The first batch of six Boeing-Insitu Scan Eagle Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) the U.S. is giving to Malaysia under a program to improve the maritime security of countries in Southeast Asia have been delivered.
The U.S. Embassy in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur posted photos on its social media pages about the delivery, which it says “will enhance the Royal Malaysian Navy’s ability to defend the country’s territorial integrity”.
The embassy added that “a more formal presentation will take place later this year as training commences”, presumably after the UAS, which were delivered broken down in crates, some of which were marked “Insitu” and adorned with labels bearing the U.S. and Malaysian flags, have been assembled.
DRA understands the Scan Eagles were delivered to Kota Kinabalu airport in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, with the embassy’s photos suggesting the aircraft performing the delivery flight was a chartered Ukrainian Antonov 124 freighter.
The Antonov was noted on flight tracking websites departing Anchorage on Tuesday and making a stopover in Nagoya, Japan, on Wednesday before arriving at Kota Kinabalu yesterday.
The U.S. had announced in 2019 that it would be giving the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam twelve, eight, eight and six Scan Eagles respectively, under a U.S. Department of Defense contract award worth US$47.9 million.
It is not clear whether the funds for this contract came under the DoD’s partner capacity-building program or the maritime security initiative for regional countries announced in 2015.
All the recipient nations in this contract have interests in the South China Sea, with Indonesia being the only country among this group of four that does not claim ownership of any of the islands, features and rocks in the disputed Spratly or Paracel groups.
In addition to the territorial dispute, Malaysia’s limited maritime security resources are also challenged by piracy and transnational crime in the form of kidnapping-for-ransom gangs, usually from the southern Philippines, that criss-cross the Sulu sea targeting tourists visiting Sabah’s famous coastal resorts.
To download the latest issue of Defence Review Asia, click here