Amongst a slew of contracts signed at LIMA 2023 in Langkawi on 25 May, the Malaysian Ministry of Defence (MoD) inked deals for several important defence acquisitions.
The most lucrative signing went to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for a total of 18 FA-50 aircraft for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). However, the original contract had actually been signed in Kuala Lumpur on 24 February. The same deal has now been signed an additional two times ceremonially, which apparently provides good optics for the government.
This deal for lead-in fighter trainers/light combat aircraft is worth over $830 million (MYR3.84 billion). Sangshin Park, KAI’s regional manager & chief, International Business Development, Asia, said these are FA-50 Block 20 aircraft that include an aerial refuelling probe.
For obvious political reasons, Malaysian aircraft will not feature the normal Elta EL/M-2032 radar, but rather they will receive the PhantomStrike radar from Raytheon. This same radar will go on Polish FA-50s.
The next largest Malaysian MoD contract at LIMS 2023 went to Leonardo for a pair of ATR 72 MPA maritime patrol aircraft, associated logistics support and training for the RMAF. This contract was valued at $170 million ( MYR789 million).
Malaysia had selected the ATR 72 MPA in October 2022, after the MoD issued a tender in August 2020. However, the delivery timeframe for the two aircraft has not been disclosed. Malaysia classified this procurement as ‘Phase 1’, hinting that it will be seeking additional aircraft in years to come.
Giovanni Timossi, vice president Aircraft Marketing Asia and Oceania at Leonardo, pointed out one advantage of the ATR 72 MPA as being that Leonardo builds the airframe, sensors and mission system. This permits it to more easily integrate everything and to modify aircraft to meet client requirements.
The MPA variant is based on the commercial ATR 72-600 airframe, adding the modular Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance (ATOS) mission system; the Ultra-LIght SonicS Enhanced System (ULISSES) that comprises an acoustic sensor system to detect submarines; and an EO/IR turret. Malaysian aircraft will presumably carry a Seaspray 7300 V2 radar.
Another major acquisition signed on 25 May was for Anka-S medium-altitude long-endurance UAVs and two years of support for the RMAF. This contract with Turkish Aerospace was worth $91.6 million (MYR423.8 million), and it followed a letter of intent signed about seven months ago when the Anka-S was selected.
Bertan Kurt, vice president Corporate Marketing and Communications at Turkish Aerospace, told Asian Military Review that the deal covers three aircraft and a single ground control station. Malaysia has selected a radar that is not currently integrated onto the Anka, so delivery will take about two years to complete.
This procurement was also labelled ‘Phase 1’, so Kurt expected that under Phase 2 Malaysia might seek an even more capable UAV such as the twin-engine Aksungur.
A fourth contract covered the lease of a quartet of UH-60A+ Black Hawk helicopters for $40.4 million (MYR187 million). This deal on behalf of the Malaysian Army was awarded to Aerotree Defence and Services.
The MoD commented, “The aircraft [will] function as a platform to the nucleus team for the purpose of training and operational flight duty.”
Additionally, Thales received a letter of intent for a long-range air surveillance radar for the RMAF.
Other contracts signed on the occasion by Minister of Defence Mohamad Hasan were various spares and maintenance deals. In all, 43 MoD contracts and agreements cumulatively worth $2.19 billion (MYR10.128 billion) were signed at LIMA 2023.
by Gordon Arthur, Langkawi