Japan Changing Laws to Donate Orions to Malaysia

Japan P-3C. JMSDF

SHAH ALAM: It appears that Japan is working to get its laws changed so it can donate P-3C Orion MPA to Malaysia, Japan Nikkei Asian Review says today. Malaysian Defence reported about the plans to acquire the P-3Cs previously.

The report, however, states that it was Malaysia that approached Japan for the Orions instead of the other way around. I reported that Japan offered the surplus Orions and Malaysia asked that they were to be donated as the aircraft are intended to be use a gap fuller until we buy something new. Whatever it is there seemed to be traction for the deal to happen. The downside is that the Orions to be handed over would have some 15,000 hours on them.

Japan P-3C. JMSDF

As the aircraft first entered service in 1981, it is likely that the aircraft to be donated are those delivered around that time though they could also be the last batch of the 110 which were delivered. Some 80 P-3Cs remained in service from original 110, most of them manufactured in Japan by Kawasaki Aerospace Company. The Orions are being replaced by the indigenous MPA, the P-1, also manufactured by Kawasaki.

Kawasaki P-1. JMSDF

From Asian Nikkei Review

TOKYO: Japan is looking to donate retired military patrol aircraft to Malaysia, letting that Southeast Asian country keep closer watch over the South China Sea to rein in China’s maritime expansion.

Parliament is currently weighing revisions to the foundational law of the Ministry of Defense that would allow equipment to be given to other nations at no cost. Currently, some form of compensation is legally required for any national asset. Malaysia will likely be the first beneficiary once that change is made, receiving P-3C patrol aircraft previously used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

P-3Cs, developed by Lockheed Martin of the U.S., are equipped with radar and other capabilities letting them detect and monitor suspicious ships and submarines. Kawasaki Heavy Industries manufactured the aircraft under a license agreement for a time, though that production has since ended. The Maritime Self-Defense Force has 60 or so of the aircraft in operation, and plans to retire those that have logged around 15,000 hours in flight.

Malaysia approached Japan about adding P-3Cs to its fleet, according to an official at the Defense Ministry’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency. Japan will hand the retired aircraft over after making renovations. The plan is to remove technologies such as high-performance radar used to detect submarines, which could qualify as defence secrets.

Tokyo aims to reach an agreement with Kuala Lumpur on the transfer of defence equipment and technology in short order to clear the way for a hand-off. The deal must accord with Japan’s key principles regarding such transfers, which aim to ensure transparency, security and compliance with international law.

Japan will also conduct a review of the plan to ensure that neither defence equipment nor the technology involved will fall into China’s hands, and plans to obtain permission for the transfer under the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, due to the P-3Cs’ American origins.

Kawasaki P-3C Orion
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— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2227 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Maximum flying hours for orions are around 24,000 flight hours without the need of new wings. A few australian p-3 has flown more than 20,000 flight hours.

    If those japanese p-3 would be flown for 500-800 hours per year by tudm, that gives you about 10-15 years of service. A rewing program would add about 15,000 more hours (or around 20 years) to that.

  2. Why we should get from Japan for free, does this mean we can’t buy any new MPA even for basic spec? Until when we have to wait for new assets for our armed force, our gov will keep hanky panky about armed force modernization. The main reason is WE DONT HAVE ENOUGH BUDGET FOR MRCA,MPA,MBT AND BLA BLA… but almost everyday we read and hear about multibilion projects from our gov.

    As mentioned in the story its a gap filler before we can buy new MPA. Even if we sign a deal to buy tomorrow it will take 2 or 3 years before it is available for duty. If we get the Orions we can also get to speed with operating an MPA with multi sensors and multiple crews which is different from the current King Airs.

  3. Strictly speaking our P-3C will be MSA not MPA if the ASW and weapons capabilities are taken out. Still, win-win situation as this is still a high end platform.

    Marhalim, what now with the RUAG DO-228? Will it still be acquired to supplement the P-3C?

    Also the current B200? Will they be moved to ESSCOM?

  4. off topic, why India scorpene is red painted? And what will be major different from our scorpene?

    Its not paint. They got AIP I believe for starters

  5. I believe Azlan mentioned this: The RMAF does not have deep pockets or an extensive support infrastructure; which is one reason why it’s extremely wry of buying pre used even if short term costs savings can be achieved.

    Rather than focusing on short term issues like the procurement costs of pre used platforms; I’m looking at long term issues like the total support/maintenance costs of a 30 year old platform which will get increasingly maintenance intensive as it gets older.

    If going by that, Malaysia has not business getting used MPAs. Either the RMAF did an about turn or there was no such policy in the first place

    It is likely that the idea was proposed to the defence ministry and it was the ministry which decided that it will be done. Its the same like the Saudi deal

  6. If we agree with the transfer, who will do the overhaul? More importantly, who will pay for the overhaul?

    Assuming RMAF will get 3 P-3C and is also going to get 3 MPA (ATR-72,C-295, CN-235) and 3MSA (Do-228?) for Malaysia Coast Guard, we have more than enough airframe to cover entire Malaysian coastal and EEZ area. Hell we can even station a couple of them permanently for ESSZone

    It will likely that Japan will get Kawasaki to do refurbishment and pay for it.

  7. For orions, take a look at germany. They actually retired a younger atlantic MPA fleet for an older secondhand orions.

    For japan, it is more of supporting the local aerospace industry as a reason for the early retirement of the orions. Its orion fleet is one of the youngest in the world, the last japanese mpa orion was build in 1997. There are a few countries that is going to continue using orions in the future. It is said that vietnam is also seeking some orions from usa.

    Buying used and having maintenance done locally would also keep the money spent in malaysia, not to mention suporting local aerospace workers, enhancing know how and nuturing the local industry.

    Personally i prefer something else, but orion is probably the best MPA available out there, and if it is free, why not?

  8. What’s this nonsense about Japan having to amend its laws to transfer its assets FOC. Didn’t just transfer the KM Pekan and KM Bagan Datuk this way?

    Only KM Pekan and KM Arau. Those are ex-Japan Coast Guard and not MSDF asset.

  9. The Chinese Gov will definitely file protest against this transfer of hardware just like when Philippine’s air force and navy acquired the T50 and Pohang ship. If the Chinese Gov protest then our gov will cancel the deal to avoid the retaliation form them such as trade and tourism as experience by Japan,Taiwan and S.Korea. We need not to be cozy with them so much.

  10. Question is fine to get 2nd hand equipments when we cant get credit to buy brand new but will the maintenance budget be increased also?our budget deficit since 1997 always on capital and development expenditure.however operating expenditure is always based on tax collection, does not seems tax collection next two years will be good…

  11. zlatan,

    If the Orion deal happens; it will be a government to government deal; the actual operator will have little say in whether it wants Orions or not. Similarly if up to the RMAF and not the politicians and bean counters; we won’t be bothering with pre used fighters.

    No doubt any Orions received from Japan will be useful as an interim measure and will have lots of flying hours left but an overlooked question is maintenance intensive will such aged platforms be and how much will it cost to keep them running? There is also the question of the age of the sensors and other gear aboard these aircraft and how many will remain operable for the duration of the period the platform will be in Malaysian service. Sure, we can spend cash doing these Orions [rewiring, new sensors, etc] up for the reality is that we will spend no more than is needed at minimum to keep them operational.


    It all depends on the sensors suite the ex Jap Orions will come with; if it comes with a basic suite it will not be the ”best” when compared to other, newer designs which come with a more comprehensive sensors suite.

  12. dundun – ” Hell we can even station a couple of them permanently for ESSZone”

    We need MPAs to be permanently based at Labuan, not ESSCOM per say. Quite a bit of the surveillance/early warning duties we need done at ESSCOM can be done with UAS. MPAs will be mostly used further away like over EEZ and the fringes of our territorial waters.

  13. From Japan point of view, could donating the retired Orions to Malaysia also serve to nudge Malaysia into giving more consideration to P-1 when it come time to for Malaysia to acquire new MPA platforms? Noting that Japan has lately been pushing, although without success, to export its military products like the recent P-1 for NZ and Soryu for AUS attempts. Scoring a launch customer for the P-1 would be a great first step in cementing Japan foothold in global defense market. Also Japan is capable of providing financial loans for purchases of its products, much like UK and France in the competition for the MRCA.

    The P-1s are expensive, probably even more than the P-8. Unless Japan donate them we can’t afford it

  14. Getting it free is one thing. Having money to operate it and put it to good use is another otherwise its pretty wasted. Singapore will sure keep a good eye on this news. We always wait and see what happens

  15. The P-1 is actually bigger than the P-8 B737 air frame. The fact that its cockpit windows are so wide gives it the impression of being smaller thus cheaper than P-8. P-1 design is bulkier with wider wings giving it better lift and loads.

  16. Oh Benjamin, beware we Singaporeans are always watching………so scary.

  17. I just wonder what the Singaporean would do to the Lockheed Martin Orion’s if they can get their hands on it.Afterall,they are well known for their very innovative and enterprising upgrades and conversions.Love their spirit of creating something great out of nothing (Boneyard Skyhawks)

  18. In the early 2000’s there is some news of singapore getting used orions to replace their fokker 50 mpa. Singapore is no stranger to used equipments. They have bought used tanks, submarines, fighter jets, transports.

  19. Ideally, is it enough to have 4 mpa’s covering the peninsular and another 4 mpa’s covering the sabah/sarawak region?

    Yes that is more than enough actually.

  20. Tat rite. RSN did not follow thru on P3 Orion after RFI in 2010 and US want to sell us. It more cost effektif to just upgred Fokker 50 and replace it with new sistem e.g. P8. I hear tat it not prudent to maintain as gap filler even if SG has 2 digit defence bajet.

    But I think RSN new MPA will consist P8 sistems + Sg +Isreal sistems on a bombardier jet e.g. Global 7000 or Q400.

  21. Singapore does not need all the P-8 capabilities and size. Since it already operates the G550 it makes sense to get the same platform as MPA.

  22. Singapore is not adverse to buying used equipment. But it is worthwhile only if uses it for a long time.

    M113s, Skyhawks, Leopard 2s, KC-135s (even though they were high houred) were all intended to be in service for a decade or more.

    To get Orions and then replace them for any reasons after a short while is just not worth it.

  23. Still on Singapore,

    It has been confirmed that another 2 Type 218SG Submarines has been ordered, taking the overall numbers of Type 218SG Sumarines to 4. So the future Singapore submarine force would consist of 2 Archer-class and 4 Type 218SG.

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