KUALA LUMPUR: As expected AgustaWestland AW101 is the clear winner for Malaysian Defence poll for the favourite helicopter to replace the Nuri.
The AW101 (formerly EH101) led the hustings from the start when Malaysian Defence was hosted at blogspot and when it went Dot Com, the chosen helicopter for the western world continued to be the favourite. So the AW101 was the clear winner with more than 52 per cent of the votes from the readers.
The NH90 and Chinook came second and third respectively with the Mi-17 closing the vote. One interesting thing that happened after Malaysian Defence went Dot Com was that the vote for the Russian machine actually increased even after the Auditor General report.
Anyhow as Malaysian Defence mentioned earlier the AW101 CSAR variant will be the most expensive of the four helicopters featured in the poll. With FLIR, radar and EW equipment it will easily cost around US$50 million (around RM170 million)
Malaysian Defence was informed that the budget for the Nuri helicopter programme is around RM600 million, so if the CSAR version of the AW101 was chosen, we will only be able to buy not more than five examples. In fact, if you add the cost for training, it will be not be more than four.
Unless more money is released it looked like as if the Nuri will continue to rule our skies. But Malaysian Defence believes if we could be smarter, more helicopters could be purchased after the initial batch of four or five.
Smart procurement is the key word. Cut other wasteful projects like the NGPV and others, we may be able to get more helicopters.
The NH90 is of course cheaper but it does not have the legs like the AW101, Chinook is to big and complex for the intended role while the Mi-17 is an old design which is not much better than the Nuri when it comes to modern electronics as exposed by the Auditor General report.
So how are we going to finance the AW101 purchase. By having a smart procurement plan of course. Malaysian Defence list below is not exclusive, if you have other ideas please chip in.
1) Buy the helicopter with cash, not on credit or barter. Like buying tv or fridge, cash is king, we will be able to haggle for the best price.
2) Do not placed any offset or local participation on the manufacturer apart from a full service centre in Kuala Lumpur. Offsets and local participation will only increase the price by at least 20 per cent and in extreme cases by 50 per cent.
3) Make sure the equipment to be installed are the ones recommended and guaranteed by the helicopter manufacturer. Let them haggle the price of these equipment with their sub-contractors.
4) As they will probably give us export versions of the black boxes (electronics) make sure that these equipment are tested and verified by the helicopter manufacturer before it is installed on our helicopters so there will be no integration issues.
5) Signed a fool-proof late delivery penalties to ensure that these helicopters are delivered on time, by 2010 of course.
6) Sent our pilots to undergo training with the helicopter manufacturers as soon as the procurement contract is signed so they will be ready as soon as the helicopters are ready to be commissioned (after completing testing of course)
7) When we decided the helicopter to purchase, make sure we signed for further examples to be purchased once the funds are available.
Malaysian Defence hopes that Mindef would take a hard look at the seven suggestions and see it as constructive criticisms. We do not need further wastefulness as in the past. Too much money has been wasted already.
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