THE US Government, as anticipated, has finally cleared the improved McDonnell Douglas AH-64D Apache helicopter for sale to countries in South-East Asia.

The move clears the way for the AH-64D to be offered to the Royal Malaysian Air force (RMAF), to meet its pending requirement for an attack helicopter. It is expected to order up to 12 helicopters by 1997.

Neighbouring Singapore had previously been given clearance to buy the less advanced AH-64A version, but Malaysia has made it clear that it was interested primarily in the AH-64D Longbow.

Present approval does not include the Lockheed Martin/ Westinghouse Longbow millimetre-wave radar. US defence sources suggest that clearance for the radar is unlikely until 1997 at the earliest (Flight International, 21-27 February, P17).

The AH-64D will be offered fitted for, but not with, the radar. Observers note that any helicopters ordered are unlikely to enter regional service before the end of the decade, by which time the supply of Longbow should have been approved.

South Africa, in the meantime, is set to step up its campaign to sell the competing Denel CSH-2 Rooivalk helicopter to the RMAF. A high-level team, headed by Denel chief executive Johan Alberts, is due in Kuala Lumpur shortly, for Malaysia's Defence Services Asia '96 exhibition.

Until now Singapore has refrained from expressing any official interest in an attack-helicopter capability. This would probably change, with a Malaysian order for either the AH-64D or Rooivalk, together with its requirement for up to 150 main battle tanks.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force relies on the Eurocopter AS.350L-2 Fennec for the light armed-helicopter role, but officials were briefed on, and flown in, the AH-64D during February's Asian Aerospace show.

Source: Flight International