Defense Magazine. In addition, Dan has made guest appearances on the online radio show Midrats and on The Media Line, as well as The Red Line Podcast, plus media appearances on France 24 and World Is One News (WION).

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