PETALING JAYA: Its confirmed. BHIC Aero Services Sdn Bhd (BHICAS) has been awarded the depot level maintenance contract for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) new helicopters, the Eurocopter EC-725 Cougar. I had reported before about BHICAS – 51 per cent own by Boustead Heavy Industries Corp Bhd and the rest by Eurocopter – being chosen for the contract one year back but no one at Kementah and RMAF would confirmed it.
RMAF, in a press statement said that the award to BHICAS would support the consistent development of the local defence industry namely for the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector. “It is also part of the initiatives towards human capital development in the strategic industry which include aerospace, satellite and defence technologies,” said the statement released in conjunction with the visit of RMAF colonel-in-chief Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah to the Kuantan airbase today (Dec 19, 2012) for an inspection of the two Cougar helicopters delivered by Eurocopter.
The award to BHICAS marked a shift from the norm in the local defence industry where Airod Sdn Bhd has had a monopoly on such contracts since the late 80s. As I had reported before the award had ruffled some shirts as BHICAS is partly owned by Eurocopter. Some in the industry felt the involvement of an OEM marks the gradual withdrawal (even betrayal) of the self-reliance policy initiated by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
This they said was because the local industry would be superseded by OEMs in future MRO contracts for planes already purchased (A400M) or to be purchased (MRCA) by RMAF. Well, I understand their concern, but it must be said that the local defence industry had not shown the initiative to grow from their cocoon when the pickings were good. Only now with the aerospace giants descending on our shores that some had started to move away from relying on government contracts.
As our defence industry is small – be it land, aerospace and sea – I expect BHICAS will soon be (or already) the new power employer of the industry though I dont think it will need that too many people within the next 10 years, probably not more than five engineers and up to 20 technicians.
And I guess very soon, Boustead Heavy Corp (a subsidiary of Boustead Holdings, the investment arm of Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera) will be the pillar of the local defence industry in the same mould of Singapore Technologies although some long time defence industry players will still be able to dictate their terms within the near future.
Oh by the way, the release also said eight of the Cougars will be stationed in Kuantan (10 Skn and the last 4 (5 Skn) in Labuan mainly due strategic reasons, operational areas and ready infrastructure. The last four Cougars will be delivered by 2014.
Since the RMAF had not given an official name to the Cougar (like the Nuri), I welcome proposals in the comments section. I will pick the the best three for my next poll question and hopefully I can persuade Eurocopter Malaysia to donate some prizes for the poll winner.
There was nothing in the release on the Integrated Self Protection Suite and the refueling probe, however. I was informed
that the helicopters had been wired for both and the cost had been included in the contract price. As usual the delay is in getting the contracts signed!