US Navy delivers first upgraded CN-235 to RMAF

The US Navy has delivered the first of three Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) CN-235 military transport aircraft converted to a maritime patrol platform.

As disclosed, this comes just three-and-a-half years after the US signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance to begin increasing the capability and interoperability of US and Malaysian forces.

Photo: US Navy

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.

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, according to the navy.

The effort was facilitated by the US Navy’s Building Partner Capacity program, aligned with the US 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 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.

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.

Work on the two remaining CN-235 aircraft and multiple ground stations continues and is expected to be completed in 2022.