Candidates for RMN Utility Helos

SHAH ALAM: Candidates for RMN utility helicopter programme. In the original post for the RMN utility helicopter programme, I wrote that the Leonardo AW139 and the Airbus H145M as among the likely candidates.

The Turkish Aerospace Industries Gokbey utility helicopter is unlikely to be offered for the tender as the first prototype only flew recently, unless the politicians got in the way of course.

Gokbey helicopter prototype. TAI

Elephant In The Room

Before we list the other helicopters likely to be offered for the RMN tender, we must also faced the elephant in the room, used or second hand rotorcraft. First, it’s the four Sikorsky Blackhawks previously offered by Brunei to Malaysia.

RBAF S-70A Blackhawk helicopter. USAF photo

As I reported previously these helicopters were offered for RM58 million only, much lower than the RM220 million budget allocated for the RMN programme. It is likely the tender would not had happened if RMN had wanted them or similar specced helicopters.

MHS Aviation EC225. Airbus

The other used helicopters available for RMN are the five EC225 owned by MHS Aviation, currently in Miri and flown periodically to ensure they will be available for service, when and if it comes.

One of the two Leonardo AW189 9M-BOE as seen stored at the Leonardo hangar in Subang in March, 2018.

These helicopters were bought to service Petronas O&G needs but have been idled after the contract was terminated after several crashes involving similar helicopters, the last one being the fatal crash in Norway on April, 2016. These helicopters do not meet the requirement of the tender, not because they are used, so they should not be in the mix.

The Others

If the Blackhawk did not meet the requirements of the tender, so will it be plain sailing for Leonardo and Airbus then? Not really as Sikorsky has the S-76 of course. Sikorsky had displayed the latest version of the S-76, the D, in Malaysia back in 2016

A round a dozen or so of this rotorcraft though mostly the B and C variants, are already in service in Malaysia, mostly for the O&G industry.

A S-76D of the Japan Coast Guard.

Leonardo could also offer the bigger version of the AW139, the AW189 for the requirement of course. Two of these helicopters were already bought for the Bomba air wing. As these were purchased for RM105 million each, I am not sure whether it can really be an alternative to the smaller AW139 though.

Airbus H160. Airbus

As for Airbus, apart from H145M and H145, it could also offer two other helicopters, namely the H160 and H175. Both meet the requirements though again at the end of the day, they will still need to abide with the budget allocation. The H175 is supposed to be in the same class as the AW189 but the H160 is the latest twin medium helicopter from Airbus. The company is producing a military variant of the helicopter, though this version will only enter service in 2022. Its not relevant to this tender however.

Hong Kong based Government Flying Service (GFS) has received three H175s in public services configuration, becoming the world’s first operator of this new variant which enlarges the H175 mission capacity to search and rescue (SAR), emergency medical services, law enforcement, firefighting as well as land and maritime border control operations. Seven H175 are in service with the GFS. Airbus

Another helicopter that could possibly be offered for the tender is the HAL Dhruv. I read somewhere it had been offered previously to Malaysia though I am not certain for what programme and which version, the skid or the one fitted with wheels.

HAL Dhruv. By Neuwieser –, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Bell Helicopters could also be in the mix with the Bell 412EPI. If offered for the programme, the 412EPI, will be the second skid equipped helicopter after the H145, if the Dhruv offered is the version fitted with wheels.

Bell 412EPI. Bell

Of course, there are the Russian and China utility helicopters as well. From the requirements of the tender, only the Kamov 60 and the AVIC AC352 helicopters will be able to make the cut. Both – based on their track records or the lack of it – will not rock the boat even if offered at rock bottom prices.

— Malaysian Defence

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