BRUNEI IS UNDERSTOOD to have concluded a deal with Sikorsky to purchase initially four UH-60L Black Hawk utility helicopters for military use.

The UH-60L was selected after a prolonged evaluation of rival helicopters Eurocopter AS.532 Cougar and Indonesian Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (IPTN) licence-built NAS.332 Super Puma.

Sikorsky finalised the sale of four helicopters towards the end of 1995, but has refrained from announcing the deal (at the request of Brunei). According to an industry source, the first helicopter will be delivered within 24 months.

The helicopters will be operated by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces' (RBAF) Air Wing in support of its 3,000-strong army. The Black Hawk's principle role will be tactical troop transport and the provision of external lift for Brunei's planned 105mm field guns.

The new helicopters will supplement the RBAF's existing fleet of ten smaller Bell 212s and two 412s. At least two civil-configured S-70C versions of the Black Hawk are already in service with the Sultan of Brunei's Royal Flight.

Purchase of the US helicopters is the latest in a series of long-awaited military orders to be finalised or which are near to completion. Plans to re-equip the RBAF Air Wing have been held up, partly by the need to construct a new airbase at Bandar International Airport.

The RBAF recently ordered an IPTN CN-235 transport and has selected ARGOSystem as the integrator for the maritime-patrol (MPA) version of the aircraft. A request for proposals is expected shortly for the MPA's avionics suite, including radar and electronic-support measures.

Source: Flight International