MALAYSIA IS following closely Australian and New Zealand evaluations of competing shipboard naval helicopters before making its own selection.

The Royal Malaysian Navy has an initial requirement for six helicopters to equip two new frigates being built in the UK. In the longer term, there is an additional requirement to equip a planned fleet of up to 27 offshore patrol combatant (OPC) ships.

Leading competitors for the Malaysian order are the Eurocopter AS.565 Panther, Kaman SH-2G SeaSprite, Sikorsky S-76N and Westland Super Lynx. The same basic types are also being offered to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).

The RAN project team is understood to have agreed to work closely with its Malaysian counter-part, in a move to bolster closer defence relations. Australia and Malaysia are already co-operating to develop a joint staff requirement for a new class of OPC for both navies.

Australia is seeing an initial, 14 naval helicopters for its new fleet of frigates, jointly developed with New Zealand. A further nine to 18 machines will be needed for the RAN's planned OPCs, depending on the number of ships ordered.

A request for tenders issued recently calls for the helicopter to be equipped with a pulse-compression radar, electronic-support measures (ESM), forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) imager, integrated tactical data system and the Link 11 datalink.

For anti-surface warfare, the RAN's request has specified that the helicopter must be equipped with at least two (and preferably four) air-to-surface missiles. Manufacturers have been told to offer a choice of two different missiles with each helicopter.

Missiles offered in the competition include the British Aerospace Sea Skua, the Aerospatiale AS.15TT, the Kongsberg Penguin and the Hughes AGM-65 Maverick.

Manufacturers have been given until 20 February to submit tenders for the RAN competition, by which time the RNZN will be close to its own decision. A shortlist of two is expected shortly, tenders having had to be submitted by 8 September.

New Zealand, like Malaysia, requires six helicopters to replace its elderly Westland Wasps. While the RNZN evaluation is separate from that of the RAN, the two navies have agreed to liaise closely. Defence sources suggest that the RNZN and RAN are likely to try to combine sub-system requirements, such as ESM and FLIR.

Source: Flight International