Air force officials, including chief of staff Rodzali bin Daud, have been negotiating with Indonesia's state-owned aircraft-maker PT Dirgantara Indonesia for the purchase, say industry sources.
The two sides hope to sign a letter of intent at the Defence Services Asia show in Kuala Lumpur in late April, they add.
Malaysia needs maritime patrol aircraft because its air force has been relying largely on four Beechcraft Super King Airs that it received in 1994. One of these was recently upgraded with a Thales radar and a second is to undergo the same work in the coming months.
The air force wants the CN-235MPAs to widen its operations and improve payload performance, say industry sources. The service already operates CN-235 transports, so Indonesia's offering provides some fleet commonality.
Malaysia has considered other types, such as a version of the Fokker 50. Fokker Services Asia had pushed the model as a cheaper alternative, and made a proposal to have some commercial Fokker 50s recently phased out by Malaysia Airlines converted for the maritime patrol mission by national maintenance, repair and overhaul firm Airod. Malaysian government investment firm Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad owns the retired aircraft.