Malaysian company expects to win assembly contract for search and rescue aircraft

Malaysia is acquiring 10 search and rescue (SAR) helicopters from Russia for its air force, in a deal involving possible offsets for local aerospace company Airod.

Industry sources say the Malaysian and Russian governments have drafted a contract for 10 Mil Mi-172 or Mi-171 helicopters and expect the deal to be signed within the next few weeks. Airod expects to be directed to assemble the helicopters and help integrate the avionics with an undisclosed foreign suite supplier.

Russia has offered Malaysia Mi-172s manufactured at a government plant in Kazan and Mi-171s manufactured at a government facility in Ulan-Ude. Kazan Helicopters has pitched Mi-172s with a Honeywell glass cockpit, the same configuration that recently entered service with South Korea's police force. The Mi-171 and Mi-172 are competing developments of the Mi-8/17 Hip family.

Airod, however, is pushing to help develop and install an alternative Western package for the Mi-171. Airod sister company SME Aviation has discussed forging a joint venture with Ulan-Ude Aviation for several years and may assemble the new air force helicopters on behalf of Airod.

Airod officials say recent corruption allegations surrounding the company will not stop the government from completing a contract to help deliver 10 Russian helicopters within the next three years.

Officials confirm Malaysian police seized company documents earlier this month as part of an investigation of prior Airod military aircraft contracts. Airod believes the allegations are purely political and do not have merit.

The Mi-171s or Mi-172s are intended to help bolster the Malaysian air force's SAR capability. The service now operates about 30 Sikorsky S-61 Nuris, 13 of which are being upgraded by Airod with a new rescue hoist, improved hydraulics and night vision equipment.

The upgrade is being carried out in phases through to late next year. Malaysia intends to keep all the S-61s in service for several years before beginning a search for replacements.

The air force also uses the Nuri for VIP transport.

Source: Flight International