But new five-year spending plan is insufficient to cover airborne early warning, fighter or jet trainer deals

Malaysia plans to launch acquisitions for new combat search and rescue (CSAR) and training helicopters as part of its new five-year spending plan, but has delayed several other programmes because of budget constraints.

Kuala Lumpur has allocated 15.7 billion ringgit ($4.2 billion) to the defence ministry in its 2006-10 spending plan – a 15.5% decrease compared with the 18.6 billion ringgit spent in 2001-5. The defence ministry has not provided a breakdown, but internal documents indicate 180 million ringgit is expected for the acquisition of eight training helicopters. These will initially be used to support the army’s new fleet of 11 AgustaWestland A109 light observation helicopters, the first of which was delivered late last year.

The Malaysian army is now relying on a private school to provide ab initio training with two Eurocopter EC120s, but the service has had problems transitioning its first batch of pilots to the A109 and has so far refused to approve the wet-lease of two more A109s for training. Industry sources expect the army to again acquire A109s, with most of the eight additional helicopters to eventually form a second observation squadron.

The army also expects to be allocated 30 million ringgit to begin trials and evaluation of utility helicopters, but an estimated 300 million ringgit acquisition to equip one squadron will not be funded until the 2011-15 spending plan. The army plans to evaluate AgustaWestland’s AW139 and Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk for the requirement.

Industry sources say the air force expects the funding to start a long-delayed acquisition to replace its fleet of about 30 Sikorsky S-61s. But fewer than 10 helicopters for CSAR missions will initially be purchased and most of the acquisition will not be funded until the next spending plan.

According to sources, the air force will not be allocated funds for new jet trainers, airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft or Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters. Manufacturers say too much of Malaysia’s 2006-10 budget is being eaten up by earlier acquisitions, including Sukhoi Su-30s. Malaysia has also cut defence’s stake in its overall budget from 11% to 7.2%.

But sources say AEW and other acquisitions may still go forward because the prime minister can acquire big-ticket military items outside the normal budget.


Source: Flight International