The Malaysian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a contract with Leonardo for two ATR 72 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) variants plus related integrated logistic support and training services. The contract, worth MYR 789.6 M (EUR 159.03 M), was signed at the LIMA defence exhibition in Langkawi on 25 May 2023 and follows the selection of the aircraft by Malaysia in October 2022.
The twin-turboprop ATR 72 MPA, the latest specialised variant of the ATR 72 regional transport aircraft, is designed to conduct missions including maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface unit warfare (AsuW), search and rescue (SAR), environmental monitoring, medical evacuation and transport of personnel and materials.
According to a Leonardo press release on 25 May, the aircraft chosen by Malaysia will be equipped “with a flexible mission system, advanced sensors and a complete communications suite for command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) missions over land and sea”. Although the specific mission and sensor fit of the Malaysian order was not disclosed, Leonardo stated that the Malaysian ATR 72 MPAs would be “optimised for maritime patrol, electronic intelligence (ELINT) gathering, sea surface and submerged target detection and tracking, SAR, countering illegal activities (drug trafficking, piracy and smuggling) and protecting territorial waters”. The company added that there is growth potential for the aircraft to evolve into fully fledged ASW and AsuW platforms.
Leonardo did confirm that the Malaysian ATR 72 MPAs would feature the modular Leonardo Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance (ATOS) mission system. This manages the aircraft’s onboard sensors, fusing the information gathered and presenting a comprehensive and continuously updated tactical picture to the mission system operators.
Speaking to journalists at LIMA on 25 May, Giovanni Timossi, Leonardo’s vice president of aircraft marketing for Asia and Oceania, said the path to the Malaysian contract award was “a long journey” following the publication of the tender in September 2020 and that the award was made after “a very professional assessment by Malaysia”. He added that “Sometimes a long decision is better, as it is perceived as a well-thought-out decision”.
Timossi noted that the ATR 72 MPA benefits from all of the mission systems and sensors coming from Leonardo. Although production of the ATR 72 itself is the result of a joint venture between Leonardo and Airbus, as part of that agreement Leonardo is solely responsible for developing special mission variants of the aircraft and has the design authority to certify all modifications to the aircraft.
Timossi also pointed out that the ATR 72 MPA retains the reliability, maintainability, low lifecycle costs and comfort features of the baseline ATR 72 regional transport aircraft. More than 1,815 of these aircraft have been ordered, while the type is operated by more than 200 commercial and military users in more than 100 countries.
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