Little Bird/MD-530G Contract Signed

MD 530G light attack scout helicopter to be based in ESSCOM.

SHAH ALAM: IN my post “When November Comes” I wrote that the contract for the MD Helicopters MD-530G aka Little Bird will be signed during the ASEM summit with US president Barack Obama in attendance. Actually, the contract signing for the light scout attack helicopter did took place during that week alas without the presence of the POTUS.

Despite the best efforts they could not slot the contract signing during the busy ASEM weekend. Both sides had wanted Obama to witness the signing as this was to be the most significant arms deal between the US and Malaysia, since the Hornet procurement in 1993.

MD530G test bird with the weapons package expected to be procured.
MD530G test bird with the weapons package expected to be procured.

Yes we did bought other stuff from the US in the intervening years like the M4 Carbines but nothing really significant like the Hornets.

The MD530G that was displayed at LIMA 2015. Note the weapons fit.
The MD530G that was displayed at LIMA 2015. Note the weapons fit.

Details of the direct commercial deal is expected to be made public at DSA 2016. The number of MD-530G signed was six, I was told and not eight as I had reported.

As mentioned previously, the Little Birds will be deployed in ESSCOM once delivered and fully operational. For the weapons package, its likely the standard suite like the Dillon Aero M134D minigun, HMG and rocket pods and guided rockets will be procured as shown by the picture below.

MD530G test aircraft.
MD530G test aircraft.

It is unlikely for the moment that we will be buying the Hellfire ATGM – cleared for the Little Bird – as this will need to be procured through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. A future buy is still likely though for the rather pricey ordnance.

MD530G
MD530G

It is expected that the Little Bird version that was contracted was the same as the example displayed at LIMA 2015 earlier this year. Among others, the MD 530G displayed at LIMA featured the 650 shp Rolls Royce 250-C30 engine, longer main-rotor blades, high-capacity landing gear, the Moog Stores Management System (SMS), Harris Corporation’s RF-7850A-UA tactical radio and the Thales’ Scorpion helmet-mounted cueing system.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

32 Comments

  1. Very Good for ATM.BTW,Did Malaysia will Buy MH-6i.Cause If ATM Choose The Heavy Attack Helicopter.I don’t Mind.but We Need to Moderzation As fast as we can.

    Reply
    No, we buy the MD530G, the AH-6i is the Boeing version. MD Helicopters built the airframe of AH-6i anyway.

  2. Hope that procurement of attack heli like Tiger will be finalized in the next 5 years..

    Reply
    The AH programme is now dead in the water with the Little Bird contract

  3. The quantity is on the low side, nevertheless hopefully additional units would be added later (ideally 18, with 6 always in the esscom operational area)

    As usual, what does it cost malaysia?

    Hopefully this will be the start of a battalion sized PUTD, with 3 squadrons of helicopters ( the a109, blackhawk and little birds. Leave the nuris back with tudm)

  4. A step in the right direction and more practical than previous plans to get Tigers which would have been a massive overkill for ESSCOM. Just like like how USN Little Birds use to operate from barges in the northern Gulf during the late 1980’s, the 530Gs will no doubt operate from the 2 FOBs.

    Some will still say we should have bought the AH-6i but if we had indeed bought the AH-6i; some would say we should have bought the 530G.

  5. Thank you for buying these Little Birds.They are my favorites.Whether it is 6 or 8, it does not matter as long as we can shoot from the sky.That matters.

  6. Marhalim,
    Why Don’t Buy The Kamov Ka-52 or AH-64 For ESSCOM And ESSZONE In 2017.If PUTD Gets Scout Helicopter like Ka-52,We May Be Lucky.Also,What’s the News about the Cargo Helicopter ?

    Reply
    Because they don’t want to buy attack helicopters

  7. Even the afghanistani pilots complained about its meager payload and range.

    Even if getting an attack helo for ESSCOM is an overkill, at least get something that has better commonality with existing platform, like ecureuil 2 or Fennec or even more A109s

    Reply
    Afghanistan is a mountainous country, its a high and hot country and helos like the Little Birds suffers as well as the Blackhawks and the Chinooks! It will be fine in eastern Sabah as long as the support and maintenance are taken care off. Yes perhaps a platform already in service will be better but as I like to point out : The More the Merrier!

  8. Ahmad Zaki,

    If you want our boys to learn their way chopping every mundu comes into our waters, this is the best kick starter set. Then again, as Azlan said earlier, getting the AHs would be massive overkill. Besides, we need an omnirole as it can perform scouting and laying supressive fire when the boys on the ground needed. Not to mention, with the size of both Apache’s and Aligator aren’t suitable to perform such task. Not to mention, there has been an argument about arming the LOHs as an interim attack/support chopper in the last few posts. (Azlan, if you’re reading this please fix me if I’m not correct.)

    And then the question of maintenance pops up too. We have a small budget with small numbers of army pilots to operate. Luckily, it was joint with the TUDM. Then again, some sees this as a dislike. Another reason that we doesn’t such heavy AHs is that these mundus and the Suluks doesn’t have such heavy vehicles such as APCs and tanks unless you want to rain blindly into the area wasting all your weapons and pray that it hits the enemy.

  9. dundun – ”even more A109s”

    The A-109 has yet to be integrated with a a wide range of weaponry and the army has no desire for additional A-109s due to a variety of reasons, namely its lack of robustness.

    For taskings that require more ordnance to be carried and greater distances to be flown; the Afghans have Hinds [some courtesy of the Czechs who handed them over rather than ship them home when their deployment ended].

    Izzudin Al-Hashim- ”Why Don’t Buy The Kamov Ka-52 or AH-64 For ESSCOM And ESSZONE In 2017.”

    There is zero interest in buying Russian [this has been pointed out before] and buying a full fledged attack helicopter [even if the cash was there, which it isn’t – not just to buy but to operate and support them]] is an overkill for the level of threat encountered in ESSCOM. It’s not as if the 5th Soviet Tank Guards Army or The British Army on the Rhine will be landing on the Lahad Dato or Tawau coast.

  10. That’s great. My question though is 6 even enough for such a big area like ESSCOM?

    Reply
    Six for the moment, when more money available, there could be more

  11. Wait, is this under any PFI program as well, as it has not been tabled in the recent budget? And btw where are they going to be based at?

    Reply
    Most likely under OE. ESSCOM as stated in the story

  12. MD530G not support hellfire missile, but AH-6i is support. MD is working in new version MD540 which support hellfire with more powerfull engine.

  13. I apologised if I irritated and offended the readers here with my posting.
    AHs are not cheap to maintain at the same time the US is pressuring us to buy more US excess inventories from them since they (the Americans) ada banyak besi buruk/senjatapi simpanan.

    We won’t be firing rockets like the Americans did in Vietnam as we can arm the Birds with precision guided rockets from ATK or Magellan (fmrly CRI).Satu roket ramai musuh, lebih jimat! In news clip from TV2, the amount of .50 cal rds fired at Tanduo were huge.The wastage was there during the mopped operation at Tanduo.

  14. It was a bold move by the army to start with this platform rather than the sophisticated heavy weight AH. The experiences gained from operating these little birds will benefit them towards future operation of AH. Question, are these little birds fitted with AWS capability or just the basic HMG pod?

  15. Azlan,
    i don’t see AW109LUH lack of robustness, many country also buying, even MD530G also not support many weapon, mainly Gun and rocket, also not support Hellfire. In Esscom helicopter mainy gun and rocket should be enough, but Aw109 have advantage dual engine, much safer use in above sea if intruder found in sea, and MD530G only single engine and danger use in sea, it design use in Land.

  16. Marhalim, is there any news about procument of navy’s MRSS as reported by Jane’s last week?

    Reply
    No, read my earlier posts on RMK11

  17. To hav good tools is good but to have better intel how n why they operate is best…we will always be ahead of them…not going hunting for them endlessly…..

  18. Guided missile for LB, if no Hellfire, does it comes with other US-made ATGM?perhaps the small diameter rocket?

  19. very good decision made for esscom operation. btw how about capacity in night?

    Reply
    It’s fitted for NVS

  20. People are praising this aircraft as perfect for Esscom, saying it does not have unnecessary size and firepower that we only need to fight a high tech enemy.

    In my opinion, the most urgent asset for Esscom needs not be armed at all. We are short of assets to detect intrusions over vast distances, this should be the priority. Besides having the required EO sensors, the requirement should stress endurance of the platform and the comfort of the crew.

    Once we know where the intruders are, an armed response can come from any number of existing armed air assets. Whether they be fixed or rotary wing, dedicated attack or improvised utility types, we have no shortage of armed assets to defeat a few gunmen and boats.

    Attack helicopters are sexy and nice to have, but not the best way to stop the intrusions right now.

  21. Marhalim,
    Choppers are not fitted with NVS, but rather the instruments are NVS compatible, which really is just a light filter film on each and every instrument.

    dundun/savvykl,
    Its not about robustness, A109 is just damn too expensive to use it as a truck. The PBH of the twin engines alone is going to kill the budget if indeed they were hunting for singles. Plus its an AW, sums it all. But why not the single Fennec which cost the same and all round better? Perhaps one day Marhalim will cover that part of the story.

    …,
    The 500s are the cheapest frame you can find out there. Built quality is so so since MD lost their work force a few years back when it ran to the ground. But the design itself is as good as it can get.The RR engines are essential maintenance free. As for the home brew avionic suite, its a hit or miss depends what the army tries to squeeze in. The killer is the spares availability. Since MD pretty much outsourced their logistic, it is a plus for the officers to sell their infamous no spare = I am not responsible for grounding excuse.

  22. People are praising this aircraft as perfect for Esscom, saying it does not have unnecessary size and firepower that we only need to fight a high tech enemy.

    In my opinion, the most urgent asset for Esscom needs not be armed at all. We are short of assets to detect intrusions over vast distances, this should be the priority. Besides having the required EO sensors, the requirement should stress endurance of the platform and the comfort of the crew.

    Once we know where the intruders are, an armed response can come from any number of existing armed air assets. Whether they be fixed or rotary wing, dedicated attack or improvised utility types, we have no shortage of armed assets to defeat a few gunmen and boats.

    Attack helicopters are sexy and nice to have, but not the best way to stop the intrusions urgently.

  23. AM – ”People are praising this aircraft as perfect for Esscom, saying it does not have unnecessary size and firepower that we only need to fight a high tech enemy.”

    I’m one of these people.

    Whatever we bought; people will stay say we should have bought something else. At the end of the day; it’s a compromise. The Little Bird is perfect for the role it’s intended to perform – like any other asset it should not be mis-used for role it’s not suited to perform. Whatever one fells about the Little Bird; it makes much more sense than previous plans or offers for ex-ALAT Tigers.

    The Little Birds by themselves are not a panacea. The intention is to use them with other assets; ones we already have and ones we’ll be getting. There will be instances when a Hawk will be an overkill and when using a Little Bird would be more practical; both from a costs angle and also an operational one.

    AM – ”We are short of assets to detect intrusions over vast distances, this should be the priority.”

    That’s exactly what the recent orders for the UAVs, surface radar and Floating bases are intended to address. More importantly, we need to integrate everything so that all the players get a same radar feed.

    AM – ”Attack helicopters are sexy and nice to have, but not the best way to stop the intrusions urgently.”

    Better long term economic prospects in southern Mindanao and the Tawi-Tawi archipelago are the main factors that will lead to less people wanting to mount a raid. The major problem now is that the BBL has not been passed and will be watered down or revised to reflect concerns following the Mamasapano incident. Whether the MILF and the Philippines government can both agree on a compromise remains to be seen.

  24. “The Little Birds by themselves are not a panacea. The intention is to use them with other assets; ones we already have and ones we’ll be getting. There will be instances when a Hawk will be an overkill and when using a Little Bird would be more practical; both from a costs angle and also an operational one. ”

    The Little Bird has a lower cost per hour than the Hawk. But using the Hawk for these very infrequent missions is cheaper than buying the Little Bird to do it.

    The cost per hour of the Little Bird may not be low, since we are only buying six of the type and it introduces a new logistics chain. Even if a helicopter was required, perhaps buying more of an existing type would be more economical.

  25. There will be roles where the Little Bird will be better suited to perform compared to a Hawk; especially when it comes to placing targets under surveillance for certain periods. With its FLIR the Little Birs will also be better at ID’ing targets. It may be a new helicopter but the Little Bird has a small footprint. Using an existing design would on paper be a better choice but the army does not want anymore A-109s and the A-109s are not integrated with a whole range of ordnance the way the Little Bird is. Irrespective of whether we’re only buying 6; the per hour flying costs and maintenance will be cheaper than a larger design.

  26. No worries about not getting the Hellfire. The new generation 2.75in rockets made by Raytheon are laser guided. No more spraying and praying. I guess these babies are better than the MD500/530Fs of the PAF. Could have gotten more if not for the government’s poor financial state. An answer to a clear and present danger instead of “perceived” threats.

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