RMAF Leased AW139s In Service

Ackbal sitting inside the cockpit of one of two AW139.

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.

Ackbal and Butterworth base officials posed for a photograph. RMAF

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.
Ackbal in the cockpit of one of the AW139. RMAF

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.
Ackbal receiving a momento from Weststar CEO DS Ismail Jamaluddin. RMAF

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.
Weststar Aviation Leonardo AW139 helicopter used for oil and gas contract. Weststar

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

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About Marhalim Abas 2185 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. The government can fund 3 units a year like they did with the TLDM’s aw139, rather than dream of funding 24 units in 2026

  2. Dear Marhalim, you said installation new radar yang avionics for the Hornets. Is this the Aesa radar like what the Marines are installing
    On their F/A-18D

  3. A glimpse on the chopper interior don’t look like it got militarised mods, maybe only the radios were changed, but otherwise unchanged from a civvie chopper. If such standard config could be enough for TUDM & PUTD usage, buying the civvie config standard choppers could be the way to save money.

    On the Hornets, interesting that even with LPMY12 TUDM are still adamant for a full SLEP (likely in Aus). I’m guessing it won’t start anytime so likely the soonest would be in 2023-24 and end by 2025-26, so if we could get the Kuwaiti Hornets around the same timeframe, we could upgrade them to the same post-SLEP Hornet standard right after we’re done with our birds. Or even a lower cost option, the replaced APG79 radars perhaps could be reused for the Kuwaiti ones.

  4. Hasnan, the government did not fund 3x AW139 for RMN in a year.

    The budget is for 3x AW139 within the 2016-2020 RMK11 budget (those that will be delivered this year), and additional 3x AW139 budgeted in 2021-2025 RMK12. For a total of 6x AW139 HOM.

    RMAF has asked for 24 helicopters in 2026-2030 RMK13 budget.

    The question now is, where is this 24 additional RMAF helicopters fit in the grand scheme of things, with RMN AW139 HOM and also PUTD own nuri replacement requirements for 2 squadrons? Have PUTD dropped the requirement to have its own medium lift helicopter? If not, isn’t the RMAF and PUTD requirements duplicating each other?

  5. Gonggok – ”If not, isn’t the RMAF and PUTD requirements duplicating each other?”

    No they aren’t…. The RMAF wants to focus on SAR/CSAR and SF insertion – that has been the plan for almost a decade now. Same with the RMN’s AW139’s and whatever the army gets; they will perform service centric roles; thus there will not be a duplication of roles. Naturally; when it comes to mercy flights and HADR helis from all services will perform these roles when required as has long been the case.

    If we were really focused on avoiding role duplication we would have a Joint Helicopter Command but of course we have yet to reach that stage of ”jointness” maturity.

    gonggok – ”Have PUTD dropped the requirement to have its own medium lift helicopter?”

    Obviously not….. having the ability to under sling various types of loads and to lift – at minimum – 2 infantry sections is a major requirement for the Army’s Aviation corps so why on earth would it drop its requirement for medium lift platform?

  6. Azlan – The RMAF wants to focus on SAR/CSAR and SF insertion

    SAR/CSAR and SF insertion mission does not need a total of 36x medium lift helicopters (4 squadrons of 9 helicopters each), if RMAF are really serious focusing on that. For example, for the same SAR/CSAR requirements, RTAF uses 12x EC225M with full package of missile warning sensors and chaff/flare dispensers.

    For SF insertion, high speed and long range future platforms such as Bell V-280 Valor would give a much higher mission capability than any current helicopters, but such advanced future platforms will not be available in 2026-2030 RMK13 timeframe.

    The original RMAF CAP55 plan is to have only 2 helicopter squadron for SAR/CSAR role, with 2 other current helicopter squadron disbanded. But the current execution of leasing 4x AW139 for 3 Sqn Butterworth, leasing another 4x AW139 for 7 Sqn Kuching, and buying 24x more medium lift helicopter in RMK13 means that the original RMAF CAP55 plan for only 2 squadron of SAR/CSAR role is clearly out of the window. Which is why I am wondering about clashes in RMAF and PUTD requirement and plans.

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