Leonardo's ATR 72MP is making its public debut at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition. A maritime patrol example operated by the Italian air force is appearing on static display at the show, receiving VIP visitors including Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Rome has received its first two from an eventual four examples of the ATR 72MP, which it designates the P-72A, and the type is on the verge of attaining initial operational capability status.
Eduardo Munhos, head of sales for Leonardo’s aircraft division, says that apart from Malaysia, Leonardo has spoken with several countries about the MP variant, including the Philippines.
Located in a vast littoral region riven with competing territorial claims, Malaysia has a clear need for long-range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), a mission now served by four Beechcraft King Airs.
Sources say 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.
Malaysia’s MPA need has never fully materialised into a defined requirement. Over the years, several companies have pitched potential solutions.
In 2015, Boeing brought its Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) – derived from the Bombardier Challenger 604 – to the LIMA show. Saab has promoted its Swordfish system for the requirement, and Indonesian Aerospace (PTDI) has promoted an MPA variant of the CN235, which it would produce in Bandung.
Saab and PTDI also have a major presence at this year’s show. While Boeing Defense & Space has no dedicated attendance, the US company has a stand promoting its commercial aircraft and the US Navy is exhibiting a 737-based P-8A maritime patrol platform.
Leonardo is highlighting the ATR 72MP’s flexibility at the show. The type can serve in several missions including search and rescue, exclusive economic zone monitoring, as well being a communications node for other assets, as it is equipped with both Link 11 and Link 16 data links.
The aircraft at the show does not have weapons, but there are four fuselage hardpoints where they can be mounted if necessary. If the customer requires it, the platform can also be equipped for the anti-submarine warfare mission. Its interior has four operator consoles, and Leonardo says its mission endurance is up to 10h.