Malaysia is finally expected to embark on a programme to replace its Sikorsky S-61 Nuri helicopters next month, after protracted delays in finalising a five-year budget plan.

The country’s air force needs to replace 30-plus aircraft, but industry sources say that a request for quotations is likely to be for a single-figure total of new aircraft between 2006 and 2010.

Malaysia requires an upgraded combat search and rescue (CSAR) capability and Royal Malaysian air force chief Sri Mik Ismail Bin Nik Mohamed has previously stated that the acquisition is a “top priority”.

The Nuris are used for both CSAR and transport missions and it is likely that replacement of the utility aircraft will be delayed beyond 2011. The air force has already received outline information on the Eurocopter EC725, the AgustaWestland EH101, Sikorsky’s S-92 and the NH Industries NH90. Malaysia’s army may also take some of the retired S-61s from the air force.

Meanwhile, India has also kickstarted a competition for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters. The Indian navy has set a March deadline to receive bids for 16 ASW helicopters with eight options. AgustaWestland, Eurocopter, Kamov and
Sikorsky are expected to bid for the contract.

An ongoing competition to supply the Indian army with 190 multi-role helicopters is nearing a conclusion, with the Bell 407 up against Eurocopter’s AS550. The contract was originally due to be awarded last year, but a decision is now anticipated by mid-year.

While India looks to replace its Westland Sea King fleet, Singapore has decided not take up two options to buy additional Sikorsky S-70B Seahawks, which would supplement the six S-70Bs acquired last year.

Singapore’s ASW order was originally for 12 aircraft, but this was reduced in 2004 following budget issues.

Source: Flight Daily News