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Blade, cockpit upgrade may stretch life of Malaysian S-61 Nuri fleet

Malaysian aerospace company Airod is proposing upgrades to the country's air force's Sikorsky S-61 Nuri fleet that could keep the helicopters in service until replacements have been confirmed.

Airod, which focuses on the Lockheed Martin C-130 maintenance, repair and overhaul market, is proposing new rotor blades and a glass cockpit for the S-61s, which have been in service for more than 30 years in a utility role.

"This will provide significant improvement to the aircraft's capability and make it airworthy for the next 10-15 years," says Airod chief executive Kamil Aziz. "We are in talks with the government. During initial talks, they have expressed interest."

In October 2008, the Malaysian government began negotiations with Eurocopter to buy 12 EC725 utility helicopters to replace the S-61s. But these talks were postponed indefinitely as the financial crisis worsened and the government decided to cut the defence budget and increase spending on welfare programmes and an economic stimulus package. Eurocopter officials at LIMA 2009 say negotiations have not resumed.

The government had hoped to receive replacements by early 2010, but industry sources now expect the helicopters to arrive around 2013 or 2014. Malaysia requires up to 48 helicopters to replace its Nuris, the first of which was inducted in 1968, while its army has a separate utility helicopter requirement.

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