When November Comes..

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

SHAH ALAM: MALAYSIA is expected to sign for at least eight MD-530G light attack scout helicopter in late November. The helicopters to be operated jointly by the RMAF and the Army are expected to be deployed in ESSCOM once delivered.

Industry sources told Malaysian Defence, officials were working feverishly to ensure that the signing ceremony could be held in November when Malaysia is scheduled to host the East Asia summit.

However, if the agreement could not be worked out for the signing ceremony this November, the deal could be made official at the DSA 2016 exhibition next April.

Apart from the MD530G, Boeing AH-6i and ex-US Army Kiowa Warriors were also considered to fulfill the Light Scout Attack Helicopter requirement.

The FN RMP LC gun pod.
The FN RMP LC gun pod.

It is not known what type of weapons are to be procured for the Little Birds. According to MD Helicopters, the MH-530G could be fitted with a range of weapons systems from the Dillon Aero M134D minigun, the FN Herstal 50 caliber Heavy Machine Gune Pod or the Heavy Machine Rocket Gun Pod, the Talon guided rockets and the Hellfire ATGM. The helicopter could also be fitted with personnel carrying rig.

A US MH-6 Little Bird carrying operators on a rig designed to carry personnel. US Army picture
A US MH-6 Little Bird carrying operators on a rig designed to carry personnel. US Army picture

It is expected that the Little Bird version to be procured is the same as the example displayed at LIMA 2015 earlier this year.

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

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.

It also featured the Mace Aviation Extended Range Weapons Wing(ER2W), FN Herstal Machine Gun Pods and Rocket Machine Pods, Dillon Aero M134D-H Mini-Gun, the L-3 Wescam MX-10, and M260 rocket pod with TALON laser-guided rockets.

— Malaysian Defence

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42 Comments

  1. Great decision. Good news indeed. If possible , we should also procure tge Archangel plane too. Its cheap n lethal. But we need more than just 8 planes since its powerful patrol platform that can do border patrol in the sensitive thai ma border, the kalimantan sarawak boeder n also anti pirach patrols in malacca n south china sea. We dont need mrca yet . But we do need cheap but powerful systems for our security situation. Such planes can also interdict illegal immigrants from indonesia using the straits.

  2. There are no sensors on this helicopter that would add value to ESSCOM. And as a helicopter it doesn’t have the economy of operation of fixed wing aircraft.

    Lee Yoke Meng is right that we need cheap assets, but not right that we need any extra firepower.

    Please refer to Iraq’s use of the Cessna Combat Caravan.

  3. For its day to day operational commitments the RMAF does need additional fighters. With the limited number of fighters it has, maintaining a 24 hour QRA and ensuring it has others available for other tasks, including training, is a huge challenge.

    For piracy patrols in the Melaka Straits and the EEZ; there is no substitute for MPAs and UAVs. Light helicopters just don’t have the needed endurance.

  4. “Light helicopters just don’t have the needed endurance”

    I was going to say the same, until I noted that the AH-6 has a 12 hour endurance, presumably on an empty aircraft.

    Still, the point remains that any helicopter at all represents unnecessary cost and complexity for a surveillance mission. Air support and rapid reactive mobility missions can be performed adequately by our existing helicopters in theater.

    This is a poor use of funds in general and is happening because army just wants attack helicopters. Perhaps it will not prevent the Tiger from being acquired when the economy improves, which will mean two very different types in inventory.

  5. It is not wise move to add new model to the inventory, why not just armed the AW109 to the teeth. Btw, what do we currently standby for QRA response, MiG29 or SU30? Do they carry both SRAAM and MRAAM?

    Reply
    Mostly SRAAM but the MRAAM are nearby

  6. If we buy more A-109s; some people will say we should have bought Little Birds; if we bought Little Birds, people will say we should have bought Kiowas and others will say we should have bought. AG-6is : it never ends.

    For coastal patrol as well as other roles in ESSCOM; a light helicopter is suitable. The Little Bird is not intended to be a primary surveillance asset and is intended to be used with current assets, as well as other assets that are planned, including UAVs; as such the argument that it doesn’t have enough sensors shouldn’t arise because it is intended to be used in conjunction with other assets.

    If a kumpit was detected by a UAV or by radar a Little Bird can be rushed there used to provide additional identification and should a need arise for the target to be fired upon, the Little Bird is up to the job. May not be the ideal solution but makes more sense than the previous plan to acquire Tigers for use in ESSCOM : the would have been an expensive overkill.

  7. Fird,

    I believe QRA is mostly the responsibility of the Fulcrums. With the Fulcrums retiring QRA will probably be shared by the MKMs and Hornets. With only 8 Hornets QRA will be a bit hard for 18 Squadron to sustain though. Some years ago the head of the Czech air force said that practically the whole Gripen fleet was needed to ensure that two and their back ups were always ready 24/7 for QRA.

  8. For those who commented that those little birds are to be used for patrolling, I can assure you that is not the case, and esscom top brass also knows this.

    Little birds, uparm the Aw109 or even getting some surplus kiowas would serve the same task in the esscom area of operations. Its main task is to become the QRA intercept team for any speedboats not following the pre determined routes, trying to land at non approved locations or escaping from a kidnapping scene. It will force them to stop by shooting in front of the boat, or in extreme cases shooting the engine in order for the esscom patrol boats to board and search the suspected boat. That would be its primary task.

    Surveillance in the esscom area is to be enhanced with MALE UAVs, to supplement the upgraded radars and current scaneagle uavs. Not heard of anything shortlisted but usaf will retire its mq-1 predator in a few years time (in preference to the larger reaper uav) so that will be available surplus, or for low cost brand new ones, maybe the sagem patroller uav? A quick solution for real time surveillance from the air is to buy the airborne technologies S.C.A.R Pod and fit them on our pc-7, pc-7 mk2 or even polis pc-6.

    By the way, about the thales scorpion HMCS on the md530. Currently it is one of the 1st colour HMCS available, it is lightweight, and can be shared among pilots (unlike the JHMCS, which has to be tailored specifically to each pilot). I would like to see the thales scorpion retrofitted to the su-30mkm or even the hawk (for your info thales has intergrated its older topowl HMCS to Indian mig-35, so intergating the newer scorpion is doable). It would greatly enhance the situational awareness of the su-30mkm pilot and copilot, unlike the current sura-k, which is a helmet missile cueing system only.

  9. Seems that ESSCOM top brass is on verge of creating an air cavalry unit. Perhaps one para detachment can be converted for this purpose. The problem in Sabah post war and during the conflict is getting the units on time. QRA force during attack taking 3-4 hours to reach battle zone. With this and the Blackhawk we might creating a nucleus in modern Malaysian Army tactics of air cavalry. Further steps would be searching the bandits before they enter our waters. I could see a Dash-8 or ATR modified MPA (with no ASW suite) will be acquired in nearby times. Maybe a 235 or Persuader.

  10. By the way, what is it with this helicopter “joint” airforce-army thingy with the ex-Brunei blackhawks and now the little birds? A military unit should always be under a specific service, be it army, airforce or navy. The unit could then be under a joint “task force” like the esscom. If now “joint” thingy is the trend, why do you need the PUTD or even different commando groups anyway? Just put all rotorwing assets under tudm and be done with it.

  11. Well the littlw birds are fitted with a infra red n tv optical turret which can be uswd at night too. This sensor should be suffucient for a heli of this class.
    It was signed today. The purchase for the two 139 helis n 8 units of IAG JAWS armoured vehicles for the PDRM. It was reported that these 8 units are used for VIP transport?. True or not?. Or wouldbit be used for ESSCOM?. Mranwhile 20.units of Chaisery was purchased . Signed in Jun. These are for Esscom as it was reported we have a need for 200 units

    Reply
    It’s likely that the Jaws will be used by the UTK for the East Asia Summit to be held in late November. For VIP escort not to carry them. It will then be used in ESSCOM.

  12. “The Little Bird is not intended to be a primary surveillance asset and is intended to be used with current assets. Should a need arise for the target to be fired upon, the Little Bird is up to the job. May not be the ideal solution but makes more sense than the previous plan to acquire Tigers for use in ESSCOM : the would have been an expensive overkill.”

    Which is why my point was that it does not perform these missions any better than the helicopters we already have.

  13. …,

    I do agree that Army should gets on it own stuff. If things weren’t good, everything should be under TUDM. But still, PUTD is still not ready for this task. Gotta remember too, we have a low air frame and not to many ISR assets out there. The only thing that maximizes our ‘true’ potential is consolidation…

  14. I guess the reasons behind the purchase of the ‘Powered Egg/Little Birds’ is due to the fact that it doesn’t consume too much space on the floating forward bases and the servicing of the powerplant is not that quite labour intensive and less maintenance compared to the 109s.Back in the 70s this machine would be classified as ‘Cheap metals” but of course it’s a different ballgame now.One thing for sure is that it really needs FLIR to operate effectively during the night as proven in Afghanistan and Iraq.(of course the range of the c/miniguns will be further than the other side

  15. ‘Jointness’ can mean several things. It could mean a quick and nasty compromise to counter inter-service rivalry.

    It could also mean an ad-hoc Jt Heli force under command of the military commander Esscom or even under Eastern Comd, with personnel coming from RMAF and MA. Perhaps its easier to get pilots/air crew this way — they need to crew 12 helis quickly and also train them to be AH pilots, at least for the Little Birds.

    Looking at things, it’s most likely the latter. I’m just puzzled why the RMN is not involved.

  16. Please bear in mind that this helicopter is not for patrol duty or any task that associated with patrol that can be carried out by using UAV and so on. This helicopter is for attack or can be used as CAS,COIN or you name it any similar role or as a ‘tool’ to prevent any intrusion from Philippines militant groups.

  17. Did anybody here notice that the 18RAMD Seberang Takir was reassigned to Para Bgd…specialise in heliborne operation.
    What helo attached to them? Think we need more of this Little Bird for 18RAMD..

    Reply
    Most probably Nuri, as 5 have been delivered to PUTD.

  18. Heliborne brigade should start by nuri as its bigger. Little bird can be use alongside them for CAS. maybe getting 2-4 units for tactical special ops carrier in future

    Reply
    We need to learn to walk first before running.

  19. AM,

    Being smaller, the Little Bird is cheaper to buy, operate and maintain compared to the A-109. It also has a wider range of ordnance that it is cleared to carry. Granted, as a larger helicopter the A-109 offers several advantages but it can be argued that one doesn’t need a larger platform to carry out the roles envisaged for the Little Bird in ESSCOM. There is also the fact that the army isn’t too happy with its A-109s for several reasons.

  20. Maybe Navy don’t want to join the Army-Air Force “joint Heli ops” due to ;1. A distraction from ASW Heli project. 2. A non-marinised Heli is non of Navy business.

    A heliborne brigade for Army? I thought heli medium lifters are not for a dedicated heli brigade.

  21. Yes, nimitz, it’s possible RMN want to concentrate on their primary tasks and conserve budget but no harm “tumpang sekaki” and getting a pair or two of pilots with additional AH skills. Perhaps later, if/when they decide to embark ‘attack helis’ (read, Fennec) on the sea bases.

    Do TD need an air assault battalion? Hmm.
    I think even the Paras are having a hard time justifying their existence as a parachute bde at the moment, seeing many armies are being mechanised/armoured and have vshorads/manpads, thus presenting a huge obstacle and risk to airborne ops.

    Paras/air assault are useful for ‘coup de main’ type of ops like what the French did in Mali a couple of years ago, so I guess TD want to develop that option, although I think the days of bde/div strength Para jumps onto the battlefield are over.

  22. Like jump qualified armies; air mobile units are expensive to raise to maintain and are a drain on resources. To think that initial plans called for a jump trained 11th Strategic Division! Eventually reality hit and it was downsized to 3 battalions – 10 Para.

    I understand the need for units that can be deployed rapidly but whether we actually need 3 such units can be debated. Granted there might be circumstances were men will have jump but more circumstances where men can be lifted in by rotary assets; a less injury prone option.

    Within ASEAN the army with the largest number of jump trained units is the TNI-AD; understandable given the geography of the country. The TNI-AD has also conducted more operational para jumps than other other army from a developing country.

  23. “Air mobile units are expensive to raise and maintain”

    It costs money to maintain jump qualifications, but an airborne unit possesses fewer vehicle and far fewer heavy vehicles than other units. It is only costly in comparison to a lightly equipped infantry unit. Furthermore it depends on airlifters that the country such as ours would still possess whether it has airborne units or not.

    This is not to debate the relevance of the units per se to our situation.

  24. While para units have to be jump qualified and have to maintain that qualification by actual jumps, airmobile troop operations with helicopters does not need such qualifications. Imo let the heli ops remain as a troop transport to and from the battlefield, no fancy “fighting with helicopters” stuff although fire support, observation and medivac should still be important.

    3 battalions in the para bde should be just the right size for atm to maintain 1 on strategic operational standby, 1 on training and 1 on rest. To me, things like para and amphibious missions you need to train everyone in the unit for the mission. For heli airmobile ops, you don’t deploy “all” of your equipments and personnel by helicopters. Helicopters are only used for carrying troops from base to the front line. So training troops to “bond” or “embed” them with helicopters are not really necessary.

  25. AM,
    On contrary, helo is the only manned solution to be effective scanning through the bush. But if I am the pilot, and have choice, will take the 109s anytime over breaking my back. And AH6 does not have 12 hours. Puma maybe, if with 4 external and 4 ferry tank in the cabin.

    Radin,
    All lights are fragile to be fired upon. Bullet bounced back only happen in Hollywood movie, even on a metal bird.

    Azlan,
    If it is so dependent on other asset then it will need even more time to reach IOC which beg the question why not something familiar? For example Fennec which is essentially an armed B3 that has a big pool of civilian engineers locally? The choice has little to do with technical aspect whatsoever. Its about where the aid coming from.

    Rozaimi Rafli
    For night mission, FLIR is good to have, but something else is more practical. Its not high tech, but only AF has it. Which is the biggest reason why the program is under AF that ironically operates only larger frames, compare to navy that operates the exact equivalent.

    Ferret,
    Our Fennec has been fitted with too many things to be converted into AH. Plus, shooting a boat is a piece of cake compare to running dogs in the bush.

  26. MD530G only single engine most of time use on land in world wide, use in sea is danger some more need patrol over sea or search the pirate, MD530G also without rescue Floats.
    That why we need dua engine helicopter for sea use.
    Don’t why Esccom risk army life using this in sea.

  27. There is no doubt at all that raising and running jump qualified units are more expensive and resource driven than air mobile units but air mobile units do not come cheap either and can be a drain on resources; BOTH being hard to justify in times of peace and BOTH often being acquired at the expense of other areas.

    There is less training involved making an infantryman air mobile qualified compared to making one jump qualified and current but air mobile units still require training and they have to train alongside the helicopter units that will ferry them to where ever they have to go; such training has to be conducted on a regular basis, which equates to cash spent and resources utilised. One doesn’t become air mobile qualified simply because one knows how to enter and exit a helicopter.

    No doubt there are issues at play that I’m unaware off and the army has its own valid reasons but I really have to question whether having 3 jump qualified units is a luxury we can afford and a capability we need; especially given that in most cases, the helicopter presents a more practical and less injury probe option for rapid delivery. On paper, if we really do ha e a need for an air mobile unit (not that we have the resources at present), the more practical solution would be to use an existing unit from 10 Para.

  28. H,

    OK, agreed about the Fennecs and boat hunting; that’s why I suggested RMN join the party. OTH, I’m told it’s also more difficult for an RMAF or PUTD pilot who’s not used to it to fly over water because no landmarks.
    ——

    If TD want a dedicated air mobile outfit, it makes more sense to convert 10 Bde from Para to Air Assault. The establishment is already there, and arguably air assault has more applications (FIBUA, more mobility, CAS, recce, etc). No need to add another bn (18 RMR, if the news is correct). PUTD have the nucleus required, albeit they’re short on numbers at the moment and may also need heavy lift a/c like the Chinook. The Paras may chafe at the name change of course but hey, they did it with Askar-askar Peninjau and Meriam.

    With the Little Birds, PUTD will have the structure and equipment of an Army aviation outfit with the ‘correct’ a/c mix — recce, tpt and attack. Joint Heli HQ will sort out the Chinook — RMAF will have them and detach to JHHQ when reqd.

    Of course, money has not been considered here, but if that were the case, I’d rather go for strengthening RMN rather than TD.

  29. H,

    I wouldn’t say it’s “dependent” on other assets but that it’s intended to work alongside other assets, e.g. although not a surveillance platform, a Little Bird already in the air along the coastal belt could be used to provide further ID to a suspicious contact that has been detected by other assets. The good news is that there are plans for additional UAVs and that a radar has been ordered : not sufficient by itself but a step in the right direction.

    As for the actual platform; sure, we can debate that something else should have been bought (for commonality and other reasons) but for every other more “suitable” option put forward (whether a A-109, Fennec or even a fix wing platform); someone else can also bring up something that is more “suitable”. It never ends.

  30. If it had been a Tucano or Cessna Caravan nobody would argue its economy, firepower and ability to observe low and slow.

    Some may say that only a helicopter borne sniper can stop a boat until surface forces arrive to board it. But if we don’t keep snipers on standby to go out on the Little Birds, the whole thing is moot cause you won’t have that non-lethal capability at all.

  31. Can the Little Bird accomodate a sniper in prone position? I think a rocket or a short burst from the MG across the bow would be sufficient to show intent and to stop a boat. If the RoE allow it, I’d go for a sinking (after the warning), especially during curfew or in clearly declared restricted waters, if it doesn’t stop. No messing around.

    Reply
    Yes it can accommodate a sniper firing from a sitting position. However the gun and rocket pods need to be taken off. If the pods are installed, the non flying pilot can used a gun to shoot at targets like the time during one of Fallujah firefights.

  32. AM,

    Yes but if it had been Tucano or Cessna; it wouldn’t be able to land in a small jungle clearing or on the deck of an oil rig or carry people. It is what it is: a light helicopter and if indeed the Little Bird or something else is selected it’s more interesting to discuss what value it brings rather than what it can’t do that a bigger helicopter or a fix wing platform can.

    Like with the MRCAs, my concern is not so much the actual platform, in this case what light helicopter we buy but how we employ it and how we operate it alongside existing assets. My main overall concern with ESSCOM is not so much the hardware but stuff like ROEs and how the military, police, MMEA and other agencies can work in tandem.

    Even if we had bought PC-7s or Tucanos; someone would still say we should have bought helicopters. There is and never was an ideal solution, just the best possible compromise as various platforms – whether rotary or fix wing – have their respective plus and negative points. Whatever we bought would still have its detractors.

  33. Why do you even need a sniper with the little birds? It has head up displays, helmet mounted sights to either fire warning shots across the bow of uncooperative boats, or target their outboard engines or stern if they are still uncooperative after the warning shots. It is a helicopter gunship, however small it is, not a utility helicopter with no own means for the pilot to shoot at targets.

  34. …,

    Well you’re right. To be clear the sniper question came up with AM’s earlier suggestion of putting a sniper on the Little Bird, maybe to shoot anti-materiel rounds at the OBMs in order to stop the boat. That’s another non-lethal way to stop the boat but clearly from Marhalim’s comment, we need a larger heli.

    Azlan,

    I share your concerns about inter-agency cooperation. One of the early problems was turf war between Esscom and PDRM contingent head office. I think that’s been sorted out but coord will be difficult if C2 issues have not been ironed out. Less of a problem for MAF as units routinely fall under and out of command of higher HQ effortlessly because that’s how they normally operate. In Rascom days, units from 3 Bde come under command of Rascom for a certain period/task, and then revert to 3 Bde command even if they’re still in Rascom area, and even if Rascom and 1 Div are separate (one under State, the other Army Corps HQ). Same for RMN/RMAF units or assets.

  35. … : “It has head up displays, helmet mounted sights to either fire warning shots across the bow of uncooperative boats, or target their outboard engines or stern”

    The AH-6 does not have a HUD or HMS. You could fire warning shots. But to shoot the boat and not the occupants, what weapon are you going to use? Gun pod or rockets?

    Ferret, I did not “suggest” that we put snipers on the Little Birds. I said that snipers are the only way for a helicopter to DISABLE a boat without shooting the occupants.

  36. AM,

    Im quite sure that a sniper would not be useful against a small boat pancung which is typical at eastern Sabah. Hitron tactics employed by USCG is used against bigger go fast boat which engine are bigger (more possible to be shoot by sniper during airborne). And Hitron is not to be deployed alone. They do not conduct air patrol searching for the boats but the MPA. Hitron heli is deploy AFTER mpa spotted the go fast boat. The MD530 acquired I believe to be use for CAS. For patrol we need more vessel and better radars plus MPA

  37. @am

    Do you even read the article above?

    My mistake, it does not have a hud, but the targetting display from the mx10 flir pod and moog sms are displayed on the colour display in front of the pilot (head down display that is) and also on the thales scorpion hms.

    Warning shots would be by the 50cal gun or the 7.62 gatling gun, as is for disabling the boat (and that would be a very last resort)

  38. The problem is that we have no idea what the ROEs are in ESSCOM. If a kumpit with 4 armed individuals are detected and is identified as such but immediately heads back into international waters without firing a shot and ignore warning shots fired by the RMN; does the ROE allow for the kumpit to be fired upon? The “shoot on sight” policy suggested by the RMN Chief (he’s retiring this month) was (to my knowledge) not adopted. The AG objected to it and the PM said that it had to be studied first.

    In the Gulf of Aden the ROE was more defined. Skiffs coming to within a stipulated distance had warning shots fired. If the stuff came closer SOPs called for a PASKAL 12.7mm round to disable the engine. Shots could only be fired at individuals if they fired first but in ESSCOM what happens if individuals on a kumpit don’t open fire but ignore warning shots or call for them to stop?

  39. Marhalim,

    How time flies. On 1st April, 2008 you posted “New RMN Chief Takes Over” and your concern about his passion for golf (he was the first RMN Chief who wasn’t a BNS graduate). It’s now November 2015 and he’s retiring. There will be more than a few happy folks to see him go.

    Reply
    My relationship with the PTL has its up and down through the years but to be honest I am going to miss him

  40. You engage and keep firing till it ceases to be a threat, i.e. approaching. Same as dealing with vehicles etc. ROEs should be simple and not based on escalation. In that lies the road to failure and exploitation. When you light up a target, your intention is to immediately neutralize it as a threat and that means hitting it as hard as possible.
    Exclusion zones mean that anyone entering them is by definition and threat.

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