Defence Ministry says purchase of US drones needed to improve security

US ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are displayed at a hangar before a transfer from the US to the Philippine Air Force at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay city. — Reuters pic
US ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are displayed at a hangar before a transfer from the US to the Philippine Air Force at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay city. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — The Defence Ministry today said that Malaysia’s position as a maritime nation means it requires the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capacity to monitor its wide strategic routes in the Straits of Malacca, the South China Sea, and the Sulu Sea.

Commenting on the recent decision by the United States government to sell 34 ScanEagle drones to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, the ministry said it is the country’s stance to not take anyone’s side and to build networks of friendship with everyone.

“Malaysia welcomes the defence cooperation with all parties involved, including the US and China, to maintain the security and stability in the South-east Asia region,” it said in a statement.

The ministry said the US via its Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) programme provides assistance in terms of assets and training to associate countries including Malaysia, in order to increase their maritime domain awareness in the region. The programme is wholly funded by the US government without costing Malaysia anything.

“The Royal Malaysian Navy will receive these assets in stages, starting this year until 2022. The first group of six ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle is expected to arrive in mid-November.

“Apart from the Malaysian Armed Forces, other enforcement agencies will also benefit under the MSI programme, which will enhance maritime monitoring abilities and information sharing between the agencies,” it said.

The ministry will also procure two Maritime Patrol Aircraft, as well as three Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Airborne units, which will be smoothed out in the 12th Malaysia Plan.

Malaysia has purchased 12 of the 34 drones, the total of which are being sold by the administration of US president Donald Trump for US$47 million (RM196.5 million)

Earlier on Tuesday, US acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Washington will no longer ‘tiptoe’ around China’s behaviour in Asia. It is understood the drones, in addition to providing greater intelligence gathering capabilities, can also potentially curb Chinese activity in South-east Asia.

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