SHAH ALAM: RMAF has quietly took delivery of two Leonardo AW139 medium twin engine helicopters to replace the now retired Nuri fleet. The helicopters -leased from Weststar Aviation Services Sdn Bhd – according to the RMAF was delivered to the No.3 Squadron at Butterworth on December 4 last year.
The delivery was revealed when RMAF chief Gen. Ackbal Samad visited the Butterworth airbase on Jan.22 which was published in RMAF Facebook page.
Two more AW139s will be delivered to the squadron on Feb. 22 and April 22, according to the same posting. The helicopters are leased from Weststar following a tender for them in 2020. The helicopters are operated by RMAF under the Government Operate, Company Owned and Maintained Concept (GOCOM). Weststar operates some 34 AW139 helicopters, it has been reported, likely one of the biggest fleet in the world. It has excess helicopters following the collapse of oil price around 2014 which resulted in most of its clients using boats to transfer the personnel to oil platforms instead of helicopters.
Although delivered, RMAF has not declared the AW139s fully operational as some of its pilots and quartermasters from No.3 Squadron are still undergoing training at PWN Excellence Sdn Bhd, the AW139 training centre in Subang. PWN has a full motion simulator to train the flight crews on the AW139.
Engineers and technicians are training at the Leonardo facility also located in Subang. RMAF will be leasing the AW139s until at least 2026 as only at this time the government will released funds for the purchase of new helicopters as spelled out in the RMAF CAP 55 plan and endorsed by the 2019 Defence White Paper. It is likely the NTF and the Army will also leased AW139s from Weststar as Defence Minister DS Hishammuddin Hussein had indicated that they will do so.
Apart from visiting No. 3 Squadron, Ackbal also visited the No.18 Squadron facility to see the Hornet F/A-18D aircraft undergoing the Local Planned Maintenance 12 Years (LPMY12) programme. Two aircraft are undergoing the programme which had to be done locally due to the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Once the whole fleet underwent the LPMY12, the Hornets – pending funding – will undergo an upgrade which may include the installation of new radars and avionics.
— Malaysian Defence