US Navy Delivers First Upgraded CN-235 to RMAF

RMAF CN-235 MSA M44-03 at its hangar at the Kuching RMAF airbase, picture taken in July 2022. US Navy

SHAH ALAM: The US Navy on August 3 announced that it has delivered the first upgraded CN-235 MSA to RMAF. It did not state when the MSA aircraft was delivered however. A picture of the aircraft (the file is dated July, 2022) showed that it was the tail number M44-03, the second CN to be flown to Bandung to be upgraded. It is also the first picture to show some of the surveillance equipment on the aircraft, from the EO and the radome beneath the fuselage.

RMAF CN-235 M44-03 at PTDI facility in Bandung for conversion into an MSA Picture taken on 3 Oct 2020. PTDI

The release from US Navy.

NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.–The U.S. Navy has delivered the first of three Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) CN-235 military transport aircraft converted to a maritime patrol platform. This comes just three-and-a-half years after the U.S. signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance to begin increasing the capability and interoperability of U.S. and Malaysian forces.

The effort was facilitated by the U.S. Navy’s Building Partner Capacity program, aligned with the U.S. government’s Maritime Security Initiative, which is intended to assist the Malaysian government in increasing maritime security and maritime domain awareness within the Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone.

The project to integrate an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) upgrade into the aircraft was undertaken by the RMAF in cooperation with the Naval Air Systems Command’s Security Cooperation Office and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) AIRWorks.

“Our collective international team has overcome tremendous challenges during the recent worldwide pandemic to deliver this capability. We are excited to deliver this first aircraft,” said Gerald Swift, who leads AIRWorks, NAWCAD’s office focused on rapidly and effectively delivering warfighter capability to meet immediate and emergent warfighter needs.

The upgrade includes a maritime surveillance mission suite, maritime surveillance radar, an electro-optical infrared turret, line-of-sight datalink and a roll-on/roll-off mission system operator station. Compatible mobile and fixed ground stations are also being delivered to increase the RMAF’s ISR capability.

“Building Partner Capacity programs represent the highest level of return on engagement to the United States,” said Ron Weinberger, director, Security Cooperation Office at the Naval Air Systems Command. “The Malaysian CN-235 program will be a significant force multiplier to an indigenous Malaysian ISR capability and will directly support joint Malaysian and U.S. efforts to ensure global security in the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.”

The project’s CN-235s were flown to Indonesia for completion and testing in Sept. 2020 amid COVID-19 restrictions and first flight took place in Oct. 2021. Work on the two remaining CN-235 aircraft and multiple ground stations continues and is expected to be completed in 2022.

The CN-235 is a medium-range twin-engine transport aircraft originally manufactured by Indonesian aerospace company Perseroan Terbatas Dirgantara Indonesia and Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA of Spain.

The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division is the Navy’s largest warfare center, employing more than 17,000 military, civilian and contract personnel. It operates test ranges, laboratories and aircraft in support of test, evaluation, research, development and sustainment of everything flown by the Navy and Marine Corps. Based in Patuxent River, Maryland, the command also has major sites in St. Inigoes, Maryland, Lakehurst, New Jersey and Orlando, Florida.

CDF Gen Affendi Buang in the cockpit of M44-05 when he visited PTDI facilities in Bandung in June, 2022. ATM

I was told that the three MSA are fitted with the Link 16 datalink allowing them to pass the information collected by ISR equipment to ground stations supplied with the aircraft as mentioned in the release. The MSA fleet are the first RMAF aircraft to be fitted with Link 16. It would have been the F-18D Hornets of the No.18 Squadron but alas the pandemic ensured that the upgrading work need to be done here hence the delay in fitting them with Link 16.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam


  1. “Compatible mobile and fixed ground stations are also being delivered to increase the RMAF’s ISR capability”

    The mobile ones, I hope it will be installed at least on a dedicated trailer.

  2. Quite funny the USN report tho cuz wasn’t M44-05 the first unit back home?

    So does it mean we have 2 units back, -03 & -05?

    On a related note it seems this gift is more comprehensive than just the planes system. Ideally for our own purchasing MPA it would use the same systems as these MSA for better compatibility and performance.

    “installed at least on a dedicated trailer”
    If its a modular container, I hope they can integrate to Keris mission bay.

  3. Read the second story bro. Why do they want to put the ground mission container on the Keris class ships for? It is used to get the data from the MSA when it’s airborne and conducting patrols. The Keris class ships can get the data from RMAF in a roundabout way of course as the China ship cannot be linked to US military system

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