Malaysia has publicly agreed to buy 12 Eurocopter EC725 combat search and rescue helicopters and is in the early stages of looking for attack helicopters.

At this week’s Defence Services Asia (DSA) show in Kuala Lumpur, the country’s defence minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi signed a letter-of-acceptance for the EC725s, which will be delivered in 2012 and 2013.

He told local news media that the plan is to sign a final contract when prime minister Najib Abdul Razak returns from overseas and the cabinet has a chance to meet and sign off on the deal.

© Eurocopter

The Royal Malaysian Air Force is also trying to have a requirement for attack helicopters included in the country’s next five-year plan, say industry sources.

At DSA, Eurocopter had a scale model of its Tiger attack helicopter on display next to a scale model of the EC725.

Sikorsky was promoting its armed S-70 Black Hawk at the show and highlighting how the helicopter has interior kits so it can be used for multiple roles. For example, it can be re-configured to be a VIP transport, medical evacuation, reconnaissance team insertion or troop transport helicopter.

Sikorsky was also promoting its upgrade package for the S-61 Nuri helicopter that includes new rotor blades and a replacement avionics system from Rockwell Collins that includes four flat-panel digital displays.

The EC725s will replace some of the air force’s 20 Nuris, the first of which was received in 1968.

Malaysia originally planned to phase out all its S-61s, but budget constraints mean it plans to retain and upgrade at least 15 of them, say industry sources.

At DSA, Finmeccanica company Selex Galileo was pitching to get its systems included in the Nuri upgrade programme. It was also promoting its airborne tactical observation and surveillance system to meet Malaysia’s requirement for maritime patrol aircraft.

The air force is seeking to buy four maritime patrol aircraft, with Selex Galileo’s sister company Alenia Aeronautica in the running with its ATR 42MP. However, Indonesian Aerospace (IAe) is understood to be the front-runner in the competition with the CN-235.

If IAe wins the contract, Selex Galileo could still be contracted to provide the ATOS mission system, which has already been integrated with the CN-235 for customers including Ecuador.

Source: Flight International