KUALA LUMPUR: The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) is expected to take delivery of 12 ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for maritime surveillance in batches between November this year and 2022.
The Defence Ministry said the first batch of six drones would be delivered in mid-November this year.
The drones will be fully sponsored by the United States, it said, under that country’s Maritime Surveillance Initiative (MSI).
“The US, via the MSI programme, has made available aid in the form of capability (assets) and capacity (training) to its allies, including Malaysia, to increase maritime domain awareness (MDA) throughout Southeast Asia.
“This programme is fully sponsored by the US and does not involve any cost to the government of Malaysia.
“Besides the armed forces, other enforcement agencies would also benefit from the MSI as maritime surveillance capabilities and information sharing among enforcement agencies as well as the armed forces will be increased.
“The ScanEagle will assist Malaysia in maritime surveillance whilst the ministry is in the midst of looking to procure two maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and three medium altitude long endurance unmanned airborne system (MALE UAS) for the 12th Malaysia Plan,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said the country needed the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to patrol wide strategic routes along the Straits of Malacca, South China Sea and Sulu Sea.
It also said Malaysia welcomed collaboration with any quarter, especially countries like the US and China, to protect the nation’s security and stability.
The statement was issued following a recent report which erroneously stated that the government was purchasing 12 ScanEagles for US$19 million (RM79.5 million).
The report had claimed that the 12 drones were among 34 being sold to Malaysia and other US allies in the South China Sea area in a move seen as part of President Donald Trump’s efforts to boosts its allies’ intelligence-gathering capabilities.
The ScanEagle is an unarmed drone manufactured by Boeing’s Insitu, which also makes the RQ-21A Blackjack, the armed drone used by the US Navy and Marine Corps.