SHAH ALAM: SPH Delayed. The plan to buy the M109 SPH for the Army has been deferred due to the current budget crunch. The timing for the purchase remained uncertain and will depend on the final approval of the government, Army chief Jen Zulkiple Kassim said in an interview ahead of the 84th anniversary of the Tentera Darat today (March 1, 2017).
The government signed the LOI for the ex-US National Guard M109s at the DSA 2016 and it was envisaged that the contract would be signed before year-end. For more on the plans to purchase the SPHs go here.
Zulkiple said although the SPH would be transferred to Malaysia for free, the cost of transporting and upgrading the vehicles were still beyond the current budget. The decision to defer the M109s was the same as the cancelled Brunei Blackhawk deal.
Fortunately, the other contracts signed at DSA 2016 like the FAST ballistic helmets and simulator system are going ahead as confirmed by Zulkiple.
As for the MD Helicopters MD530G light scout attack helicopter contract, Zulkiple confirmed that the aircraft will be delivered by year-end or in early 2018. .
The Army Air Wing will also be receiving 12 Nuri helicopters from RMAF as announced at LIMA 2015. Four Nuris are already operational with the PUTD with another four expected to be delivered this year while the extra ones are expected in 2018. No decision has been made on whether these Nuris will be fitted with digital cockpits planned for RMAF’s aircraft.
The army chief also confirmed that the Ready to Deploy Battalion is the unit promised by the Prime Minister for future peacekeeping operations under the United Nations banner.
As for the Gempita 8X8 APC, Zulkiple – in a reply to written questions from Malaysian Defence – will be delivered in stages until 2020. He declined to reveal the numbers already delivered but stated that it was according to the schedule.
He however declined to identify the units that will operate the Gempitas apart that it will be one mechanised and two armor units.
For the record, Malaysian Defence had reported that the 19th Royal Malay Regiment (Mechanised) and 1 Kor Armor Di Raja are operating the Gempitas though the latter has just transitioned to the 8X8s only recently.
Zulkiple also declined to name the units operating the Lipanbara and the numbers already delivered. He however confirmed that the Dillon M134D mini-gun is the primary weapon of the vehicles.
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