The rise in insurgent activity in Malaysia has highlighted the country's lack of helicopter offensive capabilities, to which Western industry is ready to respond to should an RfP be released.
Malaysian forces have no attack helicopter in their inventories, relying instead on fast-moving fighter jets. In light of terrorist attacks taking place all over the country which are not attributed to any particular environment, the government is understood to have revealed its wish to acquire such a platform.
‘The requirement is still being shaped,’ Mike Burke, director of attack helicopter programmes business development at Boeing, told Shephard.
The commander of the Malaysian defence forces flew in the AH-6 Little Bird on 12 February in an effort to show the capability of the aircraft, Burke noted.
‘We’re trying to show the capability of the aircraft,’ he continued.
'The number of aircraft required and the timeline for acquiring them has not yet been decided, although they have concluded that they have a need for this. With the insurgency… they didn’t have an attack helicopter to respond with.’
Boeing would offer the Little Bird for the Malaysian requirement, and Burke said the aircraft is optimised for the reconnaissance and light attack mission, as well as having a stand-off capability up to some 2-3 miles. Its big brother, the AH-64 Apache, has seen regional successes with Japan, Singapore, and South Korea while Indonesia and India are also in the process of acquiring them.
Meanwhile, Bob Carrese, regional VP of international military business development, Asia Pacific for Bell Helicopter, said that Malaysia is interested in both the Bell UH-1Y and AH-1Z.
‘It fits with the region’s requirements because the aircraft are fully marinised with lower maintenance required,’ he explained.
‘Malaysia is interested in the helicopter but we are in the early stages of the process. In their mind they have narrowed it down, but it still needs to be announced.’
Airbus Helicopters has taken its 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.
Daniel Cottard, operational marketing team leader at the company, said that the operational range of the aircraft is some 8-10 km depending on air conditions, which makes it effective in a range of environments.
‘The Tiger has elected to carry out a more non-emitting role, unlike the Apache which has a radar. There is nothing wrong with a radar, but the Tiger is a passive mode aircraft,’ Cottard said.
‘If you don’t control the air you don’t control anything… Malaysia is as capable as anywhere else and there is no difficulty in applying this aircraft to their requirements.’
Regarding the jungle environment prevalent in Malaysia, Cottard said that targeting insurgents in and among the foliage is incredibly difficult, but ‘you can’t say in the jungle for long'.
‘You have to come out eventually and then you will be seen,’ he continued. This application emphasises the reconnaissance role of the aircraft.
‘The key is to combine air, land and sea. The Tiger would be fine in this [Malaysian] facility of operations.’ (Shepard Media)