Malaysia appears to have taken a step closer to obtaining a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) following a recent budget allocation.

State news agency Bernama reports that the Royal Malaysian Air Force has set up a team to evaluate MPAs. This follows a provision for the acquisition four aircraft in the government's 2018 budget.

The report, quoting air force chief Affendi Buang, adds that the participation of local industry will be a key factor.

Located in a vast littoral region riven with competing territorial claims, Malaysia has a clear need for long-range patrol aircraft, a mission now served by four Beechcraft King Airs.

MPAs have been a common theme at the country's biennial LIMA defence exhibition in Langkawi. Saab, Indonesian Aerospace, Airbus Defence & Space, Boeing, and Leonardo have all promoted MPA solutions at the show in recent years.

Leonardo chose the 2017 show for the public debut of its new ATR 72MP aircraft. Both Malaysia's prime minister and defence minister visited the aircraft.

Sources have previously told FlightGlobal that Kuala Lumpur has two needs: the first for a long-range, militarised MPA mission to be conducted with a larger aircraft; and a shorter-range mission closer to shore, which would be operated by parapublic bodies.