The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) established the 601st Unmanned Aerial System Squadron on March 4, 2021, operating the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle UAS from its base at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. It is the RMN’s first squadron dedicated to unmanned aerial systems. The RMN has already received six aircraft from Insitu Boeing as part of an order for a total of 12 systems under of the Foreign Military Sales program, and part of the U.S. government’s Maritime Security Initiative. The remaining six ScanEagles are to be delivered by 2022. The value of the contract is $19.3 million. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
The 601 squadron will be located at RMN Naval Base at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on the northern part of the island of Borneo, in East Malaysia. There are several reasons the squadron will be located in East Malaysia. Unmanned air operations in Western Malaysia are complicated by the more complex and crowded airspace. More importantly, RMN officials acknowledge a more pressing need for maritime ISR across Malaysia’s eastern maritime border, where there is a current threat of non-state-sponsored militant activities. The operation of UAS will provide the RMN with added advantage in terms of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance throughout Malaysian’s waters as well as increase Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).
Boeing subsidiary Insitu was awarded an almost $48 million contract for 34 Insitu ScanEagle 2 unmanned air vehicles for Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. The $47,930,791 firm-fixed-price delivery order was issued against a 2017 basic ordering agreement. The order also provides for spare payloads, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools, training, technical services, and field service representatives. Malaysia is to receive 12 vehicles, Indonesia 8; the Philippines 8, and Vietnam 6. The release also detailed the costs to each government: Malaysia $19,329,334; Philippines $9,633,665; Vietnam $9,770,120; and Indonesia $9,197,672.
The Boeing Insitu ScanEagle is a small, long-endurance, low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing, and is used for reconnaissance. The ScanEagle was designed by Insitu based on the Insitu SeaScan, a commercial UAV that was intended for fish-spotting. ScanEagle is a long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle with a flight endurance of over 20 hours used for battlefield intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance. A single ScanEagle system reportedly comprises four air vehicles, a ground control station, a remote video terminal and the launch and recovery systems. The drone carries a stabilized electro-optical and/or infrared camera on a lightweight inertial stabilized turret system.