Malaysia Taps Leonardo, TAI to Meet Manned and Unmanned Maritime Patrol Requirements

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed on October 9 that the government had selected the Leonardo ATR 72 and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) Anka to meet the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) requirements for manned and unmanned maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) platforms.

The announcement marks a first step in bringing to conclusion a long-running RMAF requirement previously outlined in the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020).

Currently, the RMAF utilizes two C-130H Hercules aircraft configured for the maritime patrol role, as well as four Raytheon (Beechcraft) King Air 200Ts fitted with the Thales Airborne Maritime Situation and Control System. In addition, two or three of its CN-235 transport aircraft recently completed conversion to the MPA role via funding provided by the U.S.-financed Maritime Security Initiative.

For a country situated in the heart of the strategic Strait of Malacca waterway and featuring a coastline of 2,905 miles, plus serving as one of six claimants to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, the need for increased maritime surveillance is acute. The current RMAF requirement dates back years and, due to economic and fiscal pressures, plus two changes in government, had remained in abeyance since first given the green light by Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein back in September 2017.

The competing tenders for the manned and unmanned MPA type were issued separately, with full tender documents made available on September 3, 2020. The Malaysian government sent notice of the emerging competitions to select embassies and through its online tender portal.

The requirement for the manned MPA platform involved four units – later trimmed to two – that would enable activation of one MPA squadron under the Capability 55 (CAP55) Plan. On the unmanned side, the requirement calls for three medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to supplement the manned platforms.

Both the Leonardo ATR 72 MPA and Anka MALE unmanned aerial system (UAS) will be purchased via funding from the government’s five-year spending plan rather than directly out of the defense budget.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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