Lockheed Martin P-3C Orions from Japan for maritime patrol, and fighters including secondhand Boeing F/A-18 Hornets are among the candidates as the Malaysian government seeks to bolster its defense capabilities without breaking the national bank. Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced approval for buying new maritime patrollers on Oct. 29, but no money has been earmarked for doing so.

Reflecting the air force’s preference for new aircraft, a Malaysian official speaking in Berlin said the likely choice will be based on twin-turboprop transports, such as the Bombardier Q400, Airbus C295 and ATR 72

But Japanese Orions are available as alternatives because the Japan Air Self-Defense Force is replacing the P-3C with the Kawasaki Heavy Industries P-1. The same company built most of Japan’s P-3Cs.

Malaysia currently employs a trio of Beechcraft King Air B200Ts for maritime patrol, as well as CN235 and C-130 Hercules transports. 

The situation is even more complicated for fighters. Prior to shifting its priorities for lower costs, Malaysia considered the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen C/D and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for the Royal Malaysian Air Force. Current possibilities include secondhand F/A-18 Hornets from Australia or Kuwait.

Malaysia is eyeing the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 as a trainer.

The RMAF has suffered from the low efficiency of operating different fighter types, each in small numbers – by way of example, Malaysia has eight F/A-18Ds and 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flankers. Aiming to simplify the fleet, the service has begun exploratory talks with Hornet operators about buying surplus aircraft, says a government official. 

“We need to increase our availability and capability,” says the official. “We want to improve the numbers of the same asset and lower maintenance costs.” Poor reliability prompted a decision in 2016 to withdraw one of the three fighter types from service, the Mikoyan MiG-29.