Light Attack Helos

Airbus H145M fitted with a gun pod and rocket pod with FLIR for targetting and ISR role.

SHAH ALAM: Light attack helos. With the MD530G contract effectively cancelled – its not done yet – what kind of light attack helicopters are available to the Army, if it’s in the market for one of course.

The choice is limited of course. Moreover the air wing is already operating 11 AW109 LOH, which are fitted for but not equipped with weapons. It has installed some of the helicopters with MD134 mini guns for fire support.

PUTD AgustaWestland AW109 LOH firing its minigun on the Gemas range.

In a pinch, the Army could just buy the gun and rocket pods to turn the helicopters into light attack helicopters. I was told that Leonardo had offered to upgrade these helicopters for fire support missions though this had not been taken up as the MD530G was supposed to do this. Perhaps in the near future the Army will have to relook at this option.
An AW109 LOH of the PUTD. This rocket and gun pods version was shown some years back.

A comparable helicopter for the role is the Airbus H145M light attack helicopter. At the recent Airbus Trade Media Briefing in Germany, the company presented a more detail over view of the H145M equipped with HForce system. The HForce according to Airbus

Airbus H145M fitted with a gun pod and rocket pod with FLIR for targetting and ISR role.

HForce is a unique, exhaustive and flexible weapon system designed to meet the requirements of defence agencies seeking light attack mission capabilities or a complement to their existing fleet of specialised attack helicopters.

HForce is the latest-generation Airbus weapon system. It is modular and incremental, and can be fitted onto any military version of Airbus’ commercial helicopter range (H125M, H145M, H225M).

HForce offers a large array of weapons, modern and easy target acquisition and a high level of targeting accuracy, formerly reserved for high-end attack helicopters.

A close up view of the front end of the H145M and its FLIR. The picture was taken at TMB19. Malaysian Defence

At the last TMB three years ago, the H145M equipped with HForce system was just an offer, now its official program, with two orders, four helicopters for Serbia and 20 for Hungary.

With a maximum take-off weight of 3.7 tonnes, the H145M can be used for a wide range of tasks, including troop transport, utility, surveillance, air rescue, armed reconnaissance and medical evacuation. The Hungarian fleet will be equipped with a fast roping system, highperformance camera, fire support equipment, ballistic protection as well as an electronic countermeasures system to support the most demanding operational requirements. The HForce system, developed by Airbus Helicopters, will allow Hungary to equip and operate their aircraft with a large set of ballistic or guided air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons.

Airbus H145M fitted with a 12.7mm gun pod. Picture taken at TMB19. Malaysian Defence

Airbus offers four configuration of the HForce system on its helicopters (apart from the H145M, its also on offer for the H125M, H135M and the H225M) – the basic configuration, fitted for but not equipped; guns pods only; rocket and gun pods and guided weapons with gun and rocket pods.
Airbus H145M demo and testing helicopter fitted with a FZ rocket launcher on the port side and FN 12.7 mm gun pod on the starboard side. Note the FLIR and the flare launcher on the skid. Malaysian Defence

As posted previously, Airbus had offered the H145M for the RMN maritime operations helicopter. I was told that it was not in the shortlist, however.

Full disclosure: Airbus paid for the trip to Germany for the writer to attend the Trade Media Briefing 2019 in Germany.
— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2146 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. imo why no get another AW109??already operate those and have experience in it. its a better way to reduce footprint rather adding another type. but it rest solely on govt and army now. hope it be a fast procurement although i’m skeptical with govt giving funding for it. as a civilian, i can only hope for the best..

  2. But boss, isn’t this what you wrote in a previous article: “the real reason for the cancelling the deal is the fact that the Army does not want it anymore”? Talking about it is moot in that case.

    They dont want the MD530G not a light attack helos

  3. buy an additional loh to make it 12 persqdrn..or 3 more loh..Try hard to bring back md530g to malaysia and add 6/12 gunship heli with transport capability like mi 35 hind..

  4. If airbus can offer used EC225 to ukraine, why not offer them to malaysia too?

    As for the army, i would prefer additional AW109s for the light attack functions. Probably adding weapons to the current AW109s and adding a few more used ones for utility and medivac use.

    Then get around 2 dozens of used blackhawks to replace the nuri. Australia is retiring theirs, and USA have plenty they can offer through EDA.

    The problem is that the air force don’t want them, the EC225.

  5. @ marhalim

    “The problem is that the air force don’t want them, the EC225”
    So what does the airforce want actually?

    Not second hand EC225s

  6. Before we even start about what the army should or shouldn’t buy; the first question is whether the army wants a light attack helicopter to be used mainly in ESSCOM or does it see also a light attack helicopter having a utility other than within ESSCOM?

    If so what roles are this helicopter intended to perform (battlefield observation/recce/light attack/close supper, etc) and how do we balance the capabilities of this helicopter with that of the A-109s to ensure we get the best capabilities both can offer and that there’s no overlap or redundancy.

  7. AW109M would be a logical choice actually. Leonardo also offered integration to existing A109 fleet although H145M would be a more suited platform for a dedicated light attack role.

    What’s more important is the avionics actually. FLIR is a must as well as NVG cockpit for night flight. The armament is secondary since we didn’t really need to arm the helo to the teeth. Pods for 70mm rocket and .50 MG would be suffice. We already have guided FZ rockets for hawks and the hornets and that would be suffice although helo launch ingwe is also an option

  8. They don’t want MD530G, H145M, used EC225, used Blackhawks. I bet the dont want list includes AW109, china and russia helis. Hard to fanthom what they want.

  9. @ nimitz

    “Hard to fanthom what they want”

    Probably all they want is the Aerospatiale SA-2 Samson. Would be a great successor to the Aerospatiale SA316 Alouette III.

  10. Nimitz – “ Hard to fanthom what they want.””

    What do you expect when issues raised by the armed services (the ones who actually have to operate the equipment) are ignored and political imperatives dictate what is bought? If the army doesn’t want Little Birds ask yourself why and who wrote the requirement in the very first place …..

    If the army doesn’t want anymore A109s or Chinese made stuff then there must be a good reason. Things are not as simple as Googling what’s “cheap” and deciding to buy that based on “cheap” procurement costs. On the A109s a major issue with them is the tendency for the landing gear to sustain damage when landing on certain conditions with certain loads. This is there is a reason why the army isn’t keen on follow on A109s ……… On paper we should buy more A109s for commonality but what looks great on paper and in reality can differ greatly…

    Another issue is the lift capacity. Given that the A109s were the only helis the army had until the Nuris; there was no choice but to use them for a variety of roles; including roles they were ill suited to perform.

  11. Btw why would the AF wanted 2nd hand puma? For general transport they already have nuri and unlike the old days pretty much every other branch have their own helo unit (even police and mmea). Better for them to wait for real deal and get stuff that is actually suited for CSAR and operation in EW saturated area as well as night duty operations. The navy is getting the MUH while the army, other than the light attack heli, is also looking for medium size helicopter. For the AF at most they should look for is about 12 more EC725 and a couple of AW139 for VIP transport

    Other than the issues associated with getting russian-made stuff, Afaik Mi-35 cannot properly hover which affects its agility, and subsequently its standoff capability. Why do you think the russian came up with KA-52 and Mi-28 in the first place? It’s main role is CAS after all, something we already have in hawk.

  12. Or is our army envied the indonesian army who managed to get their hands on those apaches perhaps?

  13. @ dundun

    What is the difference between 12 used EC225LP and 12 new EC725 anyway?

    Mi-35 is basically designed as a helicopter gunship operating like a VTOL CAS aircraft. It is not designed to hover and stalk its targets. If you really want a helicopter gunship (which firdaus is talking about in the 1st place, not really attack heli with stalking MBTs and such as its mission) with transport capability, an alternative would be blackhawks fitted with weapons pylon and side mounted HMGs.!/image/image.jpg

  14. Azlan.

    Then get a helo with skids instead. It’s not exactly hard and we have operated helos with skids before (ecureuil, fennec) Even AW109 have skids version

  15. @ dundun

    ” It’s main role is CAS after all, something we already have in hawk ”

    Regarding the hawks. We are planning to replace it in the near future with the LCA/LIFT. Indonesia, has expressed their plans to replace their hawks with F-16V, while getting more T-50i for LIFT.

    As for the light attack helos, what do you see its main mission as? From what you write, seems that it should not be used for CAS. So what is its main mission?

  16. Off topic

    Interesting set of pictures for the Philippines air force Multirole Fighter Program. The leading contender for now is the F-16V.

    PAF has always wanted F-16s though the Defence Secretary has publicly said he preferred Gripen but I think he was deferring to the President

  17. ….

    Basically night flights and CSAR and increased resistance in EW-saturated area. Rather that buying a basic airframe abd spend money retrofitting all these stuff that may or may not be optimal for the airframe, why don’t we just spend more money on an already equipped platform and not worry about upgrading them for at least another 10 year or so

    >light attack helo
    Basically what Marhalim mentioned in the article below; surveillance and armed recce. Obviously we need something that can loiter for longer time than say, the armed egg hence why the army isn’t really keen on the platform in the first place. attacking capability would be secondary tho the army does recognize the need for something that is better than port side MG, something the army need without having to call for the AF for help

    T-50 and M346 can do light attack just fine. Obviously it’s not a dedicated low level CAS plane like Su-25 Jaguar but then again neither does the hawk

  18. Come on, LAH is not that complex. Any hello can be equip with FFAR rockets and MG can be called LAH. LAH is good enough for ESSCOM. Many light hellos can be modified to be LAH.

    I wonder, What is the army need exactly? Even an Mi-35P is already overkill for ESSCOM. If the army did not want this and that then the army really want is a designated attack hello such as apache, AH1-Z viper, kamov 52, etc. Closest neighbours already equiped their army with a true attack hello so it is normal for TDM asking it. Maybe TDM expects politicians up there to understand what they want without have to say it.

  19. @ dundun

    On H225
    Even our current EC725 we need to retrofit RWR, MAWS, chaff flare dispensers etc.
    Used + upgrades cost less than new + upgrades. Anyway we dont need 24 helicopters fully equipped for CSAR. Even singapore, which will fly its fighters outside of its own airspace and has more fighter aircraft than us, has no dedicated CSAR helicopters! It has bright red and white painted dedicated SAR helicopter though. Lots of EC225 are fitted and used specifically for SAR around the world. If SAR is what we would mainly use it for, it is more than capable to do it.

    On light attack helo
    If surveillance is a prime requirement, we already have the asset in the AW109s. Secondary attack capability can be by adding the weapon pylons to the AW109.

    On CAS
    Any fighter can do CAS. In the context of attack helicopters, can we do without it and just rely on fighters for air support? Do we really need “attack” helicopters, something that can go to hunt enemy unit? Or what we need is a helicopter gunship to do fire support for friendly ground units?

  20. Personally i believe, no matter how we debate it, things would not improve for the armed forces developmental budget, if our total budget only stands less than USD4 billion a year or rougly 1.2% GDP. Personally, with the current budget, we can only maximise the efficiency of existing assets and constabulary operational needs, nothing more.

    Tell tale sign of further economic deterioration is already obvious, so in the next 18 months things will only get tougher economic wise. Notwithstanding that, i personally dont think defense budget should be cut any lower than now as we still faced with several key defense issues namely:-

    a) Situation in ESSCOM
    b) Overlapping claims of EEZ with China, Vietnam to name a few
    c)Potential issues in southern thai that could affect our border security

  21. Im no expert to second guess what helis that rmaf really want..Sure Rmaf want it all : medium lift (to replace nuris for good ),light attack and recce (SF insertion or/and fire support) or full fledge attack heli..Just Rmaf need to sort their priorities..Tell the govt what kind of helis they really need..the realistic choice of course

  22. I mean putd.What Rmaf want is a different case altogather.After this md530g conondrum is finally over, Putd (rmaf included) and govt obviously need to focus on Nuris replacement and hopefully it will become a reality this time with right quantity.

  23. …/Dundun,
    AF and Gov do not want to deal with used, period. They well know themselves do not have the capability to manage the retrofit and solving teething problems combine the fact that bean counter too do not trust AF has that capability.

    The whole fleet is full capable SAR, nothing missing. Also have provision for flare but building CSAR is not their priority. RWS & MAWS is totally not relevant.

    A109 has a payload issue.

    AF do not want to keep the Nuri if they get to say out right. Ideally they want more Puma does not matter new or used. But they are not confident with Airbus to go single type given the Puma has an on going gb issue. Nonetheless, no alternative in the market. Today other than money, its a confident building exercise between customer and vendor.

  24. Kamal,

    Yes. There are unresolved maritime disputes with Indonesia over boundaries the Melaka Straits and South China Sea. There’s also Ambalat which most people tend to overlook given all the attention on the Spratlys.

  25. @ m

    At first you talk about the AF/Govt not wanting used helis. Then you say the AF ideally wants additional puma no matter if it is new or used. So which one is which?

    As you said, there are not much alternative to the EC225/EC725. It is either you go russian, or go for even more expensive but still troublesome helicopter with the NH90. So the choice will come back to the EC225/725.

    Anyway for PUTD, IMO blackhawks would be an ideal replacement for nuri capability. It does not actually have the same big cabin as the nuri to carry up to 20+ persons (like the puma) but it has similar underslung load capability, has high damage resistance to enemy fire, and could be easily upgraded to be fitted with guns and pylons for gunship taskings. Plenty of used blackhawks in the market, from the jordanians, to the aussies (which has seahawk powertrain for maritime use) and retired us army excess defence articles. If PUTD goes for blackhawks, then the VIP helicopter taskings should also be passed to PUTD, along with the 2 “whitehawks” we currently have.

  26. Dundun,

    Not at as easy as you make it out to be. The issue with the landing gear is only one issue the army has with its A109s. Being the only helicopter the army had until the arrival of the Nuris; the army was forced to use the A109 for stuff it’s not suited for.

    The RMN faces the same problem when it has to transport PASKAL teams; the lift capacity of its Lynxs: same reason why most Lynx and Wildcat users do not configure these helos for ASW. Like the South Africans the army has also found that the A109 is simply not as robust as the Alo 3.

    Before we start speculating what the army wants or what we feel it should get; we have to first ask what the army wants these helis to do (light attack’s, close support, observation, etc) and whether there’s a role for them outside ESSCOM.

    Given that they’ll be based in ESSCOM do we plan to use them for coastal surveillance or to operate from RNN ships and offshore platforms? Will they be marinised?

  27. m

    You’re barking up the wrong tree. I’m not the one suggesting the af to get used puma. As for A109, if putd thinks they needed a different kind of helo then so be it. Even I think that for a dedicated LAH, EC145 would be a better choice

  28. @ dundun

    ” Even I think that for a dedicated LAH, EC145 would be a better choice ”

    If there is no other things that we need to take into consideration, i personally would prefer the Z-19E as the dedicated LAH.

    But we already have the AW109, and our budget isnt exactly unlimited and the army have other other more important priorities to be funded rather than a dedicated LAH.

  29. So, apparently Mindef is looking to lease some medium helos as stopgap measures. Who knows, we might see used H225s being leased as Nuri replacement. I know some people would be pleased with the news

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