The Malaysian government announced 26 deals worth $2.5 million during the Langkawi International Marine and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) this week. Upon closer examination, however, only seven were aerospace-related, and only two of these were firm contracts. However, exhibitors polled by AIN declared themselves satisfied with the show, because a large number of senior military officers visited the event. LIMA coincided with a meeting ofASEAN defense ministers, accompanied by their military staffs. Also, two conferences at LIMA attracted the chiefs of air forces and navies from about 20 countries.
The Nuri glass-cockpit upgrade appears to be on hold and may be rebid, after a prototype conversion designed by Vector Aerospace and performed recently by Airod apparently failed to satisfy the RMAF. Malaysia still has 28 of these transport helicopters, all of them at least 45 years old. The RMAF is receiving 12 Airbus EC725s as their partial replacement, having decided to retain 16 S-61s because they have flown only 14,000 hours on average, versus 60,000 for commercial counterpart S-61s. The other 12 are being transferred to the Army, with the first pair handed over by the RMAF at LIMA.
Thales announced that all four of the RMAF’s Beechcraft King Air 200s would be fitted with the AMASCOSmaritime surveillance mission system, with three already completed. An Indonesian Navy CN-235 fitted with the same system was on static display, and so was Boeing’s Challenger MSA demonstrator. Although piracy in the Malacca Straits seems to have been overcome, there are plenty of other maritime surveillance requirements in the region, including search and rescue, as demonstrated by the massive but vain search for MH370 last year.
After an unexpected armed incursion into eastern Malaysia in 2013, the government boosted military deployments there and went shopping for armed helicopters and surveillance UAVs. As an interim move, machine guns have been added to some of the Nuris and the Army’s AgustaWestland A109s. But a potential future buy of attack helicopters brought Bell Helicopters and MD Helicopters to the show with the UH-1Y andMD530G, respectively, while Boeing was briefing both the AH-6i and the AH-64. The RMAF has also stated a light attack aircraft requirement, but as with the AEW and multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) requirements, no funding has been allocated. That did not prevent France sending two air force Rafales from their deployed base at Abu Dhabi to LIMA, where they flew RMAF pilots in a two-seater twice daily, in addition to a flying display. U.S. Navy Super Hornets and a Thai Air Force Gripen were on static display, as well as the full-scale Eurofighter Typhoon model, all being MRCA candidates.
As for surveillance UAVs, the Malaysian military has experimented with two local projects along the coastline of the two eastern states, using Schiebel Camcopters and Boeing/Insitu Scan Eagles, without much success. AtLIMA, the government signed an MoU to acquire a UAV system from oil company Petronas. AIN learned that this is another couple of Camcopters, which were originally acquired by Petronas for pipeline security patrols. Petronas recently converted a surplus oil rig for use by the armed forces as a floating platform for helicopters,UAV and small patrol boats that can be placed in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. (Ainonline)