Goodbye Whirly Bird?

Two Nuri helicopters peforming their displays at LIMA 19 opening ceremony

SHAH ALAM: Goodbye Whirly Bird? At LIMA 19 although the government signed several LOIs with Airod Sdn Bhd for the MRO of RMAF aircraft including VIP ones, what was glaring was the absence of the contract or even LOIs for the upgrade of the Nuri, Hawks and Hercules. As the Hawk upgrade is inevitably linked to the LCA project proposed by RMAF, its absence was understandable. Simply said the government will have to decide which one to fund as there is not enough money for both. The previous Defence Minister had on various ocassions stated that Hawk upgrade programme had been funded but it is obvious that this was just empty talk.

Two Nuri helicopters peforming their displays at LIMA 19 opening ceremony. TUDM

As for the Hercules one, I was told that the upgrades has been put on the back burner as most of the capabilities sought for it has been superseded by the Airbus A400M Atlas, even though they are only four of them in service. It is likely that the MRO contract for the Hercules undertaken already by Airod will be continued, with limited upgrades done to ensure the fleet are able to continue flying until 2030, at least.

Nuri helicopters during LIMA 19. TUDM

As for the Nuri upgrade, it is the most vulnerable one, I have been told. The Army is no longer interested in taking more of the helicopters, four currently with PUTD, with at least another two in Butterworth used for pilot training.

Two at a time. Nuri at LIMA 19

It is difficult to get any official confirmation on this as even the Army chief did not want to answer media questions for this year’s Army Day. That said it is likely that RMAF and PUTD will continue flying them for the time being until the financing for the replacements are sorted out.

A PUTD Nuri helicopter carrying an Oto Melara 105mm pack howitzer at a firing exercise in 2016.

As for the replacements, RMAF wants more EC725, of course and the Army preferred, I am told, a medium-size solution, simply one big enough to lift a single 105mm gun.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

22 Comments

  1. >the Army preferred, I am told, a medium-size solution, simply one big enough to lift a single 105mm gun

    Mi-171 it is

  2. @ marhalim

    ” As for the replacements, RMAF wants more EC725 of course and the Army preferred, I am told, a medium-size solution, simply one big enough to lift a single 105mm gun ”

    Solution:

    For RMAF, get those used grounded civilian EC225LP before they are all snapped up by others. Ukraine has bought a few dozen, and countries like Iceland has gotten them for SAR missions. Currently there is even a few in Malaysia.

    For PUTD, used refurbished Blackhawks is a good option. It can easily lift a 105mm howitzer if that is what the army wants.

    https://media.defense.gov/2016/Aug/01/2001590381/-1/-1/0/160731-F-LX370-265C.JPG

  3. Even if it’s politically unpalatable to fund the MRCA, surely some political will can be found for a follow up order of ec725s? Helos can be justified for disaster or humanitarian relief.

  4. more information on 105mm howitzers

    the weight of :

    Nexter LG-1 105mm – 1520kg

    Oto Melara Mod 56 pack howitzer 105mm – 1290kg

    Max underslung weight limit for UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter – 4100kg

  5. so no one want Nuri???i thought its a good heli for army and PUTD for until 2035….since i dont think new govt would want to spend on to buy new heli…

    haih…i juts hope Nuri got the upgrade soon…new heli please put it behind LCA,MPA and LMS….

    Reply
    PUTD never want it in the first place.

  6. @ hilmi

    Those nuris with the right investment can be safely flown 20-30 years more.

    The issue is, right now the prices of alternative options, like used EC225LP (which is the civilian version of EC725) and UH60 blackhawks can be acquired at a cost of a little bit more than the cost to upgrade the nuris to the same standard and capability as more modern helicopters.

  7. Hilmi,

    Being “old” does not mean they should have been retired. Age is secondary; more important is whether the air frame still has flying hours and can still be supported by the OEM. In both cases the answer is yes.

    The RMAF anyhow in that time frame was in no hurry to retire the Nuri. The plan was to upgrade the Nuri whilst still getting Cougars.

    Zack,

    As it is – without an upgrade – the Nuri is maintenance intensive due to age (requiring more checks and maintenance) and can only fly VFR; that’s why the army is reluctant. Another reason is that the army worries that if it gets more Nuris; the government will use this as an excuse to further delaying funding for new platforms.

  8. @ azlan

    Nuri, by its 60s design is inherently maintenance intensive. You cannot do away with that. Its gearbox and rotor hub design for example, needs to be regularly relubricated. But that does not mean it is expensive to fly. Its operating costs, considering all the many maintenance items it needs, is around the same as the super puma.

    But that is now the issue. The glut of cheap secondhand unwanted super pumas that is flooding the market. You can get a super puma for the same price a similar age but smaller AW139. So now for the same money, do you want to heavily upgrade a 50 year old helicopter? Or get a used 10 year old one that will reduce the fleet to just 1 type? Both can fulfil the same missions and task.

    As for the blackhawks, refurbished to as new samples with upgraded digital cockpits can be bought for less than USD5 million each.

    Yes nuris can be flown for much more longer, but for the cost of heavy upgrades needed younger helicopters can be bought instead. So which one do you choose?

  9. The Seakings are a hardy and long lived platform, so there’s no necessity to mothball and retire the fleet. Heck even Canada only just recently retired their CSAR Seakings and they were much used compared to ours.

    If TUDM and PUTD doesn’t want the Nuris, why not give them to TLDM. With so many big budgeted projects on their plate, any cost savings like not having to spend more money on acquiring choppers will help. A limited upgrade focused on engines, rotors, & powertrain with GPS navi can help to prolong its usage. Once budget permits, they can be upgraded with sea warfare equipment which then can be transferred to newer choppers when the time comes. The Nuri/Seaking are seaborne by design so putting out to sea is no biggie.

  10. Medium sized? Aw149 will be a good choice..biggest cabin size in its class..more than enough to perform transportation mission..

  11. ……

    The Nuri, because of its age, has become increasingly expensive to fly; in that more checks are required, things tend to break down more often and more post flight maintenance hours are required. So in short, it has become more expensive to fly in the past, compared to previously; which is one reason the army is reluctant to get any more.

    I made that very clear in my previous post.

    joe,

    If the arny doesn’t want them; you seriously think the RMN does? Also, it can fit in any hangar on any RMN ship.

  12. AMN,

    In most cases ship crews had little early warning when attacked by Exocet. Sheffield’s ESM did detect the Etendard’s radar and the Exocet’s seeker going active but there was little time. Another problem is that Sheffield did not receive an update from other ships as her comms were temporarily not receiving because she was sending/receiving a SATCOM message. There was also the RN ship hit by a land launch Exocet. The Argentines took it off a ship and rigged it to a trailer. Power was provided by a generator originally delivered in the 1940’s to power AA searchlights.

    Contrast what happened with Sheffield and the RN ship that successfully engaged a Silkworm with Seadart during the Gulf War; it received early warning and had good SA.

    ……

    The Nuri, because of its age, has become increasingly expensive to fly; in that more checks are required, things tend to break down more often and more post flight maintenance hours are required. So in short, it has become more expensive to fly in the past, compared to previously; which is one reason the army is reluctant to get any more.

    I made that very clear in my previous post.

    joe,

    If the arny doesn’t want them; you seriously think the RMN does? Also, it can fit in any hangar on any RMN ship.

    Is not as simple as that as (like everything else) there are various things to consider; not just what may or not look “cost effective” on paper. If I had to choose however; I would look at things in totality and not just in isolation.

    Ever since a handful of Nuris were upgraded on the early 1990’s the RMAF has been pushing for a full upgrade. The intention was so the fleet could fly VFR and so the Nuri would be more cost efficient and manageable to support and fly. Even by the 1990’s the Nuris were becoming maintenance intensive.

    Fast forward to the early 2000’s the intention was to get a squadron’s worth of new platforms (for SAR, CSAR and special forces insertion); whilst keeping the Nuris and handing some to the army. A major problem was that the army was already stretched with the A-109s and lacked the infrastructure to absorb Nuris.

    Today the air force finds itself in the position of still wanting to progressively add the number of Cougars (yes you have mentioned pre owned examples) whilst continuing to operate the Nuri. It has no choice as there are no funds for new Cougars and as usual the government can provide no indication as to a likely time line.

    As such the RMAF has no choice but to continue operating the Nuri (getting more maintenance intensive and requiring more becks than previously) and hope an upgrade can be performed. No doubt an upgrade will not solve all issues inherent with the Nuri but it will solve certain issues; namely reducing post flight maintenance, replacing certain components with newer and better performing replacements; easing the crew’s workload and enabling the Nuri to perform better in certain conditions.

  13. joe,

    Correction the Nuri “can’t” not “can”. fit in the hangar of any RMN ship. To land on the Kasturis it has to land at an angle as the deck is too short.

    In short there are various reasons why the RMN wouldn’t want Nuris. Adding ASW gear would entail integration and certification (the stuff that went on Sea Kings is dated, no longer marketed and nobody currently offers newer ASW gear for use on the
    S-61 or deitivatives) and the costs involved might not be worth the overall effort.

  14. @Azlan
    The Army is the Army, the Navy is the Navy. What one’s meat can be another’s poison and vice versa. Circumstances for the TDM may not be the same for TLDM.

    Anyways this idea is just for a medium term while TLDM gets the budget for more modern choppers. The Nuris still has a lot of life left and with sufficient maintenance, they can be used for much much longer like the Canadians CSAR Seakings. It is amphibious so its well suited for over water missions. It is large which precludes storing onboard ship hangars but that also meant it has room for more equipment, equipment that can be passed onto the modern choppers when they eventually come. Our ships mostly operates within our littoral waters where the choppers are more often based on land, so storing inside the hangar is moot.

    Have anyone found out if TLDM have enough choppers to fill the onboard ships being built? If they haven’t ordered any, what are the chances to get them, looking at the tight budget right now and in the foreseeable future? So if the Nuris are available, why not get them? Beggars can’t be choosers right?

    Reply

    You can take my word that TLDM want something else

  15. Spending money to upgrade the nuri means less money for additional EC725 / EC225 or anything else. Super cheap used EC225 wont be available for long and if we dont snap them up others will.

    All aircraft is inherently VFR (Mk1 eyeball – VFR means Visual Flight Rules), so i think you meant IFR. In the past 2-3 years IFR avionics capability and tech has seen great leaps in capability. Touchscreen, virtual terrain, etc are the norm now.

    After searching my archives, I finally found the Nuri file.

    In 2014 the average flight hours of the nuri is 10,833 Hours. Civil oil and gas or SAR S-61N often is still flying with 45,000 Hours on the airframe. Theoretically we can still fly the nuri for 100-150 more years with our low annual flight hours. At that time (2014) the lowest houred nuri was M23-33 with 8,532 hours, highest was M23-01 with 13,802 hours. Yes we can still continue to use the Nuri, but will it be better and easier to consolidate the fleet to just EC725 / EC225, while spending similar or a little bit more money meant for upgrading the Nuri?

    This is some of the parts life limit / TBO and major overhaul times for S-61

    Original metal main rotor blade 10,000 hours limit (carson composite blades 20,000 hours)
    Original tail rotor blade 63,000 hours limit
    Engine 5,000 hours TBO
    Main Gearbox 2,500 hours TBO
    Main rotor head 2,650 hours TBO or 3 years
    Intermediate gearbox 3,800 hours TBO
    Tail rotor gearbox 3,000 hours TBO
    Major whole helicopter overhaul (major phase 1-9) 9,000 hours TBO

    Challenges for the Nuri fleet according to TUDM

    1. Long TAT (turn around time) for spares.
    This can be mitigated by accumulating more spares. Requests for transfer available spares from UK, Australia, Canada, India and Japan retired stocks can be initiated.

    2. Obsolescence.
    This can be only solved by major upgrade to replace all the obsolescence hardwares, particularly the electric and avionics parts. This needs substantial amount of money to be allocated and spent on the Nuri.

    3. Budget shrinking on spares procurement.
    See number 1

    4. Low MTBF of MGB.
    This you have to live with it if you want to continue flying the Nuri. You cannot buy a newer better MGB design for this. Stock spare MGB at every flying location to quickly swap failed MGB. Additional MGB stocks to rotate during MGB rebuild and overhaul. Main issues are frequent oil leaks and low oil pressure.

    ASW upgrade.
    Not that I would prefer this to be done, but it has been done recently. The company that developed this is well known to malaysian aviation industry.

  16. Marhalim, off topic, since very long time I haven’t visit your blog, what is the status of our SPH deals with US?

    Reply
    Wait for it

  17. @Marhalim
    I’m sure TLDM wants something else, for sure something that will fit into the hangars of their heli-borne ships. I admit that the idea to use Nuris isn’t ideal or wanted by TLDM if given the option but unless they are confident to get the choppers they wanted, there could possibly be a future where we have new Maharajalelas already without AA missiles, and then likely without accompanying choppers. I only hope we never reach that situation and yet those decision makers still stubbornly cling onto getting new when there is no money.

  18. The Malaysian government needs to act decisively once the White Paper is released. No more delays and dithering, all of this gives a perception of weakness and affects our international reputation and domestic morale.

    Reply
    The government has always dithered when it comes to defence and national security. I don’t expect the current one will be much more different even with the new one

  19. Terlepas jugak lagi sorang batu api indonesia di sini (jom songlap).

    Memang Nuri heli tua. Tidak ada masalah pun heli tua ini masih boleh berjasa….

  20. joe

    Re: Have anyone found out if TLDM have enough choppers to fill the onboard ships being built? If they haven’t ordered any, what are the chances to get them, looking at the tight budget right now and in the foreseeable future? So if the Nuris are available, why not get them? Beggars can’t be choosers right?

    I don’t think any current ships can support Nuris.
    Kedah class decks are only enough for Nuris to land, but it can never enter the hangar. I am not sure if the same applies to Jebat class or the new LMS and LCS.

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