The need for a maritime surveillance aircraft has taken priority over the MRCA competition. In the static display there was the brand new ATR-72MPA and a RAAF P-3C Orion which will become surplus when the eight P-8A Poseidons are delivered to RAAF.
In the three aerospace Halls there were several companies marketing maritime surveillance platforms: Viking Air with its Twin Otter Guardian 400; Indonesia’s PTDI with the CN235MSA; Airbus C295MPA, Bombardier/L3 with Dash 8-Q400; RUAG Do228NG special mission aircraft; Thales with various systems for the platforms including AMASCOS, Leonardo offering the ATOS.
RUAG’s David Jones, spoke at the SAR Forum about the role of the Do228NG special mission aircraft which could be fitted with an option of radars including the Thales Ocean Master, Telephonics RDR 1700 or Seaspray 7000E as well as an EO/IR turret of the customer’s choice.
Some companies like General Atomics exhibited unmanned aerial vehicles like the Predator. The MQ-1B in the static came from the 111 Reconnaissance Squadron at Austin, Texas – but what GA are keen to promote is the Predator B Guardian, with a maritime SeaVue radar as an option similar to the US Customs and Border Patrol examples. The company believes the Predator B could be used for surveillance far out at sea, with the aerial pictures being relayed back to a ground station. When the need arises the Maritime patrol/surveillance aircraft could then be called upon.
Meanwhile Malaysia’s MMEA has ordered six Thales Fulmar UAS, which was announced in April 2016. They are to equip six of the 12 new generation patrol craft that are being built, and will be used for high performance surveillance features. Thales’ Matt Moore, Head of Thales UK Unmanned Aircraft Systems spoke at the MMEA’s SAR Forum of the Fulmar’s role in the ‘dull, dirty and dangerous jobs.’
Two of the six Fulmar UAS have so far been delivered, but training has not yet got underway for MMEA personnel. Meanwhile the 12 new generation patrol craft are still being built.
When I spoke to Malaysia’s Minister of Defence, at the Chief of Navy Roundtable Talks, about a maritime surveillance aircraft for the Navy he told me: “We are looking at several options, but I would like the air force to decide the technical specifications, the Ministry of Finance confirm whether we can afford it and the MOD to see how it can help the Malaysian defence industry. The maritime aircraft are something we need to do because of the geo-political considerations in the region. We are also working with the Japanese in regards to the P-3 Orion (the MOD had a meeting with Japanese over their surplus P-3C Orions on the first day of LIMA 17), as the P-8A Poseidons are too expensive. Alan Warnes