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Royal Malaysian Air Force modernises Hornet jets with US sniper targeting pods

Two Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornets fly over the US Central Command area of responsibility, 18 May 2021. Photo: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Harnden

The Royal Malaysian Air Force is expected to acquire almost a dozen sniper advanced targeting pods in a future upgrade of their F/A-18D Hornet fighter jets.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force is expected to acquire almost a dozen sniper advanced targeting pods in a future upgrade of their F/A-18D Hornet fighter jets.

The US State Department has recently approved the possible US$80 million foreign military sale of 10 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods to the government of Malaysia. The US Congress was notified of the potential sale by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 6 May this year.

The possible sale includes the targeting pods, technical data and publications, personnel training, software and training equipment, US government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, as well as elements of logistics and program support.


“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a key partner that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific region,” according to a public statement released by the DSCA on 6 May.

“The proposed sale will improve Malaysia’s capability to meet current and future threats by modernising its current F/A-18D platform with a common targeting pod.

“This proposed sale will also mitigate future obsolescence concerns and allow the Royal Malaysian Air Force to meet future operational requirements. Malaysia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. There will be no adverse impact on US defence readiness as a result of this proposed sale.”

US defence primes Lockheed Martin and Boeing have been selected as principal contractors and the proposed sale would not require assignment of additional government or contractor representatives to Malaysia.

Australia and Malaysia conduct operations together as members of the international Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), established in 1971 as a security arrangement between Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Malaysia, and Singapore.

In 2023, more than 250 Australian Defence Force personnel were deployed in the bi-annual military Exercise Bersama Shield in Malaysia.

Across two weeks from 27 April to 12 May, ADF staff cooperated with FPDA militaries from Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

The combined joint operations were designed to enhance interoperability and strengthen professional relationships.

Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon and KA350 King Air tactical mobility aircraft, and the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Anzac, were also deployed to the exercise.

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