Putrajaya won’t be paying for US drones, says defence ministry

The first batch of the US ScanEagle drones is expected to arrive in mid-November, the defence ministry says. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya will not shell out a single sen for 12 surveillance drones from the United States as it is part of Washington’s initiative to aid its Southeast Asian allies in beefing up their maritime security.

The defence ministry said the cost of the so-called Maritime Security Initiative (MSI), which will include the supply of assets and training, will be borne by the US.

“The Royal Malaysian Navy will be receiving the assets in stages beginning this year to 2022.

“The first batch of six ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is scheduled to arrive in mid-November,” it said in a statement.

The ministry said that apart from the Malaysian Armed Forces, other enforcement agencies will be able to benefit from the initiative.

“As a maritime nation, we are in need of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to monitor strategic points along the Melaka Strait, the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea,” it said.

Earlier his week, Reuters reported that the Trump administration was going ahead with a surveillance drone sale to four of its allies in the South China Sea region.

The Pentagon announced it would sell 34 ScanEagle drones, made by Boeing Co, to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam for a total of US$47 million (RM196.5 million).

As many as 12 unarmed drones and equipment would go to Malaysia for about US$19 million, the report said. Indonesia and the Phili[ppines would buy eight each and Vietnam six.

The drones “would afford greater intelligence gathering capabilities potentially curbing Chinese activity in the region,” the report added.