SHAH ALAM: Goodbye Whirly Bird? At LIMA 19 although the government signed several LOIs with Airod Sdn Bhd for the MRO of RMAF aircraft including VIP ones, what was glaring was the absence of the contract or even LOIs for the upgrade of the Nuri, Hawks and Hercules. As the Hawk upgrade is inevitably linked to the LCA project proposed by RMAF, its absence was understandable. Simply said the government will have to decide which one to fund as there is not enough money for both. The previous Defence Minister had on various ocassions stated that Hawk upgrade programme had been funded but it is obvious that this was just empty talk.
Two Nuri helicopters peforming their displays at LIMA 19 opening ceremony. TUDM
As for the Hercules one, I was told that the upgrades has been put on the back burner as most of the capabilities sought for it has been superseded by the Airbus A400M Atlas, even though they are only four of them in service. It is likely that the MRO contract for the Hercules undertaken already by Airod will be continued, with limited upgrades done to ensure the fleet are able to continue flying until 2030, at least.
Nuri helicopters during LIMA 19. TUDM
As for the Nuri upgrade, it is the most vulnerable one, I have been told. The Army is no longer interested in taking more of the helicopters, four currently with PUTD, with at least another two in Butterworth used for pilot training.
Two at a time. Nuri at LIMA 19
It is difficult to get any official confirmation on this as even the Army chief did not want to answer media questions for this year’s Army Day. That said it is likely that RMAF and PUTD will continue flying them for the time being until the financing for the replacements are sorted out.
A PUTD Nuri helicopter carrying an Oto Melara 105mm pack howitzer at a firing exercise in 2016.
As for the replacements, RMAF wants more EC725, of course and the Army preferred, I am told, a medium-size solution, simply one big enough to lift a single 105mm gun.
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