Four competing US and European helicopter manufacturers have submitted proposals to the Malaysian finance ministry, in response to a recent request for pricing on new naval aircraft.

The Royal Malaysian Navy has a initial requirement for six shipboard helicopters to replace its elderly Westland Wasps. Two of the machines will be based aboard two new frigates, built by GEC Yarrow and now undergoing acceptance trials in the UK.

Competing for the order are Eurocopter, offering the AS565 Panther; Kaman, with its modernised SH-2G Super Seasprite; Sikorsky, which is proposing an S-70B Seahawk variant similar to that sold to neighbouring Thailand; and Westland, with the Super Lynx. Once approved by the finance ministry, a formal request for tender will be issued and a final selection made later in the year.

Kaman is hoping to capitalise on its recent SH-2G sales successes in Australia and New Zealand (Flight International, 19-25 March, P25). The Malaysian navy followed both contests closely and is understood to have approached New Zealand for a copy of its selection criteria.

For Westland, a win in Malaysia after its Australian and New Zealand setbacks is seen as critical if the Lynx is to be a viable candidate elsewhere in South-East Asia. Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and, in the longer term, Singapore, all have requirements for new shipboard naval helicopters. It was earlier suggested that Malaysia could be supplied with two Lynx as partial compensation for the delayed delivery of its first frigate, the Lekiu.

Sikorsky, at the same time, is emphasising family commonality between the Seahawk and the S-70A Black Hawk, two of which have been ordered for the Government VIP role. The helicopter is also being promoted as a combat search-and-rescue replacement for the Malaysian air force's Sikorsky S-61 Nuris.

Linked to Malaysia's selection of a helicopter for its new frigates is a requirement to equip its planned fleet of offshore-patrol combatant (OPC) vessels. An initial order of 12 aircraft is expected. The navy prefers a single type of machine for both ship classes. The timescale for funding of the OPC programme is uncertain, however, and the navy has bought embargoed Iraqi corvettes from Italy in the interim.

Source: Flight International