Malaysia plans to start its long-delayed acquisition of new combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) helicopters next year, but it will be at least a decade before its entire Sikorsky S-61 Nuri fleet is replaced.

Royal Malaysian Air Force chief Sri Nik Ismail Bin Nik Mohamed says replacing the Nuris is a “top priority” and the acquisition is expected to begin in Malaysia’s new five-year spending plan, which begins in January. “The indication is the government will probably approve just for combat search- and-rescue and some utility transport,” Ismail told Flight International following a speech last week at the Heli-Asia 2005 conference in Bangkok.

Ismail hopes to begin the Nuri replacement programme next year with the purchase of “a few” CSAR helicopters to be delivered in 2008 or 2009. He says the Nuri fleet will be phased out in stages over the next 10 years because Kuala Lumpur lacks the funds to replace all 30-plus aircraft, which are used for both SAR and transport missions, in the 2006-10 spending plan.

Manufacturers have been providing the Malaysian air force with information on new helicopters for several years in anticipation of the programme.

Source: Flight International