US Delivers three Converted CN-235 Aircraft to Malaysia

US Delivers three Converted CN-235 Aircraft to Malaysia

United States has completed the handover of three converted CN-235 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). This milestone was commemorated on June 27 at Subang Air Force Base, with U.S. Ambassador Edgard D. Kagan and General Asghar Khan, Chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, presiding over the ceremony.

The conversion program, initiated in 2018 at a total cost of approximately $60 million USD, is part of the Maritime Security Initiative and represents the first major U.S. security grant program in Malaysia. This project holds strategic importance as it enhances Malaysian maritime domain awareness, increases security within Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and strengthens US Malaysia security cooperation.

US Delivers three Converted CN-235 Aircraft to Malaysia

The CN-235, a medium range twin-engine transport aircraft originally manufactured by Indonesian and Spanish companies, has undergone significant upgrades. These include the installation of maritime surveillance radars, electro-optical infrared turrets, beyond line-of-sight communications, and roll-on/roll-off system operator stations.

Also read this: Pakistan’s JF-17 Aircraft A New Chapter in Nuclear Deterrence

The project timeline saw the aircraft flown to Indonesia for completion and testing in September 2020, with the first flight of a converted aircraft taking place in October 2021. The remaining two aircraft and ground stations were completed in 2022.

Operationally, these converted aircraft are now attached to Squadron 1 at Kuching Airbase in Sarawak. Compatible mobile and fixed ground stations have also been delivered as part of the package, further enhancing the RMAF’s ISR capabilities.

The project is a testament to the robust US Malaysia security cooperation. Malaysia conducts 11 bilateral and 5 multilateral defense exercises with the United States, the largest exercise program Malaysia has with any country.

US Delivers three Converted CN-235 Aircraft to Malaysia

This relationship is further underscored by over $240 million in total U.S. security assistance provided between 2019 and 2023. These efforts align with the strategic goal of supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific, enhancing Malaysian defense readiness, and strengthening multinational relationships.

The implementation of this project was facilitated by the US Navy’s Building Partner Capacity program, with NAWCAD AIRWorks handling the ISR upgrade integration. Notably, the project team successfully navigated challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions during the aircraft transfer and testing phases.

The strategic impact of this program is significant. It serves as a force multiplier, dramatically enhancing Malaysia’s indigenous ISR capability. Moreover, it directly supports joint Malaysian and US efforts in the Indo Pacific Command area, representing a high-level return on engagement for the United States.

This project exemplifies the strong defense partnership between the United States and Malaysia. By enhancing Malaysia’s maritime surveillance capabilities, it contributes to regional stability and security in the strategically important Indo Pacific region. The successful completion of this program, despite challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrates the commitment of both nations to their security cooperation.

The converted CN-235 MSAs provide Malaysia with advanced tools for monitoring its vast maritime territories, crucial for addressing issues such as piracy, illegal fishing, and other maritime security challenges.

This capability upgrade aligns with broader U.S. strategies to support partner nations in the Indo-Pacific, ensuring they have the means to protect their sovereignty and contribute to regional security.

As these aircraft enter service with the RMAF, they are expected to play a vital role in enhancing Malaysia’s situational awareness in its maritime domain, thereby contributing to the overall security architecture of Southeast Asia.

The success of this program may serve as a model for future security cooperation initiatives in the region, further solidifying the United States’ role as a key partner in enhancing the defense capabilities of its allies in the Indo-Pacific.

Keep connected with us at FacebookTwitterYouTubeInstagram & TikTok for latest defense happening around the globe.

© International Defence Analysis | All Rights Reserved