Malaysia inks light combat jet, maritime patrol aircraft deals

LANGKAWI, Malaysia — Malaysia has signed more than 40 agreements worth $2.2 billion for confirmed and potential defense acquisitions, including for light combat aircraft, armed drones and maritime patrol aircraft, at the ongoing Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace, or LIMA, exhibition here.

The largest of the contracts was a deal for 18 Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 light combat jets. The Royal Malaysian Air Force will use these jets for the fighter lead-in training and light combat roles.

In February, it was announced that Malaysia had selected the FA-50 as its light combat aircraft, with KAI stating at the time the value of the order was $920 million. Malaysia has an eventual requirement for up to 36 jets.

Speaking to Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama, KAI chief executive officer Kang Goo-young confirmed the RMAF will begin receiving the FA-50 Block 20 “Fighting Eagle” aircraft in 2026, with the first four jets built in South Korea while the remaining 14 will be assembled locally.

He added that the jets will come with active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radars, although he did not identify the radar model.

South Korea’s LIG Nex1 is developing the ESR-500A AESA radar for the FA-50, while Raytheon Technologies announced earlier this month its PhantomStrike radar will be equipping the FA-50.

Among the other contracts signed at the LIMA ceremony was a deal for two maritime patrol aircraft from Italy’s Leonardo for $150.78 million.

Malaysian defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein in October announced the selection of the ATR-72MP, which is based on the ATR-72 twin-turboprop regional airliner, for its longstanding requirement.

Leonardo says the ATR-72 is equipped with its Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance mission system, which integrates the aircraft’s sensor suite that includes a Seaspray 7300E V2 and enables it to perform a variety of missions, including maritime patrol, anti-submarine, airborne surveillance and intelligence gathering.

A deal with Turkish Aerospace Industries for its Anka medium-altitude long-endurance drones will see Malaysia buy three of the unmanned aircraft, which can be armed with guided bombs and missiles.

Malaysia’s acquisition of the drones is valued at $92 million and will be the first armed drones to enter service with the RMAF.

It was also announced at LIMA that Malaysia will lease four Sikorsky UH-60A+ Blackhawk transport helicopters from local company Aerotree Defence and Services. The helicopters are secondhand aircraft and will be flown by the Malaysian Army’s air wing for training and operational duties.