Flooded by Boat People, Malta Turns to King Airs
The Armed Forces of Malta has signed a contract for the provision of a 2nd Hawker Beechcraft King Air B200 maritime patrol aircraft, under a EUR 9.7 million program that ordered the 1st plane in October 2009. Aerodata at Braunschweig airport in Germany will be the prime contractor for the conversion process, which will install a belly-mounted Telephonics RDR-1700B radar with 360 degree coverage, L-3 Wescam’s MX-15i day/night surveillance turret, a Search And Rescue direction finder, plus a number of other sensors and communication equipment, including satellite communication and data transmission. The 1st B200 maritime patrol aircraft had its airframe rolled out in May 2010, and the AFM expects it in February 2011. This 2nd aircraft is expected in Mach 2012.
Malta’s location at the center of the Mediterranean Sea has made it a key strategic waypoint for many hundreds of years, from the Knights of Malta’s struggles against Islamic invaders to Britain’s razor-edge defense of Malta during World War 2. Now it’s turning the tiny island into an immigration flashpoint…
In the modern era, waves of migrants and refugees from northern Africa’s Muslim countries are arriving on Malta’s shores at an increasing rate. The country’s 2004 EU membership appears to have accelerated this process, while at the same time removing a great deal of discretion from the Maltese over border enforcement. Indeed, the migration issue has largely been removed from open political debate, despite its status as one of the island’s biggest political issues. The new aircraft are largely financed by the EU’s External Borders Fund, which is paying 75% of their cost. The overall EBF effort in Mata is programmed at EUR 112 million for 2007-2013, and includes a range of equipment, from patrol boats, to IT systems, to police equipment and training, to aircraft.
Hawker Beechcrat’s King Air executive turboprops have garnered military attention around the world as aerial ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) platforms, thanks to their low cost, civilian support network, endurance, and a reasonable amount of space for internal mission stations. Iraq’s new air force led the charge, but the USA has followed suit, and more King Air 350 ER derivatives will be forthcoming if Gates’ reallocation of Pentagon funds goes through. Britain and Canada have also quietly jumped on this bandwagon, and so have a number of private contractors offering turn-key ISR services.
April 5/11: The Armed Forces of Malta formally commissions its initial Hawker Beechcraft King Air maritime patrol aircraft. Times of Malta, incl. video.
Feb 25/11: The Armed Forces of Malta’s initial B200 maritime patrol aircraft arrives in Malta. Times of Malta.