Anticipation of a potential Malaysian attack helicopter tender remains high, with candidate platforms from Bell, Airbus Helicopters and Boeing to be showcased at the Defence Services Asia expo in Kuala Lumpur.
Boeing and Airbus Helicopters have been offering the AH-6 Little Bird and EC665 Tiger respectively, while Bell is promoting both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z Cobra helicopters.
There is some speculation as to whether AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) will compete with their jointly-developed T-29 attack helicopter, although the companies have offered no comment to date.
At present, the Malaysian forces have no attack helicopter in their inventories, relying instead on fast-moving fighter aircraft.
While a formal RfP has yet to be announced, industry expectations of a forthcoming tender are based on plans by the Malaysian Army Air Corps (AAC) to incorporate an attack element into its AAC tactical transport helicopter squadron, in order to combat terrorists and armed insurgents.
An incursion by Sulu militants into eastern Malaysia in 2013 provided early impetus for the acquisition of an attack helicopter capability for the AAC. However, recent funding shortages have called the viability of the programme into question.
In the face of a reduced military budget, the need to acquire costly dedicated attack helicopters to counter the comparatively lightly-armed militant threat across Malaysia may have been de-prioritised.
Regardless, attack helicopters appear to remain part of the AAC's long-term development plan.
Airbus Helicopters has taken the EC665 Tiger attack helicopter to the past two Langkawi Airshows in an effort to appeal to the Malaysian market, and has also carried out flight demonstrations of the aircraft in-country.
Boeing has high hopes for the AH-6 Little Bird for the requirement and is likely to offer this aircraft as its response to the release of the RfP, rather than the more complex AH-64 Apache, which was originally under consideration for the requirement.
The Apache has seen regional successes with Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, with Indonesia and India also in the process of acquiring them. (Shepard Media)