MELBOURNE, Australia — The U.S. Navy has delivered to Malaysia the first of three transport aircraft upgraded to perform maritime patrol missions using U.S. funding meant to help regional nations improve maritime security.
U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, known as NAVAIR, announced Wednesday the service transferred PTDI CN-235 to the Royal Malaysian Air Force nearly four years after the U.S. signed a letter of offer and acceptance for the project.
The aircraft was upgraded with an unspecified maritime surveillance mission suite. It also incorporates a maritime surveillance radar, electro-optical infrared turret, line-of-sight datalink and a roll-on/roll-off mission system operator station.
The Navy also delivered associated mobile and fixed ground stations.
“The effort was facilitated by the U.S. Navy’s Building Partner Capacity program, aligned with the U.S. government’s Maritime Security Initiative, which is intended to assist the Malaysian government in increasing maritime security and maritime domain awareness within the Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone,” NAVAIR said.
In September 2020, the first of the Indonesian-built CN-235s were flown to Indonesia for “completion and testing.” The first flight of the upgraded aircraft took place just over a year later. The two remaining CN-235 aircraft and multiple ground stations are expected to be completed later this year.
Malaysia currently operates seven CN-235s with the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s No.1 Squadron, based out of Kuching in the eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak.
The RMAF operates three Beechcraft B200T King Airs in a maritime surveillance role, while the U.S. government has also delivered six Insitu ScanEagle drones to the Royal Malaysian Navy donated under MSI funding.
The RMAF has also previously used its Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules transports and the CN-235 in the maritime surveillance role, but these lacked specialized equipment and relied on visual observations by personnel on board.
Malaysia is made up of two separate landmasses with coastlines along the strategic Strait of Malacca and South China Sea, and is also one of six claimants of ownership over the disputed Spratly group of islands.
The Malaysian military and coast guard has also had to deal with the issue of piracy along its coasts, and militancy and terrorism in the Sulu Sea that lies between eastern Malaysia and the southern Philippines.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.