SHAH ALAM: DESPITE the economic headwinds, it appears that RMAF upgrade programmes – Hercules, Hawk and Nuri – have been green lighted. However it remained to be seen whether the contracts will be signed at the upcoming DSA 2016.
Even if they could not signed the contracts at the exhibition, it is expected that it will be done shortly after the show. The decision to approve the upgrades is a big relief to the local defence industry as many had feared that the “difficult funding environment” will work against them.
Defence industry sources said the Hawk upgrades are expected to be completed within the next two years while the Hercules and Nuri ones will likely stretch past 2020. As the Hawks are needed for operations in Sabah, the shorter period for upgrades is elementary. And as the Nuri and Hercules are expected to serve past 2020 the longer period for their upgrades will not be an issue.
The fulfillment of the upgrade programmes will be credited to the Defence Ministry “readiness” initiative but there are of course other reasons for the approval. One of it was the decision to procure the four ex-Brunei Blackhawks.
Yes, we paying for the Blackhawks instead getting them FOC as previously reported. As with any procurement (or gifts) of assets, maintenance and support issues will come into play. In this case, the work will be done by Airod Sdn Bhd which had been maintaining the RMAF VVIP Blackhawks all this while. The ISS contract for the Blackhawks could also be signed at DSA 2016 as well.
And Airod will also be the main player for the three upgrades. On the Hercules upgrade as reported previously, Airod was awarded a letter of intent at DSA 2014 for the upgrade of the avionics and communications systems aboard the RMAF’s fleet of 14 Hercules to meet international aviation traffic standards. The work is to be done with Canada’s Esterline-CMC which was selected by the government for the programme.
However, the work had yet to start as the contract had not been signed as Airod seek to work with Rockwell Collins, its long time partner. Industry sources told Malaysian Defence that the government was adamant though that the project be carried out with Esterline. I believed that the government chose Esterline as part of the deal which allowed Petronas to buy a shale gas field in Canada in 2014.
As for the Nuri upgrade, previously Airod worked with Vector Aerospace. The Nuri Upgrade was completed with a single helicopter – M23-36 – which is already operational with No 3 Squadron. However this time around, Airod is expected to work with another international helicopter MRO company.
It is expected after the first Nuri is upgraded, the rest of the helicopters in service – at least 22 – including those of PUTD – will also be fitted with the Rockwell Collins Pro-Line digital cockpit and other enhancements which will reduce operating costs and offer higher performance benefits.
It must be noted that only PUTD Nuri had been painted in the digital camouflage as shown in the two pictures used here. The camo seen here is different from the two Nuris delivered at LIMA as green tones had been added, similar to ones on PUTD’s AW109s.
Army chief Tan Sri Raja Affandi Raja Mohamed Nor – when met at the Starstreak missile firing late March – told Malaysian Defence that he preferred the camo on the two Nuris at LIMA as “it is much better in breaking up the silhouette”.
The Hawk upgrades, according to industry sources will only involved the single seaters, the Hawk 208s, in service with RMAF. Again as reported previously, the upgrades planned are limited mostly involving the cockpit displays, HUDs and the RWR.
BAE Systems as the OEM will be providing the equipment with Airod doing the upgrading work. The decision to base the Hawks in Sabah really tip the scale this time around.
As did the Blackhawk deal.
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