Malaysia could be edging closer to the acquisition of a light attack helicopter, with MD Helicopters promoting the MD 530G and Boeing the AH-6i for the role.

At its LIMA debut, MD Helicopters made a major push. The Arizona-based company brought a single MD 530G, which performed during the show’s aerial display and also took Malaysian defence officials on test flights, while the company also had a large chalet at the show.

The exact number of aircraft Kuala Lumpur needs, and whether or not there is sufficient budget for the acquisition, is not clear. Malaysia is looking at a number of options, from eight aircraft up to 24.

Moreover, a number of other countries in the region are apparently interested in light attack helicopters, including the Philippines and Bangladesh.

MD Helicopters’ Craig Kitchen claims that the MD 530G is substantially cheaper to obtain and operate than the AH-6i, an advantage he says stems from the type’s simpler avionics and mission systems. “Over time, expensive systems can be hard for foreign militaries to maintain,” he says.

In addition, the MD530G is available through a direct commercial sale, whereas an AH-6i sale would be conducted through the US Foreign Military Sales mechanism.

AH-6i - Boeing


In a Boeing briefing on the AH-6i, however, Dave Brostrom, a business development executive in the company’s vertical lift business, gave a number of reasons why its aircraft is the better option – although he never specifically referenced the MD Helicopters offering.

Visually, the two types are similar, as the AH-6i is a heavily modified derivative of the MD500. The AH-6i has six rotor blades, while the MD530G has five. The AH-6i also has a four-blade canted tail rotor, while the MD530G has just two. This, says Boeing, offers superior control characteristics, particularly in hot and high conditions.

Other key AH-6i features, says Brostrom, include crash-resistant seats, self-sealing fuel tanks and a greater ammunition load-out.

Both companies add that when their aircraft are not tasked for combat duties, the weapons systems can be stripped out and room made for passengers, such as special forces troops.

MD530G - LIMA 15 - Greg Waldron

Greg Waldron/Flightglobal

Malaysia has long been interested in obtaining dedicated attack helicopters, but funding has consistently been an issue. Airbus Helicopters brought its Tiger attack helicopter to the show in 2011, but did not bring it in 2013 or 2015.

Bell Helicopter also had a high profile at the show, which was aided by the presence of a US Marine Corps UH-1Y combat utility helicopter in the static display. Sikorsky also had a large stand, where it displayed a model of a UH-60 Black Hawk armed with rocket pods and forward-firing Gatling guns.