MPA Requirements, Part 1

The camouflage variant of the Sagem Patroller UAV.

SHAH ALAM: As the media is full of the soon-to-be-ready camp in Sendayan, we might as well looked into things that for me is more interesting, like the MPA requirement. Recently, I wrote that we are hoping to get P-3C Orion MPA from Japan for free. For free because the Orions are meant to be gap fillers until we get our own MPAs.

So what kind of MPAs are being looked for the long term then? The requirements are not set in stone I was told and to get pass the military financial log jam, which doomed previous efforts, the National Security council is now the lead agency. As the NSC is the lead agency, the MPA requirement also encompassed the coast guard and police.

The unarmed Predator XP.

As for the platforms, I am told that the capabilities being sought include both manned and unmanned platforms. And for that reason, this post will only cover the unmanned platform. The Armed Forces will operate the UAV with RMAF as the lead agency, I am told.

Patroller-S is a safe and high-performance system developed to fulfill all types of homeland security missions for police forces, customs, border control, civil or environmental protection, etc. This the cilivian version of the Patroller – Safran

What type of UAV do they want to get? I have no idea as according to industry sources even the government have yet to spell out the details of the capabilities they want or the budget being allocated to it. As we have yet to operate UAVs bigger than the ScanEagles I guessed those involved will wing it based on the presentations by the manufacturers.

Thales Watchkeeper

From talks with the industry, three UAVs have been suggested for the unmanned UAv requirement namely, the Safran Patroller, Thales Watchkeeper and the Predator XP, the unarmed variant of the Predator. Industry sources told Malaysian Defence that a Thales delegation briefed the NSC on the Watchkeeper ahead of LIMA 17.

A model of the Patroller on display at Sagem’s booth at DSA 2016.

Thales officials at LIMA 17 declined to confirm or deny whether the presentation had occurred or whether they had even spoken to the NSC, however. It is also possible that China or its local marketing agents will offer its UAVs to meet the requirement though I have yet to get anyone to speak on this.

The Patroller as you are all aware beat the Watchkeeper for the French Army tactical drone system in 2016. Story here. The Watchkeeper is in service with the British Army. The XP for that matter is in service with the UAE military.

Predator XP

Both the Patroller and Watchkeeper were not displayed at LIMA 17 although a US Air Force MQ-1B Predator with the 147th Air Reconnaissance Wing of the Texas Air National Guard was on static display throughout the show.

MQ-1B Predator of the Texas ANG at LIMA 17

Apart from an outright buy, there is also the possibility that the UAV selected could be run under – the company owned, company operated concept -which will also shorten the time of getting the selected aircraft into service. Leasing will also allow the Armed Forces and other security services to develop competencies in operating in UAVs like the Patroller or Predator. And leasing will also reduce the cost of the procurement, something that must be considered due to our financial situation.

Beechcraft 200T King Air M41-03 pictured taking off from Subang on Dec. 19. This was the same aircraft which crash on Dec. 21. The crash was one of the reasons the MPA requirement was put back into the funding cycle.

My sources could not say whether the program has been funded or not. As the programme comes under the NSC, it will be pretty difficult to find out what is coming next. So I guess we will have to wait for the 2018 Budget documents to see whether or not the funding for the requirements has been allocated.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

24 Comments

  1. MPA requirements using UAV eh?

    The main issue to solve is the airspace sharing of unmanned and manned (including passenger) aircrafts. I don’t think it has been discussed before, and that leaves medium altitiude and long endurance (MALE) UAVs flying only in military restricted or low volume airspace.

    As of platforms

    New :
    My 1st pick is the patroller or to be more specific the Stemme ASP S15 airframe. The airframe has been integrated with quite a few UAV control systems, and that is not just from Sagem/Safran.

    Used:
    Request USA some excess defence articles (EDA) of the remaining 154 Predator that is going to be totally retired (replaced with the longer range Reaper by 2017-2018). Modify them so they could not carry weapons.

    Operational area:
    Probably around the edge of malaysian-philippines waters in ESSCOM, overwatch of beting raja jarom and beting patinggi ali.

  2. For new frame im more keen of predator xp. Seems its other variants are already being used for many years. A proven platform in my eyes.

    Agree with mr. 3 dots on getting used predator. I think we need at least 8 airframes. 4 in peninsular and the other 4 in sabah.

    For the manned mpa, maybe it should be given to mmea. Something like dornier do 228 ng seems good.

    So the rmaf will have more money for other needed stuffs. But again only rmaf have the experience in handling mpa.

  3. using UAV for MPA seems interesting. hopefully it will get funded, the MPA of course.
    SAGEM Patroller looks good for Malaysia both financially and tactically. if have more money get Predator XP which have more experience in conflict. but please not The Watchkeeper.

  4. For me the main issue is not the platform but the issue of who has operational control of such assets and how to ensure that those who need the info gained get it in a timely manner with no bureaucratic delays. In an ideal world unmanned platforms would be manned jointly by a tri service staff under a tri service command with representatives from the police and other agencies

  5. P.S.

    No doubt operating UAS in ESSCOM and fitting some with EW payloads [from SAAB] has gone a big way in influencing the way we think about UAS and their utility. Again, having the ”best” unmanned platform will count for nothing we are constrained by a cumbersome command system and if those who need the info gained d not get it on time. Hopefully in the future as we get more and more into the UAS game, we’ll see RMN ships with UAS and UAS used by the army for artillery spotting.

  6. Last time didn’t we have that 2 seat propeller project going? Helang something?

    Indigenous to us. Is it still around? why don’t just use that to catch the pirates/rebels swimming at sea?

    Reply
    I don’t think that work out.

  7. Operational control can be under 1 force but any operational units under the surveillance footprint of the system should have access to the info gained. The system operators should also have some method to identify the presence of friendly forces within their surveillance footprint, and a direct communication channel to those forces.

    Btw 1 area of surveillance is usually called an “orbit”, and each orbit is usually covered by 3-4 uav (usually 3-4 uav is considered a single “system”) in rotation to enable a 24-7 coverage of the area. So a force of say 12 uav could cover 3 orbits plus some airframes for standby and training.

    Uavs, especially large ones, are a hazard to manned aircrafts flying in the same area. More regulations and systems must be in place to make sure there is enough separation and deconfliction between manned and unmanned aircrafts flying in the same airspace. Until that is sorted out, i don’t think we can operate something like the predator in airspaces around penisular malaysia.

    Reply
    That’s why a COCO solution is probably the best interim way to ensure the speedy deployment of the UAV

  8. I wonder do we have a UAV like the Predator XP right now, I remember somewhere around year 2015, I saw a UAV looks like the Predator flying silent and low above one of our O&G offshore rig in Sabah water. The colour is black and it had a cam below its belly.

  9. ………. – ”Operational control can be under 1 force but any operational units under the surveillance footprint of the system should have access to the info gained”

    We can only hope. The reality is that we still have a long way to go to really achieve ”jointness”and do away with in service rivalries/infighthing; which admittedly is still a problem in Tier 1 militaries even today. Whatever command arrangements we have for future UAS it must do away with the bureaucratic set ups that seem to plague most of our HQs and commands; the actual system must not be dominated by any one service operational wise.

    Melayu Ketinggalan,

    Are you referring to the Aerotiga which initially was intended to be a basic trainer [before pilots moved to the PC-7] and also an unmanned surveillance platform? The plane was designed by a Swiss engineer in his basement and was sold to SME which together with then British Aerospace offered it to the RMAF.

  10. For life and death intelligence information the most i can accept personally would be a COMO solution. too risky if any compromises occur.

  11. ………….,

    You’re right. The Aerotiga was a basic trainer [designed as mentioned by a Swiss engineer] and served for a brief period at FTC 1. The idea being that for the first few flights done by new pilots; the Aeotiga would be cheaper than a PC-7.

    The Eagle was offered also as a basic trainer/recreational aircraft but also as an unmanned variant intended for surveillance and stuff like pollution control. Less than a handful of unmanned Eagles were sold to the RMAF. What we call unmanned platforms has undergone a change over the years, starting out as a ”remotely piloted vehicle” [this term was common starting in the 1990’s], it was also and still is commonly called a ”drone” and now the proper designation adopted by the military is ”unmanned aerial system” – lets hope it doesn’t undergone another name change or designation soon. If I recall correctly CTRM referred to the Eagle unmanned variant as a ”aerial recce vehicle”.

  12. Cfauze,

    Interesting, painted in black and a camo underbelly. I know what you think you saw but could it possibly have been a platform belonging to us? Possibly one of the Aludras or something else?

    I doubt very much it could have been Chinese or American as a Chinese or American one would not be flying at low level in daylight allowing itself to be seen, well within our airspace. If a UAS was seen in the Spratlys or along the common air boundary then it wouldn’t be surprising but from what you described in was well within our waters and in plain sight. Also, the main area of interest for American Predators would be Mindanao or the Sulu archipelago [to assist the Pinoys in the ”War On Terror”] or even in the Spratlys – it would have little reason to be over Sabah waters.

    Many years ago a Malay daily ran a fuzzy photo, taken from the Gelang Patah area, on the front page showing a Sing UAS flying along the edge of the air boundary. If we of course flew a UAS well within our airspace but along the edge of the air boundary; no doubt our neighbours would complain about it being ”provocative” and something a good neighbour wouldn’t do. No doubt, the need to track UASs [by their data links and other non passive means] was one of the reasons we got VERA.

  13. @ azlan

    Cam as in camera…

    Sabah oil rigs are mostly in deep water areas near to the philippines.

  14. @ Mr. 3 dots and Azlan,
    Thanks for the info, at first I just though it was our UAVs and our enforcement do their mission, If it was a China also possible as their man made island is just up to the North. It is very rare for a fix wing aircraft flying above the rig, only the heli bring in and out the manpower

  15. What is COCO and COMO?

    Reply
    Company Owned, Company Operated and Company Owned, Military Operated.

  16. …,

    Sabah waters are indeed ”mostly in deep water areas near to the philippines” but you seriously think a foreign UAS would be operating well within our airspace at low level in plain sight? For what purpose; especially given that we have the means to detect it and they have nothing to gain from doing anything that would affect relations at a time when they’re eager for friends to help contain China. Unless of course an American UAS was operating in our air space with our permission but even then; for what purpose? Anything of interest to the Americans would be further away : over Mindanao and the Tawi-Tawi area and in the Spratlys.

    BTW, the first photo of a Turk ASW configured ATR undergoing trials has been released; looks impressive. It has a MAD and the ability to launch torps but I have no idea if it has a sonobuoy capability.

    Cfauze,

    I could be wrong but in all probability; what you saw was one of ours. Foreign countries in peacetime tend not to fly a UAS in broad daylight over a non hostile country.

  17. Malaysia in 2015 has no long range uavs that can be deployed in waters between kota kinabalu and the spratlys (which is where the oil rigs are).

    Scaneagles that malaysia has are small and the “cam” (usually called the EO turret) is at its nose. And it is flown in the esscom area.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C8p5pz3XYAED3hZ.jpg

    Technically the area that was overflown is not malaysian territory, just an exclusive economic zone. Even that is claimed by china as its territory.

    Btw most uav orbits are flown 24hours, and a lot of the kills done by uavs is in broad daylight.

  18. … – ”Malaysia in 2015 has no long range uavs that can be deployed in waters between kota kinabalu and the spratlys”

    Depends entirely on where that particular UAS is based and what the required endurance is. Also, the UAS may have been deployed on a ”non traditional” platform. Who’s to say we haven’t trialed operating UAS from an oil rig or a ship? We do lots of things that only becomes public much later.

    … – ”Technically the area that was overflown is not malaysian territory, just an exclusive economic zone.”

    But those oil rigs are not located in the Spratlys or in a disputed area with overlapping claims……

    … – ”Btw most uav orbits are flown 24hours, and a lot of the kills done by uavs is in broad daylight.”

    I’m very aware of that thank you but in reference to the discussion we’re having –

    1. A foreign country illegally violating the airspace of a non hostile country would not be doing it in broad daylight [especially when there’s nothing to gain and the risk of offending us]

    2. The kills you mentioned are in conflict/wars zones ……… For which the EEZ of Sabah or any part of Malaysia for that matter does not apply……

    Instead of a U.S. or Chinese UAS operating illegally in our airspace in broad daylight in non disputed or militarised area, allowing itself to be seen and photographed; a far, far more plausible explanation is that the UAS was ours or a foreign one allowed to operate under an agreement not revealed publicly.

  19. As i said, technically under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the EEZ is not considered a malaysian territory, as is the airspace above it. EEZ is just an area the coastal country could take its resources, not more than that.

  20. Btw the chinese coast guard has been parking their large ships over beting patinggi ali less than 100km from sarawak coast for a few years now. So flying uavs over south china sea area that they also claimed is nothing compared to that.

  21. … – ”So flying uavs over south china sea area that they also claimed is nothing compared to that.”

    In the 2015 period there were no reports of Chinese UAS operating from any reef/island they occupy and in that period they has no UAS capable of reaching the area from the Chinese mainland.

    Also, given that Chinese ships are already in the area which is disputed and claimed by us don’t you think the Chinese have a pretty good idea as to what we have in the area? What extra intel would a UAS provide? Wouldn’t the priority of the UAS be against the American presence or against other claimants which are not as friendly with China as we are? Or even over the reefs we occupy?

    … – ”So flying uavs over south china sea area that they also claimed is nothing compared to that”

    Again : if the UAS was spotted over a disputed area with overlapping claims or in a militarised or restricted area it would be understandable but in this case a UAS was clearly spotted in the close vicinity of oil rigs well within parts of the Malaysian EEZ which is not claimed by anyone.

    … – ”As i said, technically under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the EEZ is not considered a malaysian territory”

    I’m no expert but I understand the profound difference between an EEZ and territorial waters.

    Like I said, I could be wrong but I doubt it was a Chinese or American platform. Foreign platforms BTW have operated in our airspace [at night or in conditions where they can’t be clearly seen visually] but usually in ”interesting” areas and the area described by Cfauze doesn’t fall in this category.

  22. Those oil rigs is inside the chinese claimed 9 dash line in south china sea (also most of our oil rigs in sabah and sarawak), as is the beting patinggi ali.

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