Military Aviation

US Navy delivers first converted CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft to Royal Malaysian Air Force

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.

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. According to a NAVAIR news release, 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.

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 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 development of the Airbus CN-235 began in January 1980 by. The CN-235 first flew in November 1983. With active production continuing today at the Airbus industrial facility near Seville, Spain, more than 280 of these pressurised twin turboprop-powered, rear-ramp equipped aircraft have been ordered by military operators, civilian carriers and transport companies, as well as for government and paramilitary operators.

The versatility of this aircraft – which has a maximum take-off weight in the 16,000-kg. category – is demonstrated by the CN-235’s diverse applications, covering the spectrum from airline flights, patrol and anti-drug trafficking to cargo, VIP duties and special missions.

The CN-235 has even been configured as a gunship with a side-mounted 30mm cannon and integrated weapons pylons for missiles and rockets, while the US Coast Guard acquired CN-235s as its medium-range surveillance aircraft in the service’s Integrated Deepwater System Program – with equipment including a roll-on, roll-off electronics suite accommodated through the rear ramp.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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