Malaysia is considering the NH Industries NH90 helicopter for a possible requirement for up to 30 machines, according to industry sources. Brunei has also requested information on the European aircraft to meet a potential requirement for up to four maritime patrol helicopters.

Malaysia has for several years considered how best to support its new fleet of offshore patrol vessels. The naval requirement appears to be moving forward, but the procurement schedule remains uncertain, given the recent change of government in the country.

The Brunei programme, which has been delayed for several years, is expected to resume after a competition early next year. The helicopters are needed to supplement maritime surveillance, anti-piracy, anti-smuggling and search-and-rescue missions.

The sultanate wants preliminary information on a wide range of helicopters, including the Eurocopter AS-550 Fennec and NH90, and will decide on size and mission requirements next year.

Sikorsky has long pitched additional Black Hawks to Brunei and Sea Hawks to Malaysia. But the US company has slowed the pace of its Malaysia campaign, and a purchase of US equipment is unlikely, given the recent souring of Malaysia-US politics.

Eurocopter and partner AgustaWestland believe Malaysia could join Australia and Singapore as the first Asia-Pacific operators of the NH90. They are confident Australia will purchase 11 NH90s by year-end, and that Singapore will choose the NH90 next year over the Sea Hawk and Eurocopter AS532C Cougar.

Singapore is expected to issue a long-delayed request for best and final offers early next year, having planned to award a contract by the end of its fiscal year on 31 March. Budget constraints have delayed the programme, and are forcing Singapore to re-analyse configurations involving tactical computers, missiles, radar, sonar and forward-looking infrared.

Source: Flight International