SHAH ALAM: IN his response to the news that Brunei will transfer its four Sikorsky S-70A Blackhawks to RMAF, Azlan wrote: “By logic, ownership of the 2 S-70As should be transferred from the PMs Department to the RMAF, to add to the 4 former RBAF examples.
I am not it sure its logic or not, but the two VIP Blackhawk S-70A helicopters – M46-01 and M46-02 – will soon be operated by RMAF in utility role in addition to the 4 RBAF examples. The two Blackhawks, I am told would be de-VIPed (is there such a word?) and reconfigured into a utility role, complete -ahem with the mini-guns.
The two VIP helicopters will joined the 4 ex-RBAF examples, once they are transferred to Malaysia of course. As with any US made arms, Brunei need to get the approval from Uncle Sam to transfer to them to us. So far there is no confirmation whether or not the transfer has been cleared by the US.
Ironically, I am also told that to re-role the two Blackhawks as utility helicopters, we also need the clearance from the US. Again I have yet to find out whether the clearance has been given or not. The conversions is expected to be conducted by Airod which is under contract to support the helicopters. The conversions have not started, I am told.
Wait, does this mean the PM Department getting new VIP helicopters? I have no idea. Perhaps they will not or maybe the replacement helicopters had already been ordered but have yet to be announced. Instead of buying they could also opt for another hire and purchase deal as with the ACJ320 which replaced the BBJ earlier this year. Of course, they can also signed a deal with a local helicopter provider to provide the machines under a PFI programme, similar to the one for the RMAF’s training helicopters.
Whatever method chosen, it is likely that RMAF will continue to provide the flight crews for the helicopters (just like the other PMO executive jets) with Airod providing support and maintenance unless the machines selected are from Airbus Helicopters. If thats the case, BHIC Aeroservices Sdn Bhd, the ISS provider for the Cougars will be selected.
The story about the ACJ320 deal, from the Star datelined March 17, 2015:
KUALA LUMPUR: The Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ320) was bought to replace a 16-year-old Boeing Business Jet (BBJ).
Discussions to replace the BBJ started two years ago taking into consideration the increasing costs and safety concerns of the older plane, said the Prime Minister’s Department in a statement yesterday.
“The BBJ would be disposed off to finance the purchase of the new jet,” said the statement.
It added that the ACJ320 was bought via a hire-purchase agreement for 15 years.
“Acquiring the ACJ320 for the Government executive fleet of aircraft will reduce the operational, management and maintenance costs as the Government already own the ACJ319 aircraft,” added the statement.
The statement said, apart from the ACJ319 and ACJ320, other vehicles in the executive fleet included the smaller Falcon bought in 1989 and the Global Express 2001″. – The Star.
It must be noted that the BBJ was purchased in 1997 (delivered in 1999) by Malaysia Airlines almost the same time as the VIP Blackhawks were procured. However I am pretty sure that the Blackhawks have lower flight hours than the BBJ. The BBJ was added to the PMO executive flight after Malaysia Airlines was sold back to the government following the 1998 economic crisis.
In justifying replacing the BBJ, the PMO statement cited “increasing costs and safety concerns of the older plane“.
So is this the case with Blackhawks? Your guess is as good as mine!
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