MELBOURNE, Australia ― Malaysia’s military has been given the go-ahead with the acquisition of maritime patrol aircraft and self-propelled howitzers, as the country increases its defense spending slightly following drastic reductions.
Speaking to media on Oct. 28, the day after the release of the country’s fiscal 2018 budget, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed that the Royal Malaysian Air Force has been given government approval to acquire four maritime patrol aircraft along with an unspecified number of 155mm self-propelled howitzers for the Army.
The amount of funding allocated for both programs has not been disclosed in the budget documents or the minister’s remarks.
Under the recently released budget, Malaysia’s defense spending will increase by 5.3 percent from $3.6 billion to $3.75 billion. However, it has declined marginally as a percentage of gross domestic product at about 1.1 percent, with almost $670 million of that figure set aside for procurement. Despite this, the defense budget allocation is still 7 percent less than that in 2015 following a large cut in 2016.
Defense News had earlier reported that Malaysia requested from Japan its Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion aircraft that are being progressively retired by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, with Japan’s recently revised Self-Defense Forces Law clearing the way for such a donation to happen.
However, several companies have also been marketing their maritime patrol aircraft to Malaysia in recent years, with the Leonardo ATR 72MP, the Airbus C295 Persuader and the Indonesian Aerospace CN-235 seeing Malaysia as a prospective customer for their respective products.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force currently operates three Beechcraft B200T aircraft fitted with the Thales Airborne Maritime Situation and Control System in the maritime patrol role.
Malaysia had also previously signed a letter of intent to acquire 29 155mm self-propelled M109A5 Paladin howitzers and support vehicles, among other equipment, under the United States’ Excess Defense Articles program. However, there remains a possibility that a new system could be sourced from elsewhere.
As of August 2016, the website of the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency showed the signed letter as implemented and the offer accepted. Under the EDA program, the howitzers will be provided to Malaysia either as a grant or at a reduced price, with the receiving nation to pay for any handling, transportation and refurbishment costs.