The Singaporean defence ministry has begun evaluating rival European, Russian, South African and US attack-helicopter designs, with the aim of eventually acquiring a force of up to 30 aircraft.

A team from the Republic of Singapore air force is understood already to have made a visit to France to fly the Eurocopter Tiger; to South Africa to test the Denel CSH-2 Rooivalk; and to Russia to evaluate the Mil Mi-28 Havoc. The fourth and final type to be flown will be the McDonnell Douglas AH-64D Apache.

According to industry sources, a fact-finding and type-evaluation timetable drawn up nine months ago calls for a final selection to be made by the end of this year. It is understood that a provisional acquisition plan has been completed, but is still subject to approval.

Budgetary planning calls for funding for the first ten helicopters in 1998 and another 20 the following year. The final timing of any deliveries remains unclear and, because of regional political sensitivities, will almost certainly be affected by the pace at which Malaysia acquires new main battle tanks and its own attack-helicopter capability.

Malaysia's equipment-procurement plan, by comparison, is much less structured. While a formal request for tender has still not been issued to helicopter manufacturers, rival companies have been submitting data and proposals to the Malaysian Government for more than two years.

Its requirement appears to be driven more by industrial then operational considerations. To support its embryonic aerospace industry, Malaysia is understood to be asking for the helicopters to be assembled in-country. At least one manufacturer, Denel, has made just such a proposal and now appears to be pinning its hopes of securing a deal on South African president Nelson Mandela making a visit to Malaysia.

Source: Flight International