Malaysia is relying on Beechcraft King Air aircraft to fulfil its immediate needs for surveillance aircraft.

The air force has four King Airs, that it bought in 1994, and one has just been upgraded with Thales radar, say well-placed industry sources.

Malaysian maintenance, repair and overhaul firm Airod was responsible for the upgrade programme, and is to upgrade one more of the air force's King Airs with Thales radar, say the sources.

Besides the air force, Malaysia's police force recently took delivery of three King Airs and the final two on order will be fitted with more advanced equipment, says one industry source. These two King Airs will have 360° radar as well as FLIR infrared with downlinks.

The police's first three King Air aircraft are mostly used for rapid deployment and have equipment for medical evacuation work. But the other two aircraft, which will be in operation next year, will be used for surveillance work in coastal areas.

Malaysia has a long-term ambition to get airborne early warning aircraft and has looked at the Northrop Grumman E-2D and Saab 2000 Erieye. But budget constraints has meant it is unclear when Malaysia will have the funds to place an order.

Source: Flight International