SHAH ALAM: It appears that the first CN-235-220 tail number M44-05 to undergo the conversion into a MSA has returned to Kuching, Sarawak. I was told that the aircraft landed at the Kuching airbase on June 17 about 6pm, some 20 months after it flew to the PTDI facility in Bandung, Indonesia for the conversion process. The aircraft was flown to Bandung on September 2, 2020.
I was told that there was no formal ceremony for the newly converted aircraft. Perhaps RMAF is waiting for all three aircraft to return to Kuching before conducting a formal ceremony. Or simply there will be one held when the RMAF chief made an official visit to the airbase soon. He made an official visit to the Gong Kedak airbase on June 15.
The conversion of the three airlifters into maritime surveillance aircraft is paid by the US’s Maritime Security Initiative (MSI). RMN also benefited from the same programme.
Apart from M44-05, the other two CNs undergoing the conversion is M44-03 – arrived in Bandung on September 30, 2020 and M44-0, in Bandung March 21, 2021. As previously reported the aircraft will be fitted with a Carte Nav AIMS-ISR mission system which is also proposed for the RMAF MPA programme by De Havilland PAL Aerospace with its Dash 8 400 P-4 MPA.
All the aircraft will be operated by the No.1 Skuadron which on May 17 got a new aircraft, another CN-235 -220M which was previously operated as a VIP aircraft. Tail number M44-08 was given the water salute (picture below) to mark her transfer to No. 1 Squadron from the No. 2 Squadron.
Her transfer to Kuching meant that the squadron will now have seven CN-235s, four airlifters and three MSAs (once the conversion programme is completed). The eighth CN-235 was destroyed in a non-fatal incident in 2016.
It is likely that 03 will be flown home soon while 01 by early next year.