Malaysia officially announces acquisition of 2 Leonardo's ATR 72 MPAs

According to information published by Malaymail on October 31, 2023, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan announced the procurement of two advanced Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPA) from Italy, specially equipped to detect submarines in the region, with a focus on the Sabah area.
Follow Navy Recognition on Google News at this link

Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Leonardo's ATR 72 maritime patrol aircraft. (Picture source: Leonardo)

Addressing concerns about current limitations, Mohamad Hasan pointed out that the Malaysian Armed Forces' long-range radar (LRR) at the Labuan Naval Air Base lacks submarine detection capabilities, covering only airspace monitoring with an emphasis on the increasingly 'busy' South China Sea.

To address this gap, the National Security Council (MKN) has approved the acquisition of an additional LRR to be stationed at Pulau Layang-layang, significantly extending Malaysia's surveillance reach beyond its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The minister further detailed enhancements to coastal monitoring. The Radar Coastal Surveillance System (CSS) has been installed at 13 locations along the Kudat to Tawau coast, covering Sabah's east coast. Despite recent upgrades to eight radars, five AESA SPEXER 2000 CSS radars have been deemed uneconomical for repair and slated for disposal.

Mohamad Hasan has identified the need to fill surveillance gaps in the area and plans to purchase six new gap filler radars, including five replacements and one addition. The total allocation for these acquisitions stands at RM57 million, set to be funded under the 13th Malaysia Plan (13 MP).


In recent times, the geopolitical landscape of Southeast Asia, especially the South China Sea region, has seen a significant increase in maritime activities. This raises a critical concern for nations like Malaysia, with its extensive coastlines and strategic waterways, about the growing presence of submarines. Consequently, Malaysia faces an urgent need to enhance its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities to ensure effective monitoring and defense of its territorial waters.

The region's geopolitical context is complex, with the South China Sea being a hotbed of strategic interests and overlapping territorial claims. The increased submarine patrols by various nations in these waters amplify security concerns.

Economically, Malaysia is heavily dependent on maritime trade. Protecting crucial routes like the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest maritime corridors, is paramount. Any submarine threat in these waters could potentially disrupt trade and impact the economy. Moreover, maintaining Malaysia’s territorial integrity is essential, given the vast maritime borders and island territories that need vigilant protection against underwater threats.