The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has taken delivery of the first of three CN-235 military transport aircraft that are being converted to a maritime patrol platform by the US Navy.
The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) said it delivered the first airframe after just three-and-a-half years after the US signed a letter of offer and acceptance for the project.
The undertaking to integrate an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) upgrade into the aircraft was carried out by the RMAF in cooperation with the Naval Air Systems Command’s Security Cooperation Office and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) AIRWorks.
The upgrade includes a maritime surveillance mission suite, maritime surveillance radar, an electro-optical infrared turret, line-of-sight datalink and a roll-on/roll-off mission system operator station. Compatible mobile and fixed ground stations are also being delivered to increase the Malaysia’s ISR capability.
According to the navy, the first CN-235 was flown to Indonesia for completion and testing in September 2020, while the first flight took place in October 2021. The navy said work on the two remaining CN-235 aircraft and multiple ground stations is expected to be completed in 2022.
The effort was facilitated by the US Navy’s Building Partner Capacity program, aligned with the US 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.
“Building Partner Capacity programs represent the highest level of return on engagement to the United States,” said Ron Weinberger, director, Security Cooperation Office at the Naval Air Systems Command. “The Malaysian CN-235 program will be a significant force multiplier to an indigenous Malaysian ISR capability and will directly support joint Malaysian and US efforts to ensure global security in the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.”
The CN-235 is a medium-range twin-engine transport aircraft originally manufactured by Indonesian aerospace company Perseroan Terbatas Dirgantara Indonesia and Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA of Spain. Malaysia operates a total of seven of CN-235s.