AW139s For Nuri Replacement

Nuri M23-29 from No 7 Skuadron flying over the Kota Belud air to ground firing range in 2017.

SHAH ALAM: AW139s for Nuri Replacement. It appears that the RMAF had decided on the Leonardo AW139 twin-engine helicopters to replace the unofficially retired Nuri fleet. Four AW139s will be taking over the role soon, RMAF chief Gen. Ackbal Abdul Samad said today.

Speaking to the media at the closing of Eks Paradise at the Kuantan airbase, Gen Ackbal said AW139s will be introduced as a short term solution prior to the procurement of new helicopters for RMAF in the next RMK. As reported previously in Malaysian Defence, the AW139s was shortlisted together with second hand Black Hawks offered by a subsidiary of a public listed company for the Nuri replacement tender.

Leonardo AW139
MMEA Leonardo AW139 landing onboard a ship. APMM

Based on the numbers – 4 – it is likely that at least two helicopters will be based at Butterworth and Kuching airbases under a performance based contract where RMAF will pay by the hour rates for an available helicopter. The second is the spare.
Nuri helicopters during LIMA 19.

It is unclear however which company had offered the AW139s it may well be Gading Aerospace, the company which won the tender for RMN MUH tender.
RMN AW139 MUH CGI. Gading Aerospace

Ackbal also said he will have further talks with Kuwaiti officials on the possibility of RMAF acquiring second hand F/A-18 Hornets to be retired from the Kuwaiti Air Force. The discussions are expected to take place at the Dubai Airshow which starts on Nov. 14, where the candidates for the UAV, MPA and FLIT/LCA tenders are also expected to take part.
Kuwait AF F/A-18C Hornet. USAF

The RMAF chief said further discussions with the Kuwaitis were necessary as they need to find out whether Kuwait was willing to sell the Hornets. It is also likely that the general will want to know the price of the aircraft and the other items they were willing to sell with them, things including spares and other items.
Kuwaiti Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon. CGI Leonardo

It must be noted that even if the Kuwaitis were willing to sell their Hornets to Malaysia, permission must be granted by the US. Anyhow I will be very surprised if there is money to buy the Hornets within the next five years.

— Malaysian Defence

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  1. Show me the money to buy all the things. We need new 12 AW139 for RMAF to run operations with existing 12 EC725. Army Air Wing surely want AW139 to replace their Nuris.
    Second hand F/A18s? Better buy new jets. Remember we have a lot of problems with A4 Skyhawks in the past.

  2. If indeed the Kuwaitis were willing to sell them and U.S. approval was granted sooner rather than later; I would be very surprised if both the government and RMAF were keen.
    The RMAF because of the costs associated with running an aged platform [costs which will rise as the aircraft ages further] and because the pen pushing bureaucrats] might use this as an excuse to delay – yet again – the MRCA purchase when the time comes.

    Instead of using whatever funds were available for pre owned Hornets it would make far more sense to add to the numbers of LCAs. In addition to buying them; we’d also have to fork out cash to replace certain thing; be in the radios or time expired parts.

  3. The problems with the A4s was mainly due to the engines. We decided not to get new engines.

    The issue with used Hornets is that they will get more maintenance intensive as they get older, more expensive. Unlike the A4s the Hornets also contain a lot of electronics, computers, etc. Nothibg wrong buying pre owned but one has to be selective.

    It remains to be seen what platform the army wants/needs. To undersling arty and other things it might need something larger than a AW139.

  4. If its decided for RMAF to go for AW139 then Im all for it since RMN MUH is also gonna be the same model. To go one step further, I would like PUTD utility chopper to be the same model as well, thereby simplifying supply, training, spares, maint, and interservice use a possibility. RMN could also be serviced by RMAF crews or vice versa and the flexibility of standardised chopper fleets is immense.

    About the Hornets, the general must be reading my mind. Quick, simple, cheap, & popular with the flyboys. He doesn’t need to worry about familiarisation or operational dissimilarities like with Fulcrums, or training towards full operation readiness, only that what spareparts might be unique to the Kuwaiti ones and how we can grab them.

    Worry about the price? With Saudi backing, we could convince them to sell for USD$15-20mil a pop – the same price that Canada paid for Aus Hornets – and since we are only interested on their D models we should be able to grab all 8 for USD$160mil or RM664mil, not even half of TUDM CAPEX for 2022 alone. At one stroke we could fill the hole left by Fulcrum, alleviate the strain on our Hornets, and still plenty left for radars & LCA purchase even after deduct USD$40mil for this medium chopper buy.

    We have problems when we did not use them as intended and did not service & upgrade them as needed. SG AF used 2nd hand A4s up until last few years ago despite the same vintage as our A4s and yet you don’t see their flyers quibble about these vets that provided them sterling service. Its all about keeping them in shape and if we can service our Hornets we can service those bought from Kuwait ones. 2nd hand doesn’t mean it is bad, cause even new ones with bad servicing will fail prematurely.

  5. good enough for short term/lease option but not as permanent replacement for the legendary nuris.For permanent solution we should go for utility version of h215m/blackhawk and in the mean time upgrade existing caracals to full specs csar helos..H215m should be a lil cheaper compared to h225m to standardise across tudm fleet.

  6. I agree with Joe. The Kuwaiti Hornets are the best available stop-gap solution for our erstwhile convulated hand-wringing that comes with the decision to forego the MRCA for the LCA (cum FLIT?) buy proposal. We can safely say the 2022 or even the 2023 budget may not see any LCA buys, or maybe just ½ of what was intended. The 8 D model Hornets may just be the panacea for all the grief that the AF is facing giving temporary relief whilst keeping the nation’s bookkeepers happy.
    A somewhat bittersweet solution, if it comes to pass. Sans more botch-ups.

  7. Those leased AW139 will basically be the standby SAR helicopter for Butterworth and Kuching air bases respectively, nothing more.

    AW139 cannot be a direct replacement for the Nuri. The nuri is a 10 tonne helicopter. The AW139 is a 7 tonne helicopter. It would not be able to lift many things nuri and EC725 can.

    As a permanent solution to the nuri, RMAF needs to discuss with PUTD on the taskings that would be undertaken by both. RMAF does not really need 24 more medium helicopters as was said by RAMF chief if PUTD is to have their own nuri replacements. A permanent solution to the nuri may not be existing helicopters. RMAF should take into account the progress of US Army FVL project too, which is planned to enter service by early 2030s.

    As for the Kuwaiti Hornets, the Kuwaiti Air Force had offered Tunisia those Hornets for just 1 million USD each. In the end Tunisia did not take up the offer, as it will be a totally new type to them, and they cannot afford the operational costs of the Hornets. RMAF is a current Hornet user and would have no problem operating them for 10 years into the future, and even if it ends out not flown as frequently when compared to the LCA, it would be a good hedge for our defence at just 1 million USD each. In any way, the Kuwaiti Hornets, if we do get them should not affect the implementation of the LCA/LIFT project.

  8. Gonggok – “we do get them should not affect the implementation of the LCA/LIFT project”

    The keyword is “should not”. In reality similar things have happened before and is a worry for the RMAF.

    Buying pre owned Hornets, even for a million each is merely part of the problem. We also have to buy spares and ordnance, replace certain stuff and factor in the key fact that they will cost more to operate as they get older. The RMAF’s operating budget will have to be increased and as it stands there is just enough to run what we already have.

    As you pointed out, unlikely the army will want AW139s. It will want something with a higher lift capability and a sliding door.

  9. Gonggok -“A permanent solution to the nuri may not be existing helicopters”

    On paper the most practical solution would be follow on Cougars. It meets range, endurance and lift capacity requirements.

  10. We did use the A4s as intended [as a low to medium level strike platform] and we did service/maintain them as required. The problem was the engine. A Board Of Inquiry did recommend new engines but the government decided it wasn’t a good ROI as we were already looking at a replacement. The RSAF decided to keep theirs flying, we didn’t. Not because we couldn’t but because we didn’t want to

  11. ” Not because we couldn’t but because we didn’t want to ”

    same goes with the MiG-29. which is the best for RMAF anyway.

  12. I am all in for getting Kuwaitis Hornets if it is as cheap as Gonggok said. Even if the total cost for getting each Hornets into operational state is usd5 million, it is still very affordable to us for a stop gap measure to fill up airframes of until the next batch of LCAs. I hope we get more than just the 7 D models but also some C models as well. With enough spare airframes and parts we could store them away and use again if we need to.

    As for concerns in delaying MRCA, I would guess delayed by 5 years at the most because in the end both our Hornets and Kuwaiti Hornets are very old by that time. Furthermore by that time, circa 2035-2040, more fighters will be available and more matured as to in 2030. For example KF21 (KFX) will be more stealthy than the current Block 1 configuration. By that time 6th gen from European countries can also be considered and also TFX, if we have the cash of course.

    By 2025 hopefully RMAF would have
    – 18 Flankers
    – 15 D Hornets (including 7 Kuwaiti airframes)
    – 9 LCAs (9 more to be delivered after 2025)
    – 4-8 C Hornets for backup/spare airframes
    – half of Hawks were retired.

  13. @gonggok..i know right..1 mil perunit hornet is a steal..But that is the kuwaiti’s offer for the tunis not to us..even at 2 mil usd perunit still considered cheap if they can be use for 10 to 15 years..2 million unit price plus maybe 1 to 2 million for upgrade..4 million usd/16 to 17 million myr per unit for a total of 150 to 170 million myr for 10 units..

  14. Firdaus,

    It’s not just acquisition costs .. It’s about the costs of spares and ordnance, the costs associated with a jet as it gets older and various other things.

    It’s not as simple as just saying they are available, cheap and thus we should get them. A lot of factors to be considered. People tend to focus more on the on paper plus factors without taking into considetation all the other factors.

    You say it’s “cheap”, can you say how much more operating costs will rise as the years go by? Also can the government commit to replacing them after so many years or do we operate them indefinitely?

  15. We don’t have much money for operating costs, which means LCA/FLIT is still very important for us to get in the numbers that we need. Those LCAs will still be the main fighters that will be flown regularly, not the additional hornets with expensive operating costs.

    Those additional hornets, if cheap, will just be a hedge until 2035 when it must be replaced by new MRCA or retired without replacement as nobody is flying old hornets then anyway.

    As a stopgap, we just use as is, get more airframes than we plan to fly and just discard those that has worn out and rotate with those with available hours. So no trying hard and pouring money to make worn out airframes flyable as usual. For just 10 years of use, that could be workable.

  16. RMAF has clearly stated its intension to acquire the Kuwaiti Hornet. In fact, PTU has announced about it publicly. So we are clear about what RMAF wants.

    Whether Government will agree or not, that is another issue altogether.

  17. Che AM – “So we are clear about what RMAF wants.”

    Not really. There could be reasons behind the announcement and exploring options and keeping them open doesn’t necesarily mean there is actual intent.

    Che AM – “Whether Government will agree”

    Very true and we know that both the government and RMAF have been wary and reluctant – for different reasons – to get pre owned airframes.

  18. It is not a clear intention to procure as this has been the stand since 2019. A clear intention would have been a talk with the US which has not been done yet.

  19. @gonggok
    I bet that Tunisian offer had a political catch to it. We pay slightly below marketrate and free us from such catches.
    No, nobody expects TUDM to be running them forever but up til 2030s to 2040. Getting those Kuwaiti Hornets will get us to that touchline when we could realistically buy 5th gen fighter replacement as MRCA. Rather than KFX, Im more partial to Japan’s future fighter development which could well be 6th gen off the bat.

  20. It’s better if we choose new fighters. Buying new with complete maintenance approach gives less headache & can use at least 25 years. LCA in form of KAI T-50/TA-50/FA-50 is good option. 12 FA-50s and 8 TA-50s base in Kuantan AB. Same numbers in Labuan AB. Estimated about RM5.5 billions we have to spend on LCAs including weapons system & spare parts for 2 years. Every intruders in SCS will facing airborne threats regularly from our LCAs.

  21. morpoyos,

    Nothing wrong buying pre owned but we have to be very selective and weight all the pros and cons. We simply can’t adopt the shallow and simplistic position of; something is ‘cheap’ and ‘available’; thus we should get it. Getting it wrong will have long term adverse consequences. People often focus on all the on paper plus points [namely the ‘cheap’ part] without factoring in the negative points and also overlook the key fact that their are legitimate reasons why the RMAF is wary of getting pre owned – it has nothing to do with the prestige of buying new as some simpletons will proclaim.

    – It’s not just a matter of buying ”cheaply’ [as some keep mentioning but also investing in adequate numbers of spares,, ordnance and ground support equipment. We can’t assume the Kuwaitis will be overly generous.
    – Will the government actually allocate extra operational/maintenance funds or will the RMAF – as usual – be expected to make do with what it has?
    – Past the 10/15 year mark; fighters [even low houred] ones tend to get more expensive to maintain; requiring more post flight maintenance hours and things break down with added frequency. Pre owned 30 odd year old Hornets will cost ‘y’ to run in their first year of RMAF service but will cost ‘y’ in their 3rd year. The MAF is a resourced strapped air arm.
    – I bring this up because it is a legitimate concern and it has happened before;. Will the government commit to replacing the pre owned Hornets after a specific time or is the RMAF expected to operate them indefinitely?
    – Another valid point which is often overlooked. Will the government use the pre owned Hornets as an excuse to further delay MRCAs? It has happened before and is a major concern to the RMAF.
    , if we are willing to incur certain penalties and if the government can make certain commitments [higher chance of the Soviet 5th guards Army invading Kuantan]. If not we should focus on getting adequate numbers of LCAS; rather than the policy of a bit of everything but not enough of anything ….
    We should only get them if the prerequistes are met

  22. @morpoyos
    Nice to buy new of course, who doesn’t like new toys, but where we’re gonna get RM 5.5 Billion? The Kuwaiti Hornets would cost MAX less than half of 2022 TUDM budget.
    New plane type meant adapting and developing new operational playbook. How long until the LCA reach full operational status? 1 year? 2 years? The Kuwaiti Hornets could be used immediately by familiar Hornet crews.

    Buying new doesn’t mean no headache as LCA would be a new type of plane and new sets of issues, problems, limitations will come with it regardless if still under warranty. We have similar issues when the A400M fleet was still being enhanced by Airbus despite entering use already.

    Regardless what is TUDM’s intention & sincerity on getting those Hornets, the question with MRCA is still too early to decide as yet, unless we’re adamant to get 4.5th planes which I strongly adviced against.

  23. Thank you for your views, Azlan. Hornets are suitable for RMAF but if possible getting new Super Hornets are more logical & wiser options back in 2004/2005. But again our gomen financial situation is not very good to buy the jets. If risks& problems that will burden RMAF to take Kuwaiti’s Hornets are too high then let’s focus on LCAs. Our defense budget is too small & tight. Maybe our parliment can give more budget for defence procurement lets say RM10 billions as because emergency for example to cater PLAAF intrusion. Just my dua kupang ideas.

  24. Thank you for your views, Joe. I believe gomen has money if they planned carefully their expenditures. Cut here & there if possible. For example do ministers really need Veilfires as their offical cars instead of using X70s or Personas for officers? Yes, again we have tight budget and that’s it plus facing problems with LCS. No money no hardware.

  25. If we can meet certain prerequistes then yes we should get them. Otherwise no … Better off focusing on LCAs in numbers for the foreseeble future.

    The risks associated with buying new and pre owned are different. No comparison. People tend to focus on the positive aspects but ignore the penalties. As I like emphasise, there are legitimate reasons why the RMAF is wary of getting pre owned.

    Yes we should have got Super Hornets in 2005 but that time has passed. Dr.M wanted Russian.

  26. morpoyos – ”Cut here & there if possible.;;

    That doesn’t necessarily mean more cash will be allocated to defence and even if more cash is allocated to defence who’s to say we’ll use it optimally? We have a tradition of not getting what we pay for because of the highly flawed policy we have in place. The MAF we have now does not reflect what we’ve spent on it over the years.

    morpoyos – ”No money no hardware.”

    That’s only part of the problem. Ensuring skillsets do not atrophy requires cash. Skillsets can’t be regained in a short time; requires years and years. Operating the hardware and ensuring deploy in in conjunction with other assets under the right CONOPS and doctrine requires experience which can only be gained from regular training; which in turn requires cash.

  27. @morpoyos
    Your missing the point. If you look at the budget, were not lacking in cash only ambition as you can see our defence budget are still maintained with slight increase, whatmore TUDM budget is significantly bigger than the other Forces at RM 1.6Bil. We cannot be raising even more budget just for TUDM without giving the other Forces a hissy fit, nor can we double up the defence budget to keep everyone happy but alarm the regional nations. With the amount of nation building budget put in we can’t afford that either anyways.

    To buy those LCA numbers you envisioned is logical but would require consistent multi year purchases of perhaps 6-8 units per year, not to forget there are other more urgent things TUDM still to get; medium utility choppers, MPAs, MALE UAVs, more radars + training, AEW/AWACs, setting up new airbases, more personnel, & future budgeting for MRCA, blowing it all on LCAs would jeorpardise the MRCA plan. We need the fighters now, so how long will it take the LCAs to be fully operationally ready? Getting the used Hornets would help to close that needs gap while the purchase of LCA and getting it up to speed could be done without undue pressure. Let’s say a purchase of 4-5 LCAs per year or roughly 1/3 of the yearly budget for the next 5 years would be appropriate in view that other buys are to be made in the same time frame.

    The matter of cars for ministers is moot as that budget comes from elsewhere. While inappropriate from current point of view it was something initiated during PH era so really nobody is innocent about that but I digress. The Budget is not too little nor too much but its how they used it, take 2020 & 2021 what was purchased for roughly the same amount of money budgeted today. Nothing much really, so where did all that CAPEX went.



    suggest that Tunisia is out of the running for the Kuwaiti F-18s. Instead, there are other parties in the mix. I have a feeling that one of the interested parties could be an private company in the adversary air combat business. US Air bought RAAF’s F-18s for this purpose and their competitors Top Aces bought ex-Israeli F-16s.

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