The acquisition of 12 military-grade surveillance drones by Malaysia from the US is part of a regional maritime security initiative.
The Defence Ministry (Mindef) said this today in response to reports about the acquisition of 12 ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles, worth almost RM80 million, manufactured by Boeing subsidiary, Insitu Inc.
"The US through the Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) programme has provided assistance in the form of capability (assets) and capacity (training) to partner countries including Malaysia to help improve maritime domain awareness in Southeast Asia," said Mindef.
The programme is fully funded by the US government without any expenses incurred by Malaysia, it said.
Under this MSI programme, the Royal Malaysian Navy will receive assistance in stages, starting from 2019 and running through to 2022.
"The first batch of six ScanEagle drones is expected to be delivered by mid-November this year," said Mindef.
"Apart from the Malaysian Armed Forces, other enforcement agencies will also receive benefits under the MSI programme to improve maritime surveillance and information sharing among enforcement agencies and the armed forces,” it added.
"The future purchase of these drones will help Malaysia in maritime supervision activities, while the further addition of two Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and three Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Airborne Vehicles will be carried out as per the 12th Malaysia Plan," it said.
According to military news website The Defence Post, the ScanEagle has a flight endurance of more than 20 hours and can be used for battlefield intelligence, reconnaissance as well as surveillance missions.
Aside from Malaysia, which will acquire 12 units, other countries in the South China Sea region are also included in the programme.
Indonesia and the Philippines will purchase eight units each while Vietnam is set to buy six drones.
"Malaysia as a maritime country is in need of intelligence capabilities, surveillance and reconnaissance to monitor its strategic coastal territory in the Strait of Malacca, the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea.
"In line with the stand that Malaysia that does not favour anyone and intends to build a friendship network with all, Malaysia welcomes defence cooperation with all stakeholders including the US and China to safeguard sovereignty and stability in the Southeast Asian region," said Mindef.