Maritime patrol and surveillance were the most prominent themes of this year's LIMA show, as big manufacturers jockeyed to promote their various solutions for the mission.

Industry sources say that Kuala Lumpur is in the process of crystallising a requirement for six to eight long-range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).

The potential requirement attracted attention from a range of companies including Boeing, Saab, Dassault, and Indonesian Aerospace.

Boeing brought its Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) technology demonstrator to the show. The type appeared on the static line, and the US airframer briefed media and officials on the MSA's capabilities. A modified Challenger 604 business jet, the unarmed MSA is optimised for high altitude, broad area surveillance.

Saab, Dassault, and Indonesian Aerospace also displayed models of MSA and MPA solutions on their stands.

This is a significant change from the last iteration of the show in 2013, when the only company to actively promote an MPA aircraft was Alenia Aermacchi in the form of its ATR 72MP, a variant of the popular ATR 72-600.

Indonesian Aerospace, which has put forward its CN235 MPA, said it is working on mounting torpedoes under the aircraft's wings - an Indonesian navy CN235 appeared at the show's static line.

It is also looking at ways to add two torpedoes in a recessed cavity under the CN235 MPA's fuselage, which would give the type the ability to carry four torpedoes. It adds that the aircraft's ramp is useful for dropping life rafts and other survival essentials.

For a country with a long coast line and extensive economic interests at sea, Malaysia has limited maritime surveillance capabilities. It operates just four King Air 350 aircraft in the maritime surveillance mission.

Events in recent years have highlighted the growing importance of the maritime domain in Southeast Asia. In early 2013, Kuala Lumpur was caught off guard by the incursion of 200 Filipino gunmen in Malaysia's eastern state of Sabah, which resulted in an armed confrontation with Malaysian military forces. Kuala Lumpur eventually crushed the interlopers with artillery, air strikes and ground forces, but the incident highlighted the vulnerability of Malaysia's long coastlines.

In addition, Beijing is becoming increasingly assertive about disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, obliging countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines to improve their ability to monitor the ocean domain away from their shores.

Source: Flight International