Fairest of Them All

SHAH ALAM: Fairest of them all. Three UAVs competing for a RMAF requirement for a medium altitude, long endurance unmanned intelligence,surveillance, reconaissance and armed drone took part at the recent LIMA 19.

A US ANG MQ-9 Predator drone was the only real aircraft that took part in the show, the other two were just mockups.

The MQ-9 Predator displayed at LIMA 19. Zaq Sayuti.

The Predator is the representative of the MQ-9B Sea Guardian, the candidate of the General Atomics drone for the RMAF requirement.

MQ-9B Sea Guardian

It is likely the most capable especially when it comes to integration with the Malaysian civil aerospace requirements. But at the same time it is also likely the most expensive one in the competition with a reported price tag of US$20 million per drone. So for a three air frame Sea Guardian deal, it is likely to cost around US$100 million, inclusive of the cost of the ground station, training, spares and support.

TAI Anka mockup at LIMA 19. EL

The mock ups that were displayed at LIMA were the Turkish Aerospace Anka and the AVIC Wing Loong II. The Anka being less numerous is likely to be more expensive than the Wing Loong II but probably cheaper than the Sea Guardian.

TAI Anka UAV mockup at LIMA 19 . EL

The Wing Loong 1 cost around US$3 million per air frame, so the II could be slightly more expensive. I hazard to guess for the same set up as the Sea Guardian above, the China made one would only cost around US$30 million. However, it may be more difficult to integrate it with the civil aviation authorities.

AVIC Wing Loong II mockup at LIMA 19.

With the main tasking for the RMAF drone to overfly the South China Sea, one may wonder if it is wise to buy the Wing Loong, no matter, how cheap it is and the large amount of weapons its can carry.

AVIC Wing Loong II mockup with the ordnance cleared for it.

A fourth contender, the Leonardo Falco, was only represented by a model at the company’s booth. It is also likely that other UAVs were promoted to the RMAF to meet its requirement. As there are many of these type of UAVs around I will not hazard a guess.

— Malaysian Defence

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