Malaysia is indicating that it might revise an earlier decision to postpone ordering the Denel CSH-2 Rooivalk, as neighbouring Singapore moves towards finalising its own attack-helicopter selection by mid-1998.

According to senior defence sources in Malaysia, the Government is once again showing interest in the South African helicopter after earlier deciding to shelve the programme until 1999/2000.

"We are confident that the decision will come earlier than people had anticipated," suggests a defence official.

Malaysia had originally been expected to conclude a deal for an initial eight Rooivalks with Denel by the end of the 1997. The Government, however, recently announced that the programme, as well as a planned search-and-rescue replacement for the air force's Sikorsky S-61 Nuri, is to be deferred in the face of a major financial crisis.

Denel views Malaysia as its strongest prospective export customer for the tandem-seat machine. The company is eager to cement a deal to bolster its earlier sale of 12 Rooivalks to the South African Air Force, and the manufacturer has been offering Malaysia co-production concessions.

Singapore, in the meantime, is expected to be the first Asian country to ask the US Government for release of the Boeing AH-64D Longbow Apache. Officials suggest that such a request would be looked upon favourably, given the island nation's strong defence relationship with the USA.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force is scheduled to conduct a week-long in-country evaluation of the AH-64 shortly. The service is also looking at the competing Eurocopter Tiger, Mil Mi-28 Havoc and the Rooivalk, but no final decision has yet been taken. The air force requires a total of 30 machines.

As part of any deal, Singapore is believed to be asking for a comprehensive training and logistical-support package, including access to overseas bases for pilot instruction. Singapore already maintains long- term detachments of Boeing CH-47D Chinooks and Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter aircraft in the USA, and is expected to seek similar arrangements for its planned attack helicopters.

Source: Flight International