Bad Moon Rising, Black Hawk Edition

RBAF S-70i Blackhawk, USAF

SHAH ALAM: Back in 2015, Malaysian Defence posted that the armed forces was not getting the four Black Hawk helicopters that were to be gifted by Brunei. The cost of maintaining the helicopters was likely the main reason the government in the end decided not to take up the offer.

Likely, as no one will say outloud why the government opted out as the cost of the helicopters – to be paid to Brunei – was only RM58 million. Initial reports which stated that the helicopters were to be gifted free of charge was erroneous.

The red paint denotes that the Portugal Air Force Black Hawks will be used for fire-fighting. PAF.

So, what this have to do with anything, then? Remember the four Black Hawk helicopters that we are leasing for the Army Air Wing (PUTD)? Two of the helicopters were supposed to be delivered last month but it did not happen. And now I am hearing strong head winds against them.

I have been told of the travails but for reasons cannot say it loud here. And the forecast is a strong gale wind ahead. With Army Day coming within 35 days (March 1) we may get the answer soon.

Five Philippine Air Force Sikorsky S-70i Blackhawk helicopters delivered in December, 2021. PAF

It is interesting to note that three PUTD pilots had successfully conducted simulator training on the Black Hawk last month in Turkiye. The release was published by Berita Tentera Darat on December 29, 2023.

From BTDM:

PUTD JALANI LATIHAN SIMULATOR HELIKOPTER SIKORSKY UH-60A BLACKHAWK
TURKIYE: Seramai tiga Juruterbang Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat (PUTD) menjadi kumpulan pertama menjalani Latihan Simulator Helikopter Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk di Havelsan Simulator Training Centre pada 16 Dis 2023.
Latihan kajian bawah dan latihan penerbangan simulator helikopter Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk ni telah dilaksanakan sebagai persediaan kepada Juruterbang Tim Nukleus Rejimen 882 PUTD bagi persiapan penerimaan pesawat baru.
Latihan ini telah dilaksanakan selama dua minggu melibatkan latihan kajian bawah helikopter dan latihan penerbangan simulator helikopter Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk dimana sebanyak dua buah Simulator S-70 disediakan bagi tujuan latihan simulator penerbangan.
Simulator S-70 ini memenuhi pengiktirafan Cerifiication Specification for Flight Simulator Training Device (CS-FSTD) Level-D Full Mission Simulators. Simulator ini dilengkapi sistem motion dan vibration bagi tujuan latihan simulator yang realistik.
Sistem simulator ini juga mempunyai stesen kawalan dalaman, iaitu Instructor Operation Station (IOS) yang terletak di bahagian belakang kokpit bagi membolehkan Jurulatih Penerbangan mengawal selia aturan dan bentuk latihan yang dikehendaki.
Sistem simulator di Havelsan Simulator Training Centre juga mampu melaksanakan latihan integrasi bersama beberapa buah pesawat dan dilengkapi Exercise Control Center bagi tujuan pemantauan dan pengurusan senario. Kokpit simulator ini adalah dilengkap 4 buah Multi Function Display (MFD) yang mampu memaparkan Primary Flight Display (PFD), Navigation Display (ND) dan Engine Instrument Crew Alerting System (EICAS). Simulator ini juga dilengkapi sistem Flight Director merangkumi Automatic Flight Control Computer (AFCC) dan Flight Director (FD).
Peserta telah diperuntukkan dengan 30 jam latihan simulator yang dilaksanakan selama tiga jam setiap hari dan pencapaiannya mencapai 100 peratus daripada jam yang diperuntukan.
– Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat

A US Army Blackhawk helicopter flies during Eks Keris Strike which comes under Exercise Bersama Warrior in 2017. US Army

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

34 Comments

  1. Beli baru jela just like pinoy. If that is considered an expensive option than go for brand new Bell 412, which has lower under sling capacity but still able to carry the 105mm cannon. If that also cannot afford maybe the upgraded s61T which is being auctioned by the US state dept as cheap as USd500k each can be considered???

  2. FYI the 4x Blackhawks is still in service with RBAF 14 Squadron.

    So what is the issue now? Is it because of the helicopter itself? Or is it because of the realization of the absurd cost of the 5-year leasing deal, which is RM10.15 million more expensive for each helicopter compared to buying them outright like Portuguese air force does?

    The contract has been signed and sealed, so i cannot see any possibility of PUTD/KEMENTAH pulling out of the deal with no consequences. Unless the delay/problem is from the lessor side.

    If it is really because of the leasing cost, nothing can be done actually. It is the PUTD/KEMENTAH problem/wrongdoing as they decide to accept the expensive lease deal without checking/comparing/due diligence to the cost of buying them outright.

    What can be done is to now start looking at buying Blackhawks outright, at the benchmark cost of Portuguese Air Force Blackhawk deal so that PUTD could receive them before the 5 year lease of those blackhawks expire.

    As for buying anything new instead, I am against it, because anything new right now will be obsolete in less than a decade, as advanced designs such as V-280 Valor is going to replace Blackhawks starting 2030.
    https://www.scramble.nl/military-news/us-army-chooses-bell-v-280-valor

  3. Blackhawk cost comparison

    – PUTD 5-year lease
    RM187 million for 4 helicopters. RM46.75 million each.
    https://www.malaysiandefence.com/lima-2023-contracts-army/

    – Portuguese Air Force outright buy of used Blackhawks
    RM219.7 million for 6 helicopters. RM36.6 million each
    https://www.malaysiandefence.com/portuguese-af-fire-fighting-black-hawks/

    – Philippines Air Force buy of new S-70i Blackhawks
    RM2.6 billion for 32 helicopters. RM81.25 million each.
    https://www.malaysiandefence.com/the-joneses-more-blackhawks-for-the-philippines/

    @ Kamal A

    Those S-61T auction has long gone. All sold already.

    Buying anything new now will mean having to use it 40-50 years into the future. Something like the blackhawk is 1970s technology. The future is something like the V-280 Valor. US Army will start replacing Blackhawks with V-280 Valor by 2030. Buy used Blackhawks now, use for 15-20 years and replace with new V-280 in 2040.

  4. “The cost of maintaining… decided not to take up the offer.”
    So if it werent the unit cost (for used as new is also not exactly cheap), are they balking the cost of maintenance because it is aged or because its inherent of the Blackhawk platform itself?

    And if its related to the 4 lease Blackhawks im even more perplexed as usually a leasing deal would cover the aspects & cost of maintenance too, the rentee (TDM) just needs to pay the stated amount in the contract according to the lease duration.

    This TDM chopper program, just like their SPH program, is really cursed. And if this program is scuppered then what alternatives can TDM seek? We know PUTD has just under RM 200mil to work with (the lease sum) which is not a lot BUT DOABLE(!) if PUTD able to grab some of the retired US Army Lima Blackhawks (unless maint cost crops up) or some other model which might be cheaper (in this case why they chosen Blackhawks for the leasing then)?

    OR perhaps that budget is also gone??? Something is seriously wrong if even a low value lease deal could go FUBAR.

  5. For the Brunei Black Hawks, it is likely the maintenance cost as I was told that they use the cost of maintaining the VIP Blackhawks as a benchmark. Bad idea really as the cost of the VIP Blackhawk maintenance was high.

  6. If Army wanted aviation, they will find a way. If they dont prioritise aviation or place armoured vehicles above all else, any spare money will be used for more land vehicles, including sacrificing aviation. If they or some in the Army dont prioritise aviation, they will or may find a way to kill the request like using VIP Blackhawk maintenance cost instead of asking around. Might need to wait for the right “faction” or leadership to be in place for Army to move aviation up the list of priorities.

  7. To be fair the gov seem eager to standardise equipment amongst services to have some sort of economics of scale. While most services get the hints and choose aw139. PUTD doesn’t seem to get the hints. Or they get the hints but decided to push their luck anyways.

  8. There ia no CAPEX atau bajet pembangunan to buy. Only OPEX for the retired Nuris. Since it was approved and the tender awarded, why suddenly the cold feet?

  9. @Kel
    “If Army wanted aviation, they will find a way.”
    Its prolly because TUDM are penned to get a dozen choppers that TDM are hoping to continue relying on TUDM doing the donkey job of lifting the army, which might be the reason why PUTD is getting the short shrift, even for this lease deal. After all, if you can get somebody to do your dirty job using their own money why do it yourself.

    TUDM might or might not welcome to take back that role of hauling the army as it will eat into primary budget thats meant for new fighters and whatnot, but it does mean them getting more equipment & resources so its a double edged sword.

    The real loser is PUTD, no manpower, no budget, no new choppers, not even lease ones. If that is how PUTD is spiralling downwards, better for TDM to close down that arm and let it absorbed by TUDM, give them more resources for cybersecurity & cyberwarfare ao as to sooth their “loss”.

  10. One might wonder if the Army’s “plan” to get the Blackhawks was ever genuine, or a “wayang”. If the Army didn’t want the helis, they will have no incentive to make the “plan” work, and every reason to “kill” it. If they did want the helis, I’m sure they will find the money or come up with costing that will work since its only 4 helicopters. If not 4 then just take 3. Even the cash strapped Navy stuck with a blackhole project could find the money to make 3 leased helicopters work. After all, the Army did find the money to justify operating old tracked SPH.

  11. @Zaft
    “While most services get the hints and choose aw139”
    There are technical reasons why AW139 was not chosen. The bigger AW149 would have been an equal competitor.

  12. It is what it is. If Army wanted the helis, they would have made it work. In fact if Army ever wanted helis, they would have found a solution for the Nuris. In hindsight they did find a solution for the Nuris, RMAF helicopters. I guess we will not know for certain what Army’s aviation plans are without seeing their doctrines.

  13. @kel
    “After all, the Army did find the money to justify operating old tracked SPH.”
    Not in operation, they also killed this while it was in progress. History repeats itself.

  14. Joe, wasnt the govt that cancelled the tracked SPH while the Army wanted it? Unless its the Army that didnt want the tracked SPH. That the Army found the money for tracked SPH, and still found the money to buy and operate new SPH does say much about Army’s aviation plans. I guess 4nextG remains focused on armour and infantry. No indication Army is developing air assault.

  15. @ kel

    You commented on M109 SPH cancellation without the knowledge of why it is cancelled (and why not other things such as the MD530G)

    You probably do not realise that there are explicit requirement for air assault/PUTD capability in Army 4 Next G.
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FlweWksaUAIWZFl.jpg

    @ marhalim
    What is wrong for me to tell about the inclusion of 5 years maintenance in the Portuguese Blackhawk buy contract?

  16. As I understand from the commenters here, TDM actually DIDNT want used, and DIDNT want tracked. So when PH Govt wanted to kill this BN legacy deal, TDM chiefs jumped on the bandwagon and allowed it to die.

    Money is there but whether its enough for brand new wheeled SPH they preferred (hint: Caesar) in the numbers they needed, likely nope. Going for cheaper Yavuz might get them the numbers but even that deal gone quiet now. Could be they also allowing this to die without pursuing it with the current political masters because its not what they wanted, who knows. It will prolly be ‘a little of something but not enough to bring significant impact’.

    “No indication Army is developing air assault.”
    They dont need an air assault, we cant afford the chopper fleet for it (like in Vietnam). We cant even want to spare a bit of coins for 4 lease choppers. That is how much PUTD fits in their overall planning.

  17. Army aren’t a monolithic organisation and differences of opinion and factions are very likely.

    Operationally both tracks & wheels can be use I guess.Somethings are better than nothing after all. Though the lack of mobility would mean one have to acquire more units than a wheel one.

    Financially, tracked vehicle are expensive to maintain & operate , cost of refurbishment are high (if not the US won’t get rid of it in the first place) , would require added cost for the accompanying ammo carriers preferably on a one to one basis, the need to buy more due to its immobility and the lack of any kickbacks legally or otherwise.

    The same thing could be said about the black hawk. It’s fits the operational need like a gloves. But financially speaking can’t really go around allowing services to do whatever they wanted at the cost of lack of commonality and economic of scale as a whole.

  18. Hulubalang, the Army can say what they want. Its what they do that matters. As far as developments are concerned, it is clear aviation is not a priority for Army and Army has and will continue to rely on RMAF for helis to the latter’s I suspect, dissatisfaction. Remember, RMAF didnt want to continue supporting Army’s aviation requirements that led to the Nuri’s being transfered and RMAF accepting a smaller rotary fleet to focus on Air Force tasks. Yet Army let the Nuris die and ride on RMAF’s reduced rotary fleet, increasing the 725’s wear and tear. If air assault is that important or central to Army’s plans, Army would have done something back then, gradually building up the capability. It did not and with the Blackhawks seem unlikely to be doing so. Hence yes, Army doesnt want air assault. Army can’t go around saying it wants things and not put in their owm money but leach on RMAF and RMN funds to do Army tasks. Unless you can explain why Army still hasnt got a solution to the Nuri requirement.

  19. @Zaft
    “the US won’t get rid of it in the first place”
    The US arent getting rid of M109, plans for replacements have been recurring but now the veteran is in its A7 iteration and continue being their primary SPH. Even the many replacement projects are tracked as well.

    What we were supposed to get are excess stocks from older variants to be modernised.

    We are only getting 18units so financially it makes sense to stick to either one mobility. We also have towed arty to supplement the SPH.

    “allowing services to do whatever they wanted”
    Its this reason that the services are saddled with gear that are bought without meeting their requirements. Otoh, some of their demands are ridiculous (like insisting brand new Caesar when there is no money), so there must be a middle ground to keep all parties contend.

  20. You are barking on the wrong tree here. The Army had stopped using the Nuri as the RMAF had decided to stop flying them. What else can the Army do as they need the backing of the RMAF to fly the helicopters in the first place. Yes, they would have preferred to get new utility a decade ago but the powers that be then decided that the Nuri was good to go.

  21. Both kel and zaft understanding of the nuri and SPH issue is so wrong that I cannot be bothered to write long replies to correct them. Please understand the issue before commenting.

  22. I recall the Army was louder (based on memory) on getting Light Attack Helicopters than utility helicopters. Even if it wasn’t what the Army wanted, the government still ended up spending RM300m for 6 Little Birds “attack” helicopters. I’m sure the deal is as messy as it looks and sounds, but it could be equally messy if it was RM300m worth of utility helis… If Army wanted aviation, they would have found a way to make it work regardless of what RMAF decided with the Nuris. The Brunei Blackhawks “gift” in 2015 was said to be doomed from the start because if wasn’t free (i.e., RM58m fee) and the high yearly maintenance. I’m fairly certain the maintenance cost for Blackhawks has gone up since 2015/2016 yet the Blackhawks was chosen in 2023? Isn’t it dooming the program from the start? Why? Have to ask Army. Maybe things will change, whatever forces within MAF and MINDEF pushing and pulling may still see Blackhawks on the 1st of March. But to me it is clear, aviation is not the Army’s priority and it just looks like Army believes they can continue to ride on RMAF’s helis. Just saying, if that is the plan its also fine, perhaps Army should contribute to RMAF’s OPEX for the medium helis – maybe they already do.

  23. @Kel
    “getting Light Attack Helicopters than utility helicopters”
    “equally messy if it was RM300m worth of utility helis”
    RM 300mil worth of utility choppers would have been far more useful in the current flood situation than RM 300mil worth of LAH, regardless if a deal was messy or not.

    “Army should contribute to RMAF’s OPEX”
    Indirectly yes. If TDM arent growing PUTD while TUDM will increase their chopper footprint it goes that TUDM will need more resources to buy, operate & maintain their chopper fleet thereby their OPEX & CAPEX budget has to increase thus benefitting TUDM to the expense of PUTD.

  24. @kel

    Even if the army leadership prioritise aviation they are at a cost disadvantaged compared to the AF. Gov agencies bidding against one another to do the same things aren’t exactly news.

  25. If TDM chiefs do give attention to their air arm it will not be for duties with overlaps the other services but for their own purpose ie supporting the land army.

  26. Currently there’s a new innovation in the form of portable air power beings ‘invented’ on the battlefields of Ukraine.

    Maybe PUTD should concentrate on those rather than on transport duties since the AF currently unlike 30 years ago are willing to haul them around.

  27. kel – ”As far as developments are concerned, it is clear aviation is not a priority for Army and Army has and will continue to rely on RMAF for helis to the latter’s I suspect,”

    You missed the pertinent part where unlike in previous years the army does not have the need to regularly fly troops around the country. What the army does really on the RMAF for is to supply army garrisons/posts in various areas including on islands off the west cost off the Peninsular; along the Kalimantan border and in remote areas in Sabah but even then the A-109s handle a bit of the workload.

    kel – ”But to me it is clear, aviation is not the Army’s priority and it just looks like Army believes they can continue to ride on RMAF’s helis. ”

    You are ”clearly” wrong and are assuming. In another post you spoke of ”people” assuming; yet here you are doing exactly that. You missed the pertinent part of the politicians deciding what should be a priority or not and the fact that the army did push hard to get new utility helicopters but was given Nuris.

    kel – ”if that is the plan its also fine, perhaps Army should contribute to RMAF’s OPEX for the medium helis – maybe they already do.”

    No it doesn’t …. The army doesn’t have enough cash of its own as it is and and since when do the armed services – unless forced to or have their own goof reasons – willingly shared funds with a sister service which is it’s competitor for funding?

    zaft – ”Currently there’s a new innovation in the form of portable air power beings ‘invented’ on the battlefields of Ukraine.”

    If you’re referring to Loitering Munitions or FPV drones; they don’t have the staying presence or SA as manned aircraft and unlike manned aircraft they’re more susceptible to fog, mist, rainstorms; low clouds, etc. Same reason why Loitering Munitions and FPV drones will supplement and not replace mortars.

    Zaft – ”Maybe PUTD should concentrate on those rather than on transport duties since the AF currently unlike 30 years ago are willing to haul them around.”

    Where or rather how on earth did you come up with this? Since you missed it; by the late 1990’s the RMAF had already decided to divest itself of the troop carrying role and by the early 2000’s it gained approval for this.

  28. kel – ”the govt that cancelled the tracked SPH while the Army wanted it? Unless its the Army that didnt want the tracked SPH. That the Army found the money for tracked SPH, and still found the money to buy and operate new SPH does say much about Army’s aviation plans.”

    To give you some background; the army has traditionally wanted a wheeled platform due to the longstanding need to be able to air lift stuff to Sabah. A wheeled platform is also cheaper to procure and sustain. Caesar was first displayed here in the late 1990’s and the army was interested and so were the politician but funds were lacking. Then came the K-9 which underwent live mobility and firing trials; the Artillery Directorate was interested but air lift issues were a problem and so were funds; not to mention the fact that in our terrain one does not need a tracked platform to keep up with mechanised units. As for the M-109s a political decision was made to bin them and whatever the army said would not have made a difference.

    kel – ”No indication Army is developing air assault.”

    No shite… Any idea as to how resource intensive ”air assault” is? Just like the ”amphib assault” thing you’re insisting we want to do; we lack the enablers and by and large armies don’t land on defended beaches anymore; as far as possible they go over or around them and if they do have to land on a bah the idea is to land where the enemy isn’t physically present . Back to ”air assault”; any idea to the number of platforms needed to lift a single battalion and all its gear; plus the need to keep it resupplied?

  29. zaft – ”Somethings are better than nothing after all.”

    On the contrary if that ”something” can’t deliver the needed capability then it’s clearly not ”better than nothing after all” because it is ”nothing”.

    Just like the discussion on how Wildcats lack the needed range, endurance and lift capacity for the time consuming business which is ASW and the need to fly some distance to where the contact is. If a Wildcat has to give up the search and head back to base because it’s running out of fuel or because it could only carry a single torp; then it’s not ”better than nothing”.

    We have to note that although conventional wisdom since WW2 has been that a tracked platform is needed in order to keep up with tracked maneuver units; certain armies are moving in a different direction and it would also depend on terrain and whether the conflict is a fast paced one or is ”stagnated” like in the Ukraine. The main value of a tracked platform; in addition to superior mobility [assuming it’s needed] is the crew not having to operate it whilst being out in the open exposed to shrapnel and the elements. Interestingly in the Ukraine Caesar has a much lower loss rate to counter battery fire and UASs/loiterng munitions compared to the M-109, Krab and Panzerhaubitze 2000.

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