RMAF Upgrade Programmes Green Lighted

SHAH ALAM: DESPITE the economic headwinds, it appears that RMAF upgrade programmes – Hercules, Hawk and Nuri – have been green lighted. However it remained to be seen whether the contracts will be signed at the upcoming DSA 2016.

Even if they could not signed the contracts at the exhibition, it is expected that it will be done shortly after the show. The decision to approve the upgrades is a big relief to the local defence industry as many had feared that the “difficult funding environment” will work against them.

RMAF Hawk 208
RMAF Hawk 208

Defence industry sources said the Hawk upgrades are expected to be completed within the next two years while the Hercules and Nuri ones will likely stretch past 2020. As the Hawks are needed for operations in Sabah, the shorter period for upgrades is elementary. And as the Nuri and Hercules are expected to serve past 2020 the longer period for their upgrades will not be an issue.

RBAF S-70A Blackhawk helicopter.  USAF photo
RBAF S-70A Blackhawk helicopter. USAF photo

The fulfillment of the upgrade programmes will be credited to the Defence Ministry “readiness” initiative but there are of course other reasons for the approval. One of it was the decision to procure the four ex-Brunei Blackhawks.

Yes, we paying for the Blackhawks instead getting them FOC as previously reported. As with any procurement (or gifts) of assets, maintenance and support issues will come into play. In this case, the work will be done by Airod Sdn Bhd which had been maintaining the RMAF VVIP Blackhawks all this while. The ISS contract for the Blackhawks could also be signed at DSA 2016 as well.

M46-02 VVIP Blackhawk. Although crewed by RMAF personnel, their tasking come under the PMO. Malaysian Defence
M46-02 VVIP Blackhawk. Although crewed by RMAF personnel, their tasking come under the PMO. Malaysian Defence

And Airod will also be the main player for the three upgrades. On the Hercules upgrade as reported previously, Airod was awarded a letter of intent at DSA 2014 for the upgrade of the avionics and communications systems aboard the RMAF’s fleet of 14 Hercules to meet international aviation traffic standards. The work is to be done with Canada’s Esterline-CMC which was selected by the government for the programme.

Hercules M30-12, one of the planes of the 20th Squadron.
Hercules M30-12, one of the planes of the 20th Squadron.

However, the work had yet to start as the contract had not been signed as Airod seek to work with Rockwell Collins, its long time partner. Industry sources told Malaysian Defence that the government was adamant though that the project be carried out with Esterline. I believed that the government chose Esterline as part of the deal which allowed Petronas to buy a shale gas field in Canada in 2014.

Rockwell Collins Pro-line cockpit install on a S-61.
Rockwell Collins Pro-line cockpit install on a S-61.

As for the Nuri upgrade, previously Airod worked with Vector Aerospace. The Nuri Upgrade was completed with a single helicopter – M23-36 – which is already operational with No 3 Squadron. However this time around, Airod is expected to work with another international helicopter MRO company.

RMAF Nuri S61A4 M23-36 at the fly-past rehearsal on Feb 26, 2016. The 36 is the only Nuri which has undergone the digital cockpit upgrade.
RMAF Nuri S61A4 M23-36 at the fly-past rehearsal on Feb 26, 2016. The 36 is the only Nuri which has undergone the digital cockpit upgrade.

It is expected after the first Nuri is upgraded, the rest of the helicopters in service – at least 22 – including those of PUTD – will also be fitted with the Rockwell Collins Pro-Line digital cockpit and other enhancements which will reduce operating costs and offer higher performance benefits.

A digital camo Nuri of the PUTD at the opening ceremony of the Johor Military Force camp in Johor Bahru, last week. Johor Southern Tigers photo.
A digital camo Nuri of the PUTD at the opening ceremony of the Johor Military Force camp in Johor Bahru, last week. Johor Southern Tigers photo.

It must be noted that only PUTD Nuri had been painted in the digital camouflage as shown in the two pictures used here. The camo seen here is different from the two Nuris delivered at LIMA as green tones had been added, similar to ones on PUTD’s AW109s.

One of the digital camoed Nuri handed over to the Army at LIMA 15.
One of the digital camoed Nuri handed over to the Army at LIMA 15.

Army chief Tan Sri Raja Affandi Raja Mohamed Nor – when met at the Starstreak missile firing late March – told Malaysian Defence that he preferred the camo on the two Nuris at LIMA as “it is much better in breaking up the silhouette”.

A digital camo Nuri of PUTD conducting a fast roping exercise during the opening ceremony of the Johor Military Force camp in Johor Bahru, last week. Johor Southern Tigers photo.
A digital camo Nuri of PUTD conducting a fast roping exercise during the opening ceremony of the Johor Military Force camp in Johor Bahru, last week. Johor Southern Tigers photo.

The Hawk upgrades, according to industry sources will only involved the single seaters, the Hawk 208s, in service with RMAF. Again as reported previously, the upgrades planned are limited mostly involving the cockpit displays, HUDs and the RWR.

RMAF Hawk M40-25 which carries the Lahad Datu mission markings.
RMAF Hawk M40-25 which carries the Lahad Datu mission markings.

BAE Systems as the OEM will be providing the equipment with Airod doing the upgrading work. The decision to base the Hawks in Sabah really tip the scale this time around.

As did the Blackhawk deal.

— Malaysian Defence

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41 Comments

  1. Marhalim, any more news of the new JMF camp? Would love to know more about that.

    So those blackhawks are bought, not gifted. More blackhawks would be ideal for the PUTD, now with even civilian companies in usa are getting access to used blackhawks, finding some at low cost (through EDA) would not be difficult, compared to 2-3 years ago.

    Reply
    Nothing more on JMF camp unfortunately. No more money after the Brunei deal to get more helicopters

  2. I prefer to replace the Nuri with more Super Cougar.

    Reply
    That was the plan actually but then the lack of money and other usual things got in the way

  3. What makes the Blackhawk gifts turn into purchase?

    Reply
    I was told that it was never a gift in the first place. Most likely that it was a miscommunication after the matter was decided at the highest level

  4. Rsaf super pumas will be replaced soon I think Malaysia should consider buying second hand from singapore as this is cheaper than brand new

    Reply
    Those Super Pumas are completely different to our Cougars so any cost savings will be lost to cover other things. Anyhow Malaysia has never bought anything new from Singapore. Why do you think we will buy second hand stuff from them?

  5. I suspect the Blackhawks were bought for a token sum only, perhaps even $1. Buying probably makes it more legal than getting it for free.

    Reply
    It’s much higher than what you think. That’s why I said there’s no more money to buy other second hand Blackhawks

  6. Nak ni yang betul info ktak orang tuk, kejap madah Blackhawk ya berik kerajaan Brunei, kejap di beli nak ni benar tuk…

    Reply
    Betul beli

  7. @ marhalim

    – We have previously used super pumas before. M36-01.

    – We have previously bought secondhand helicopters from singapore, 7 Alouette III in 1978

    Not to say I agree with the thoght of buying secondhand super puma’s though

  8. I hope they will upgrade the 4 Backhawks to be used as a state of the art surveillance platform or even SIGINT. I think we have more than suffice armed aerial platform to handle the threats originating from the kidnapper, pirates and other non state actors.

  9. SIGINT ”state of the art” helicopters when we don’t have enough helicopters for utility and other daily tasks? I don’t think so. Just like proposals to equip future MPAs with ASMs and ASW gear : lets get down to the basics first before we even get to the sexy and expensive stuff.

    Zack – ”I think Malaysia should consider buying second hand from singapore as this is cheaper than brand new”

    People have a propensity for assuming that pre-owned is always ”cheaper” without taking into consideration the long term operating costs , i.e. wear and tear accumulated over the years and how maintenance intensive running 30 odd year old helicopters will be. Also, it’s not as if we currently operate Super Pumas and have an existing support infrastructure for the type.

  10. Why do you assume the RSAF Pumas will be retired soon? They have recently been upgraded with glass cockpit, missile warning and flare dispensers, not more than 4 years ago.

    Those deployed on the Gulf of Aden mission with the RSN LST additionally got a few small pieces of cockpit ballistic armour and flotation package for emergency water landing.

    Reply
    I believed because at the Singapore budget announcement, they were talking about getting new helicopters.

  11. Now and then, you can see them at Kuching. They stop to refuel, on their way to Brunei. They have also been fitted with a FLIR, mounted forward of the cargo compartment.

    On the Super Puma we had; IPTN offered to replace it with a new one but nothing came of it. If I’m not mistaken, it has just flown Anwar or was about to; when it crashed.

    Reply
    Yes Anwar was supposed to fly with that helicopter that morning but decided to take a car instead

  12. Rsaf super pumas will be retiring soon probably by the next five years, they will be announcing the replacement soon. Not only that, they are also replacing their Chinooks and I think that it’s more preferable for Malaysia to get singapores super pumas as well as Chinooks to fulfill it’s nuri replacement. *all of their helicopters are upgraded and it will extend it’s lifespan

  13. A large perentage of nuri that were crashed due to either human error or weather condition. The RN only retire its sea king quite recently (and they were exposed to greater stress than our nuris since they have to carry AEW/ASW equipments and subjected to high salinity condition in atlantic ocean). This is a testament of how capable the platform is

  14. @ radin

    Most of the nuri accidents was caused by flying into bad weather, even the latest accident at pulau perak was caused by strong gust of wind, which would affect even the most modern helicopters.

    With modern glass cockpits, better situational awareness would be afforded by the pilots, so no issue of hitting mountain sides in poor visibility anymore. (I know this is hard to understand but YouTube glass cockpit operations with garmin or similar synthetic vision systems. These things are like night and day difference in easing the pilots workload)

    We still have around 15 nuri flying and 10 stored, with only around 11000hours of flight time for each nuri. In the 90’s those similar s-61n used by MHS flying to petronas oil platforms have more than 25000hours on them and still flying safely. Given proper maintenance (not to skimp on money for spares and support) the nuris could fly for 20-30 more years to come. It is just a utility transport, no need for super expensive new helicopters to do what the nuri does.

  15. I recalled about the offer made to PUTD for Mi-171 more than a decade ago (back when they just inducted A109 into service and were looking for medium transport aircraft). What happened to the deal?

    Reply
    After the police Mi-17 debacle (they got two helicopters and quickly offloaded them to Bomba as the DCA could not approved them for civil registration), no one had taken a whiff of the helicopters again.

  16. By 2018, our Hawk reach 30 years old. Is there anyone know how many hours our hawk had clocked?

    Reply
    No but I am told the airframe is good until 2025

  17. Are we replacing the Hawk HUD and RWR, simply to keep these items serviceable, or for an increase in capability?

    The Hawk is a light strike and CAS aircraft. We saw in Lahad Datu that it lacks an independent precision bombing capability. It is unfortunate this will not be rectified. We certainly are not making the most of our assets.

    Reply
    To keep them serviceable, mostly but with the upgrade it can now be fitted with more advanced weapons like the 9X or Brimstone. The aircraft could also be fitted a targeting pod for self designation but I guess there’s no budget for that

  18. Even under bomba they are M registered….They could not be civil registerd as the manual and other technical documentation werent available then..so i was told at the time…

  19. PUTD should consider CH-47 Chinook block 2 with “advanced Chinook rotor blade”.
    other than that is AW101 also ok for PUTD.
    helicopter with rear ramp more suitable to PUTD.

  20. @says
    i see some one said,not the hours issue , is structure lifespan also consider, 49 years using nuri . also is psychological pressure of army and pilot went using helicopter. how you think if as military officer see your boy risk using 49 year old helicopter. if any happen to helicopter just will sad for hole life. just like rmaf got EC725 so every one happy. if budget issue can get in small quantity like 4 unit first divide to phase

  21. Alex – ”(and they were exposed to greater stress than our nuris since they have to carry AEW/ASW equipments and subjected to high salinity condition in atlantic ocean).”

    To counter that, I can say that our Nuris were often required to fly in adverse weather conditions, over difficult terrain; in order to support troops in far flung locations [often with very ”difficult” or ”tricky” landing spots]; as well as performing other tasks like SAR.

    AM – ”We certainly are not making the most of our assets.”

    The trick is to spend just enough to be able to keep them flying [under present operational rates]; as well as to upgrade certain time expired or obsolescent stuff but also to ensure that not too much cash is spent in order for the cash to be used elsewhere. Making the Hawk 200s too capable could present bean counters excuse to further delay other programmes the RMAF is seeking to implement.

  22. Xfokker,
    Not quite true. They did not know what are the going into until the shit hits the fan. Funny thing is, no one turn his hat in for it.

  23. RSAF Super Pumas possible replace by Merlins and Chinooks replace by newer version of Chinooks. Some report say SG interest in Osprey. I always say SG is country tat put logic first. Osprey is nice to see but a Chinook will do fine and cost economical.

  24. Other than DSA refusal to register the choppers, I’ve never heard bad things from Bomba pilots about them.

    If they are meant for military use, why bother with civil registration? Doesn’t means that is a substandard helicopter

    Reply
    Because it was supposed to be PDRM it was supposed to be under the civil register, not military

  25. savvykl – ” also is psychological pressure of army and pilot went using helicopter. how you think if as military officer see your boy risk using 49 year old helicopter.”

    Actually, every serving and former Nuri pilot and AQM I’ve spoken to has nothing but good to say about the Nuri. There is no ”psychological pressure” [as you put it] but concerns and frustration that – amongst other things – the Nuri [without an upgrade] is not intended to be flown in bad weather conditions [which it often does]. The RMAF actually has been requesting for a Nuri upgrade since the 1990’s!

    Irrespective of the age of our Nuris, the key fact remains that the air frames still have lots of hours left. Any impression that we are flying air frames that should have been retired years ago because they have run out of hours is false….. None of the Nuri crashes that have taken place was due to old age. You might be surprised to know that some Cougar pilots actually miss flying the Nuri despite now flying an aircraft that is generations ahead of the Nuri.

  26. @ dundun

    Check your facts. The marine one aw101 merlin programme was cancelled years ago. Obama still flies in a seaking/nuri and probably until the end of his presidential term.

  27. BOMBA and APMM is a civil dept but why it can operates a military registered heli?

    Good to know Nuri,Herc & Hawk at last get their required upgrades to meet the latest operational requirements. I remembered eyeball Nuri taking off from a rural school football field in bad weather, payload foreign military officers who spent a night at Iban longhouse, early 90es, no black radome for weather radar on the nose. Salute to its aircrew for doing their job with a platform less fitted for the job.

  28. Nimitz – ” no black radome for weather radar on the nose.”

    About half the fleet received the Marconi radar in the1989-1991 period. Always wondered if the radars are still operable.

  29. Can I ask when we acquired and retired our Bell 47s?

    Details escape me but I think when I visited our museum, a sign said they had a second lease of life with some youth flying program.

    When CG USFK, General Bonesteel was fighting North Korean infiltration in the 60s, he had only 6 UH-1s. Priority at the time was with units and allies in Vietnam and Europe. His way of requesting more was to have the visiting Sec Def squeeze into an unheated Bell 47 with him and the pilot.

    Reply
    I have no idea AM hopefully someone will chip in. If I meet one of my former colleagues, I will ask him about it. I expect him to know about it.

  30. If im not mistaken, those (2) bell 47 was gifted to rakan muda and taken care of by the malaysian EAA chapter in sg besi. Others were sold to Australia and new zealand, where they are still flown.

    They were aquired in 1974, but previously the airforce helicopter training was undertaken by a private company, also with bell 47.

    Bell 47 are very2 basic machines, still with spare parts suppliers available.

  31. nimitz,
    because their mission declaration has “emergency rescue” and similar exposition which allows them to tap into non civil use category.

    And military in the world flies without radar for decades. Learn your instrument and chart was and still is the basic. Although, I doubt the new kids can read the chart as good as those from our time.

  32. I can tell you the exact year they entered service and when they were retired but unfortunately my PC is in a shop and all the info is in it. If memory serves me well [no doubt someone will correct me], we bought the Bells before the Alo 3s.

    Upon entering service the Bell47Gs were used as basic trainers by S.E.A. Helicopters [based at Sungei Besi] which had former U.S. military instructors. With the exception of a cadre that trained in the U.S. all the early Nuri pilots were trained by S.E.A. Helicopters; including several army pilots who were transferred to the RMAF when lack of funding prevented the army from raising an Air Wing. Some sources previously listed our Bell 47Gs as being
    ex-AAC Siouxs – this is untrue.

  33. @dundun,

    Merlin already cancel after protest, they change to order to Sikorsky’s S-92 as new President Helos, but only ready in 2020. america policy is Gov only buy new Airforce1 or Marine 1 helos for next President, not existing President will use it. so Obama/next President still using SeaKing/Nuri until 2020.

    @Azlan …
    noted.

  34. “Making the Hawk 200s too capable could present bean counters excuse to further delay other programmes the RMAF is seeking to implement”

    That would be very sad. Precision munitions are getting cheaper, smaller and compatible with more aircraft. Having our main CAS platform do without them defeats a lot of purpose.

    Reply
    As I mentioned in the story when upgraded we could armed the Hawks with more advanced weapons even possibly JDAM though no one had done so yet. LGBs could also be used but they need to be buddy lased from the Hornets or from the ground.

  35. Azlan,
    I have the impression that your Pc HDD is a ATM “history book” with numerous volumes dating back to WWII hehehe. Hope you ask the PC technician to do 2 backups for your venerable PC.

    H,
    Thanks for info on how BOMBA & APMM get their heli registered. Unfortunately I have no idea how “good” new fliers now with their chart, I not a aircraft pilot. As I had a chance eyeball a light aircraft chart full with markings lying in the cockpit (wonder why that room is called a cock and a pit?)maybe now our new flier have issues with their chart, human activities on the ground is changing the landscape faster than the chart being updated.

  36. Is there a cheap/cost effective/value for money targeting pods for our Hawks? I don’t think Damocles pods are cheap and there is no way we can buy litening or sniper pod

    Reply
    We can buy one or two pods and shared them. It is not as if we have 18 Damocles pods anyway or 8 ATFLIRs! But that depends on what RMAF has in mind for the upgraded Hawks of course. Better still if they are willing to invest in GPS only guided bombs there is no need for targeting pods. But then again why should we invest in such expensive ordnance for non state actors. A cheaper way although still a bit pricey is to get laser guided warheads for the FZ rockets already certified on the Hawks and Hornets.

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