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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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