The AFM this morning formally commissioned a Hawker Beechcraft King Air maritime patrol aircraft, the first to be delivered brand new and tailored to the needs of the AFM. A second will be delivered next year. Each twin-engined aircraft costs just over €9.6 million, mostly financed by the EU External Borders Fund.

The aircraft give the AFM far greater endurance and capability than the Islander aircraft used so far, with the equipment suite including more sophisticated search radar, infra-red equipment and communication facilities.

The aircraft is also faster and more comfortable for the crew.

AFM Commander Brigadier Martin Xuereb said this was a historic day for the AFM in view of the quantum leap in capability it would now enjoy. The delivery of this aircraft had coincided with a delicate time for the Central Mediterranean, he said.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi thanked the AFM for its services, notable in rescuing migrants.

He then poured champagne to inaugurate the new aircraft.

The AFM will also be building a new hangar for its Air Wing, which currently also includes Alouette helicopters as well as the Islanders and Bulldog single-engined trainers.

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