The Cougar, Why?

cougar.jpeg

French Air Force Caracal

KUALA LUMPUR: Since the announcement, Malaysian Defence have been trying to find out the real factor or factors behind the selection of the EC725 Cougar (Caracal in French service) for the Nuri Replacement Programme. The helicopter, although not the preferred RMAF choice – which is of course was and is AW101 – is a suitable aircraft for the tasks it is to be used although it does not meet the original specifications of the tender.

There is nothing wrong about this of course since other helicopters such as the Mi-17 and the Chinook were able to participate in the tender process due to the changes to the original specifications. If the original specifications were not changed only the AW101 and the S92 would meet the technical requirements, limiting the selection.

A US publication, DefenseNews, in a recent report, quoted an American defence contractor saying that the tender process was not transparent and reek of intrigue. Since only Boeing and Sikorsky were the only American participants in the tender process, it was most probable that either one of these companies representatives had made the comment.

Malaysian Defence feels that the comment was unfair from a bad loser. Why? Because one cannot find any Malaysian defence tender process that was transparent and without intrigue. Furthermore, both the American aircraft were not really in the running, the Chinook being too expensive and too large for the tasks envisioned for a Nuri replacement while the Superhawk remained a paper airplane. AgustaWestland, which has a better argument against the selection of the Cougar have kept quiet so far and is likely to remained quiet publicly for the sake of future sales.

So what was the factors behind the selection of the Cougar. So far, Malaysian Defence after talking to several people, have identified the two main factors.

1) Mahathirism. No, the Old Man was not involved in the selection process. The reason that it was the main factor behind the selection was the blind adherence to the policies and methods employed in the Mahathir era especially for defence procurement especially the saying, It is Who You Know and Not What You Know. Since Malaysian Defence understands that the contract has not been signed and things could change in the meantime, it is suffice to say that it is a lucrative farewell gift! The only variation to the Mahathirism was the fact that a tender was called for this programme, which had led to an Umno leader to damn the process as a gimmick. It is certainly wasnt cheap for those guys promoting the outsiders! Yes, the Russian birds are cheaper but then so were the Protons!

2) Price. The Cougar is cheaper than the AW101. The basic version of the French bird is probably going to cost around USD25 million while the top end CSAR bird will be around USD35 million (as pictured above). This would allow the contract price to be around RM2.1 billion although these could go higher or lower depending on the first factor cited above!

Other factors which favoured the Cougar as Malaysian Defence had written previously were Eurocopter’s large industrial presence in Malaysia and that our bird would be the same version as the ones flown by the French. The AW101 offer had been handicapped due to the “moving” specifications.

Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 1727 Articles
Shah Alam

21 Comments

  1. I fully agreed that the EC-725 still is the best choice and although AW101 would be the best choice.
    I would be disappointed if the MI-17 were selected.

    Nuri has served us very well and lately there were too many incident and crash that many personnel has perish and does not bode very well.

    Ultimately I believe the selection of the Cougar must be made at the best interest, cost effective and suitable for the armed forces to operate.
    Not only that, Euroopter will invest RM 250 mil in Malaysia as well.

    Bottom line the heli must be able to serve the armed forces well and especailly the crew that putting their life in the line of duty.

    Marhalim: There is some doubt about the selection process as the LOI was reportedly signed on the day Najib and Pak Lah swapped positions in the Cabinet. Who is making the biggest noise, the Mi-17 agent of course. In a hindsight they should have not modified the original specs, so only the AW101 and the S92 would have been in the tender. I know everyone are skeptical about the whole deal but really apart from the AW101 and the Cougar, they did not have any other options. If only they chucked the Mahathirism from the start, we would not be in these mess…

  2. Anwar spoke out in parliment about the purchase. It is unknown whether he spoke out about the price tag or about the deal as a whole. It remains to be seen if the members of opposition have a better understanding of defence matters that those in power. Should the deal go through, the possibility remains that the cockpit specs may be lowered to reduce the price tag. Interestingly, in an interview Perajurit did with the French pilot who flew the Cougar at LIMA, the pilot said the only thing about the Cougar he was unhappy about was the thermal imager’s resolution. Whilst prefering the Cougar over the S-92 and Mil-17, in the longer run I would be happier with a fleet of 40 odd Mil17s than 12 Cougars. For the next Malaysia Plan, budget has been allocated for an additional 15 Cougars. Lets wait and see.

    Marhalim: yes the Mi-17s are cheap but where will you find the pilots to fly them. Not many will hang around if the Mi-17 was selected to replace the Nuri. Anwar spoke on why they are still buying the choppers during the troubled times, money he said should be spent on people. Of course, if he was in power, he will speed up the purchase, though it may well be an American one instead of French. One of Anwar’s main supporter, Saifuddin Nasution was in MINDEF before, I believe, but as usual from what I seen and heard, the Oppo still regard defence as wasteful now as they cannot get their hands on the honey pot.

  3. Even if we accept that the Mil agent has a case of sour grapes, the matters raised are valid and symptomatic of an opaque and unaccountable government operating in an arbitrary and improper manner. Given that the tender was first amended to allow the Cougar in and then a LOI issued before formal flight evaluations were undertaken and that the Cougar was obviously not the best value for money, plus the timing of it, leaves the decision open to charges of impropriety. Who cares if this is the way things were…. the government given a drubbing in March has not seen fit to change its ways and thus the Opposition is serving its role as the conscience of the nation in Parliament.

    Eurocopter will invest RM 250 million that it took from the Malaysian taxpayer. Offsets in this country are by and large sweeties for government cronies. Their track record has been quite pathetic and their value is dubious at best.

    My concern is that we are halving the chopper fleet and creating a capability gap in terms of frame availability and coverage without a plan to address this issue. The RMAF intends to abrogate its role as primary provider of rotorwing lift for the armed forces as a whole without first ensuring that the Army Air Corps is in a position to make up the shortfall. The ‘CSAR’ moniker for the Nuri Replacement is ultimately a sham as the birds will primarily be used as utility lifters for RMAF domestic needs.

    MINDEF failed to plan for the smooth transition away from the Nuri, the single most valuable RMAF asset to the rakyat. If the RMAF favours the Cougar it needs to make it clear to the rakyat WHY since the rakyat have to pay a hefty premium. If they wrote the specs and the Mi-17 meets them all and comes in cheapest, it deserves to win. No three ways about it.

    As for the pilots voting with their feet….RMAF will just have to issue a stop loss to them until they run a few busloads of recruits through flight school. They are here to serve the nation and not vice versa. I’ll tell you how to motivate the airforce, for every shortfall in the rotor wing side, transfer over one zoomie. I guarantee you this will fix the problem. I would rather see our fast jets in mothballs than forego chopper support.

    Simon

    Marhalim: The problem I had with Mr Sour Grapes is that despite the obvious misgivings about the tender process, his main contention remained that his choppers were not selected. I wonder whether it would be the same if they had selected the Mi-17s…..

  4. I asked the Government to be prudent in this time of Economic Crisis. Can we really afford to spent the RM 2.3 billion. What sort of Technology Transfer we are talking buying the Eueocopter. The Center at Subang is nothing but just one big hangar for people to do work. I suggest government postponed the purchase until our economy is better. No need CSAR now. Use existing Nuri as the SAR.

    Take cue what the UK Government is facing in the Financial Crisis. Even they don’t have dedicated CSAR for JPR. Go and read A Lack of Committment Search and Rescue CSAR Defence Helicopter Vol 27 Number 2 March /Apr 2008.

    Marhalim: The CSAR role is optional, utility would be the main tasking for the NR (Nuri replacement). We have been delaying the decision to replace the Nuri for the last two decades, although the obvious need for us to do so. Yes, we can delay the procurement for the time being but the Nuri cannot be flying forever. If we delay the procurement we also need funds to ensure that the Nuri fleet can continue flying. And no matter how much upgrade we do, the Nuri fleet will need to be replaced sooner or later. I am also concerned whether or not we can afford to this during this uncertain time but we simply need to be brave unless the economy crisis turned really nasty.

    One way to reduce our exposure, perhaps the procurement could be done in a multi-year basis, perhaps three aircraft per year, which would cost us some USD100 million (about RM350 million a year), instead of one lump sum.

  5. Dear Marhalim,

    Please check with the RMAF, the CSAR role is the main role for the Eurocopter. At this pont of time the RMAF is required by the Government to provide SAR, thus 24 hour coverage permanent station of the Nuri is placed in TUDM Butterworth, TUDM Kuantan, TUDM Kuching and TUDM Labuan.

    If the procurement of the helicopter is for utility, might as well the Government save the money buying maybe 4 units of Cougar as dedicated CSAR and either upgrade the Nuri (mechanical and avionics), or phase out the Nuri and buy dedicated utility which ever is cheaper.If the twelve. Knowing the RMAF all the twelve will be equipped to the same standard thus why the cost of these helicopters are expensive.

    I hope there is someone in the public will ask his parliamentar representative requesting for a white paper for the Government in the procuremnt of this 12 Cougar. What do you think?

    Marhalim: OF course, one of the roles for the Cougar would be CSAR but as I had stated earlier unless we need to extract a pilot or soldiers from a war zone, the mission would in essence a normal SAR. The Cougar would be tasked like the Nuri as a national SAR asset and utility bird. It would be pointless to buy only four dedicated CSAR bird as they would be .laying idle all the time. As whether or not all the Cougar will be all dressed up is up to the Govt really. The services will always wanted all of its new machine to be fully kitted up due to past experiences.

  6. shahf,

    The Nuri fleet has to be replaced period. If we wait a few years for the economy to improve and then buy a replacement, the Nuris might not be flyable. Would you like to ride in a 40 year heli? What is needed is a utility heli. Forget CSAR and SAR. These are fancy terms but at the moment totally useless given the threat enviroment. Flanker, Fulcrums and PT-91s are nice and impressive to look at but are not critical to the MAFs need at present.

    Numbers count! Thats why i said earlier i’d rather have 40 Mil-17s than 12 Cougars or even Merlins. Lets just hope then when cash is finally allocated for the 2nd batch of Nuri replacements, the 1st batch of 12 isn’t already 10 or more years old….

    Funny enough, the press didn’t mention anybody moaning about the 30million ringgit allocated for the officer’s mess. Or the need to order a 2nd ASTROS battery 3 years ago. And what about the Aloutte 111s, these will need replacing in 4-5 years.

    Marhalim: No one moaned about the 30 million mess cause the normal cronies got the project and they had expected the dole to be pass around this time, heck its a 2 billion deal but instead it went to the Special One…..

  7. Dear Azlan,

    Why do you say the Nuri Fleet need to be replaceable. As you may well aware the RMAF Nuri is still flying nicely. Do you know if the fleet is maintained as it is in accordance with the Design, Operational, and Standard Maintenance procedure there is no problem with our Nuri. The Spare Parts, Technical Support for the S61A4 until today and for the next 10 years is Guaranteed. I emphasized Guaranteed by the US Navy. On top of that Agusta Westland Plants in Italy and UK still make considerable business in support and maintenance.

    And I had and still in confident to fly in the 40 years old Nuri.

    On your remarks of the need for the numbers, I don’t see your point. If you talk about Heliborne Assault Operation, we are still a long way brother. For your info the Nuri economics value for the money for Malaysia especially is very good as compared to the Tons of Bricks of the Mi 17, the 4 units that Bomba has wasting the taxpayer money. Seriously. I know because…..

  8. With regards to my point on ‘numbers’ what i was refering to was having enough helis to provide a decent lift capability for the army, plus being able to perform what the Nuri and Aloutte fleet has been doing, mercy missions, SAR, etc. I was not refering to ‘heliborne assault operation’s.

    Yes, no one is disputing the Nuri fleet is still flyable and will be for a number of years. If we want to go down that road, Sikorsky can even provide a complete refurbishment [new rotors, new instrumentations, etc]. And yes, i am aware that in the long run, the Kazan Mil-17s have higher life cycle costs than the Nuri or Cougar.

  9. in MINDEF LOI, (if u guys slalu bace, n takdengar2 kosong),

    they stated that, there’s safe statement like, kerajaan berhasrat and also ini hanya surat niat, pihak kerajaan tak tertakluk untuk wajib beli that thing kan?
    so ,why hassle? altho mmg la usually from LOI pegi ke LOA..
    Datuk KSU yg sign for LOA, kalo LOI, budak mindef pero aje buleh sign, pastu panggil meeting,

    LOI = surat niat..

    kecoh kan bilion2 bazir ke hape..LOA tak sign lagi kot..ni la masalah org taktau procedure, macam meesterT ,taktau kat kapal ade encryption, mmg la takde, yang brand AG crypto or omnisec ..

    surat mentari ni,surat kontraktor gagal je..takut hilang kepercayaan principal..kan??

  10. Procedurenya yang screw up. Lain negara, ada tender lepas itu ada tender award, bukan LOI. Kalo ada ape isu, boleh buat bantahan. Malaysia lain….. pilih yang suka, terus kasi LOI. Buat ape ada tender? Biarlah direct nego macam biasa.

    Kontraktor memang kenalah membantah sebab proses tender ni bolot. Lain tempat, kalo keluar LOI macam ini, whole tender kena batal.

    But then again maybe naz just doesn’t understand or subscribe to the whole Open Tender process. The purpose of the Open Tender is to encourage vendors to participate with their best offer in a fair and open process. At the end of the exercise, a tender award is made outlining the basis of the decision. It is not always about money but it does have to give the grounds on which it is awarded so that the tender participants understand why they lost/won. In the case of the NR, MINDEF simply issued a LOI without notifying the tenderers of completion of the tender exercise and the basis of the award.

    If the primary contract does not cover Government Furnished Equipment, then a lump sum is included for interface/installation work without variance on the primary contract. Of course by screwing up the contract documents, it is possible to expose the tax payer to endless price revisions (which always go up and never down).

    It still doesn’t address my primary problem with the NR program….too few birds.

  11. or maybe die mmg nak kasi direct nego, tapi , still kalo lalu tender pun,
    kalo commercial team dah minat kat yang certain A, buleh je ngadjust, lalu je tender n macam2.tp in the end, kalo commercial team n technical team suke yang certain A…emmmm…macam tak biasa plak.

    and bukan kalo dah bagi LOI, pastu ade meeting semula ke? pasal requirement sume tu for the end user.
    nanti sure org pero panggil, ngan end user pun tambah requirement..lambat laun baru siap.
    nanti nego harga lagi la ape la..

    and,kalo bende tak perform, MOF tak kuar duit bayar kan? macam systems la..kalo sangkut, mane MOF nak bayar upfront..tanye la boustead, dah dapat duit ke yg extension OPV tu? haa..

    Marhalim: Thats the reason some people called the tender a gimmick….but thats Mahathirism for you….on the upfront payment, one needs to consult, Amin Shah, he got it…..

    bukan dah tutup tender earlier this year ke if i am not mistaken? kuar surat khabar kot.

  12. Thank you Azlan, If that’s the case let’s campaign for the Eurocopter cancellation and for Nuri Upgrade. It’s a lot of cheaper, and for your information Azlan our S61-A4 Fleet airframe hours as compared to the US Navy equivalent that was the same batch is less than Half, Half of the Airframe Hour. And those Sea King operate in very severe environment as compared to our Nuri. They are Carrier Borne, exposed to extreme Heat, Humidity, Salt and Corrosive Environment, but their status of serviceability remarkable. Dear Government use that money for the betterment of Rakyat.

    Marhalim:I will put up this as a poll but honestly I do not believe in upgrading programme, they had the chance when they did it the last time around but they did not, the airframe was not zeroed and auto-hover was not given. If the full comprehensive upgrading is done, it will be as expensive as the Cougars……

  13. Good idea Marhalim,

    For your info, I believe now our Nuri is equipped with Autohover. On top of that some of the Nuri is equipped for NVG operation. The flying hours of our Chopper Boys are very demanding to the extent that the young ones are pushing to leave the service. Serious gripe is going on. New birds will not alleviate their morale. Any comments?

    Marhalim: New shiny birds will alleviate morale somewhat. But not a fleet of Mi-17 fitted with western avionics to please the cronies. The young ones cannot leave the service as they are bound by their contracts first, they will make do, it is those with long flying hours we will be missing more…

  14. Only 6 Nuris have in fitted with an autohover, in a contract awarded in 2006.

    “Heli-One, an operating subsidiary of CHC Helicopter Corporation announced today that it has commenced work on a new contract to install the Smiths SN502 autohover systems in six Sikorsky S61A (Nuri) helicopters owned and operated by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). Heli-One was awarded the contract by Airod Sdn Bhd, Malaysia’s premier aircraft maintenance center. The contract is anticipated to generate revenues to Heli-One of approximately CDN $13.3 million over three years. ”

    Marhalim: The contract was done ten years too late. The lack of auto hover was evident after the crash off Muka Head where a Nuri went down during a night mission to evacuate an injured ship crew. Two crew members of the Nuri were killed in the incident, one remained missing to this day. There was a lot of acrimony that resulted from the crash, off which led to the banning of Nuri for night mission because the aircraft were not equipped for such a mission. Another issue were rumours that the pilots had refused to fly the mission but was ordered to do so by the higher-ups who later blamed the crews for undertaking such a hazardous despite the low risk nature of the injured crew.

    The auto-hover feature were deleted from the first major Nuri upgrade circa 1990 despite the protests of the air force due to cost issues. I wonder whether the six auto-hover equipped Nuris are already flying. This sort of incremental upgrade which I am totally against and probably will happened again if they decide to postponed the NRP.

  15. shahf….the RMAF is very clear that it wants to pass the rotary wing lift mission to the PUTD and focus purely on ‘domestic’ needs. What is however profoundly absent is a blueprint for this to happen since there is no parallel programme to either refurbish the S-71s or procure new platforms. How do you justify PUTD using the existing Nuris when they are deemed inadequate for the RMAF?

    It is painfully obvious that the NRP is just another ‘projek’ to korek taxpayer ringgits since it doesn’t adequately address operational issues. Setting them up as dedicated CSAR birds with gold plating makes no sense whatsoever since the likelihood of such activity is infinitesimal. That we could do with more birds, flown by whoever will do so is obvious. Given this condition, it is hard to argue against the logic of the Mils. A helicopter is better than nothing, which is exactly what will be the case with a mere 12 Cougars.

    The PAC needs to review the whole rotary wing plan for the armed forces to see how FUBAR it is.

    I remember when the RMAF told the RMN that they could have choppers ‘over their dead body’. I know which service is squared away….and it ain’t the zoomies.

    Simon

  16. Dear Simon, do you have any suggestion on how we could get this PAC to verify, and substantiate that the neccesity to acquire this 12 CSAR birds is in the interest of this Country? A dialogue probably or even debate by the RMAF to the Rakyat.

    On the whole Rotary Wing Plan is there any? I believe that each services writes their own. Thus A109 is use mainly to ferry the Commander…….

    Marhalim: Rotary Wing Plan? What we need a full blown white paper on defence, operational concepts and such things. A debate wont helped matter as there is always be things that will be left unanswered. They are not buying 12 CSAR birds, they are buying 12 utility helicopters with SAR capabilities.

  17. RMAF currently operate 4 Nuri squadrons. 2 squadrons in East Malaysia and 2 in the Peninsular.

    We are buying 12 Cougars. Obviously 4 squadrons can’t be sharing 12 aircraft. So will there be squadrons which will be deactivated? Which ones then? Unless in the spirit of Malaysia Boleh, we have 3 helicopters per squadron!

    As for future follow up orders, looking at RMAF’s track record in this respect and where our economy is heading, I’m deeply pessimistic!

    Marhalim: From previous experience, they wont be deactivating any squadrons. Since it is difficult to get the Treasury to fund a new sqdn, I believe that the present set-up will be continued with one sqdn taking over the new helicopters, while its Nuris be re-allocated to the other sqdns until the time, the Nuri fleet is decommissioned.

  18. MINDEF should be overseeing the development of the services to ensure that they are compatible with the needs of the nation but this is of course not what happens. There is zero leadership from civilian masters in anything other than getting their slice of the pie. The net result is a ministry and services all adrift with no direction whatsoever. Not a great advertisement for No. 2 who has been at the helm.
    The RMAF is subordinate to MINDEF so any butt kicking that needs to take place is in Kementah.

    MINDEF is citing the top end pricing based on CSAR specs to maximize the project value. There’s precious little money going so they are going to maximize the opportunity presented. They are authorized only 12 birds, so they might as well be gold plated birds. Much along the lines of the A109LOHs in PUTD. They even had the temerity to convert 2 into VIP transports.

    The RMN Fleet Air Arm alone operates in a no nonsense manner.

    Simon

    Marhalim: Two of the VIP LOHs are equipped with AConditioned, leaving the helos needing APUs leaving them useless for over night jungle operations unless, the APU is towed to the designated LZs!

  19. Marhalim,

    My question is on what happens when the Nuris get deactivated (or transferred to Army).

    Marhalim: Ok as at the moment, until further funding is available, the Nuris are supposed to be in service until 2018. So what happen next must be answered within these two years as NRP goes on line. No one has definite answers yet, the Army (well the current chief says so) do not want the Nuri so their future in beyond 2018 is the bone yard.

    As for the air force, the plans that I was to made understand was for three medium helicopter sqdns with CSAR capabilities to be stand up by 2018, with a fourth acting as a training/reserve cum VIP sqdn. Each sqdn is supposed to be equipped with16 helos with two light utility sqdns (single or light twins for liaison, VIP and training roles with 20 helos.

    Realistically, the air force will be overjoyed if they can get for 3 medium sqdns with 12 AC each and a composite helo sqdn for training, liaison and VIP with six mediums and 10 light twins.

    The army air wing of course has grandiose plans up to 50 medium helicopters, 30 light twins and the same number of attack helos for their hallowed AAC….

  20. The RMAF has a requirement for 75 Cougars. In addition to the 12 already agrred on, the next Malaysia plan has allocation for another 12.

    Anyway, I found this letter while and thought it might be of interest.

    Copter deal: Conspiracy theorists fail to convince

    Prasun K Sengupta

    This has reference to the on-going ‘controversy’ regarding Mindef’s selection of the Eads/ Eurocopter-built EC-725 Cougar Mk2+ medium-lift air-mobility helicopter as the eventual replacement for the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) existing Sikorsky S-61A-4 helicopters.

    While allegations are abounding regarding Mindef’s competitive selection process, the following issues – especially those not yet raised by some of the bidders that have lost out to the EC-725 – have to be looked upon objectively:

    1. The Mi-17V-5 was first brought to Malaysia by Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp during the Lima 2001 exhibition and was extensively flight-tested after the exhibition by the RMAF. The HH-92 Superhawk’s prototype from Sikorsky was demonstrated to a visiting RMAF team in the US more than a year ago, and this included flight-testing as well.

    The EC-725, too, was flight-tested and evaluated by the RMAF when the helicopter was brought to Malaysia during the Lima 2007 exhibition in Langkawi early last December. Therefore, for some to claim that the RMAF and the Mindef tender evaluation board did away with the practice of flight-testing the principal contenders of the contract is fallacious and wrong.

    2. The Mi-17 will begin being phased out of service over the next five years by the Russian military end-users. That is why a competition is now underway within Russia between Kamov OKB (offering the Ka-92) and Mil Design Bureau (offering the Mi-38) for supplying the next-generation medium-lift helicopter to fulfill domestic Russian requirements.

    If the RMAF were to select either the Mi-17V-5 or Mi-172KF, while its initial procurement costs would be much lower, their through-life product support costs would be three times more than the figures quoted for helicopters like the EC-725, AgustaWestland’s AW101 and Sikorsky’s HH-92 Superhawk.

    This is because the RMAF will find it cost-prohibitive to maintain the airworthiness and serviceability of the Mi-17 once Russia stops producing spares for this helicopter over the next 10 years.

    3. For the RMAF tender competition, there were two offers of the Mi-17: the Mi-17V-5 from Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp, and the Mi-172KF being offered by Mentari Services Sdn Bhd.

    Interestingly, if either of the two parties were to win the contract, then they both would be sourcing the Mi-17s from the same OEM, ie, Kazan Helicopter Plant, based in Russia’s Tatarstan republic.

    And when it comes to military procurement from abroad, the customer (Mindef, in this case) universally requires guaranteed through-life product support from the OEM. Consequently, if Mindef were to select the Mi-17 then the following questions would have required convincing answers:

    a. While the Russian government would have given product support guarantees through its official weapons import/export agency Rosoboronexport for the Mi-17V-5, would the same guarantees be extended for the offer for the Mi-172KF?

    b. If not, then who would guarantee through-life product support for the Mi-172KF? Mentari? Or its principal – the Canada-based Kelowna Flightcraft Ltd – or the helicopter manufacturer – Kazan Helicopter Plant – from whom Kelowna was offering to source the Mi-172KF airframes?

    Who would assume product liabilities in the event of a Mi-172KF accident-related board of inquiry establishing that the accident/crash was due to technical error? What if Rosoboronexport State Corp prevented Kazan Helicopter Plant from cooperating with the RMAF during such accident/crash investigations?

    c. Did the Russian government, through Rosoboronexport, authorise either Kazan Helicopter Plant or Kelowna Flightcraft Ltd to supply the fully militarised (ie, weapons-equipped) Mi-172KF to Malaysia?

    This question needs to be answered in detail because as per present Russian government guidelines, only Rosoboronexport State Corp is authorised to export Russian-origin weapon systems directly to foreign military customers after inking government-to-government contracts.

    d. How many Mi-172KFs have been sold to date by the joint industrial venture between Kazan Helicopter Plant and Kelowna Flightcraft Ltd to military customers (not for VIP transportation, but for undertaking air-mobility operations under combat conditions) worldwide?

    Which authority has issued the Milspec-compliant certificate of airworthiness of the Mi-172KF’s military variant? Will the Mi-172KF have additional built-in performance growth features, such as the incorporation of fly-by-wire flight control systems and in-flight refuelling systems, which will most likely have to be mandatory on-board systems especially since the helicopter would be required by the RMAF to remain operationally viable for the next 40 years?

    Regrettably, the ‘naysayers’ and conspiracy theorists alleging irregularities in the EC-725’s selection process have yet to give rational and convincing clarifications regarding the four above-mentioned points.

    4) Today, it only makes sense for countries like China and India to continue buying Mi-17s in large numbers because only these two countries have had more than 30 years of experience operating the Mi-8Ts and Mi-17s and have therefore established the huge domestic MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) infrastructure required to maintain and operate such helicopters.

    This is not the case with Malaysia, which requires either the helicopter OEM to set up extensive, brand-new MRO infrastructure to support a new helicopter-type, or upgrade existing MRO infrastructure at tremendous cost to service the new helicopter acquisitions.

    5. As a consequence of the above, only Eurocopter (an Eads subsidiary) can be said to have comprehensively complied with the RMAF’s helicopter-related MRO demands (which played a pivotal role in tilting the balance in favour of the EC-725’s competitive bid) since only Eurocopter has to date made unilateral and substantial investments in its own sprawling helicopter MRO facility in Subang (which Sikorsky, AgustaWestland and the Russians are not known to have done thus far) since 1998.

    Such facilities, which will undoubtedly expand their capabilities as the EC-725s are inducted progressively, will enable the RMAF to fully localise the EC-725’s serviceability requirements, and ensure high availability and levels for its initial EC-725 fleet, which will undoubtedly be subject to intensive usage in the early years due to the demands of both operational conversion flying training as well as operational flying.

    One must also bear in mind that such MRO facilities will be fully authorised and certified by the OEM (Eurocopter) and as such will not be exposed to the third-party MRO liabilities of the type that has plagued the RMAF’s dwindling S-61A-4 ‘Nuri’ helicopter fleet.

    No one thus far, including Mentari or AgustaWestland or Sikorsky, has officially bothered to explain how much the through-life product support costs of the Mi-172KF or AW101 or HH-92 Superhawk would be if these entities were to establish in-country dedicated MRO facilities.

    Only if such expenditure figures are forthcoming from them would one be able to make accurate cost comparisons with the Eurocopter/EC-725 tender bid. Until then it remains a case of simplistic comparison of apples with oranges.

    6. As a result of the above, when viewed from a techno-economic matrix, it was Eurocopter that ‘almost fully’ complied with the ASQRs of the RMAF while at the same time offering guaranteed through-life product support for the EC-725. The EC-725 of the type selected for the RMAF is presently operational with the armed forces of France and Saudi Arabia and has already been combat-proven in Afghanistan.

    The AW101 comes in a close second as a combat-proven helicopter (which was recently selected by India for VVIP transportation), but the problem here was that the RMAF would have had to allocate substantial scare financial resources for setting up dedicated MRO facilities from scratch to support the AW101 fleet.

    Sikorsky’s HH-92 Superhawk is estimated to have come in with the third-best offer but militarily this helicopter is still an untested product since it has yet to be ordered in bulk by any armed forces worldwide.

    In conclusion, it would do well to the ‘naysayers’ to view the entire issue through the prism of objectivity prior to making ill-informed conclusions based merely on speculative accusations of some ‘sore losers’.

    Marhalim: Prasun’s letter is spot on but it wasnt his job to explain the matters, All of these could have been explain by the ministry, Pak Lah or Najib themselves! Anyhow, the argument that we cannot purchase from apart from OEMs is useless now, they should have disqualified Mentari/Kelowna from the tender in the first place!

  21. On the spare parts of the Mi-17, I think he is exaggerating that Russia will stop producing spares in the next 10 years. Mi-17 will be in service in Russia for many-many years to come. A replacement (Mi-38) will come in only slowly if at all. Similarly, the Hip will be in service around the world many-many years more. It will be stupid for the Russians to stop manufacturing the spare parts. And if Russia ceases, there is always China who holds a manufacturing license and operate 250 Hips.

    My main concern with this Cougar deal is numbers. How many helicopters will be at hand at the end of the day. 75 Cougars! A wet dream. TUDM might just end up with 12 Cougars and thats it up to 2020. Y’all just wait and see.

    Marhalim: That was my concern too, unless we prioritise our armed forces needs and have a real revolution in military affairs! Actually, I believe the air force needs at least 30 helicopters even if it just concentrate on its rotary wing for sar, csar, and utility roles due to our two big land mass. And any gaps should be covered by the army air wing, coast guard and navy. A joint helicopter force just like the British are doing. The problem is of course that Mindef must sit down with the services and planned out the armed forces framework for the future. This is a priority of course but I am not too confident that it will be done not matter who will be our political masters. The culture of National Interest is My Personal Interest is so entrenched across the political divide, the future does not look bright.

    As for the Hips will be flying somewhere somehow as long as the AK is still around…..India will also be able to reverse engineered the Mi-17 very quickly if they need to do so, perhaps they already did it but kept it under wraps for emergency purpose only knowing that it is not something special…..

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