The Cougar, Why?

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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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