Malaysia’s requirement for a new multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) was a key feature of this week’s Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition. Although no formal request for proposals (RFP) has been issued, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen were all on flying or static display in pairs.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) is reported to be seeking 18 aircraft to replace a similar number of MiG-29s in 2015 and 2016. Local reports have suggested the RMAF might buy a second batch of Sukhoi Su-30MKMs instead of a new type.
Boeing said that the recent award of an upgrade for the RMAF’s existing eight F/A-18D Hornets would make them more compatible, if the Super Hornet is chosen as the MRCA. The upgrade includes the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, a color moving map display; plus GPS and IFF improvements. The RMAF recently ordered Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs for these aircraft.
The Gripens at LIMA were A/B models from the neighboring Thai Air Force. Saab chose the event to reveal a new defensive-aids pod for fighter aircraft designated BOH. The missile-shaped pod fits on any AIM-9 rail or AIM-120 pylon; it has missile approach warning sensors in the nose, and countermeasures dispensers behind, although these can be fired forward.
Anticipating a future Malaysian RFP for attack helicopters, Eurocopter displayed a Tiger helicopter, and Boeing displayed the AH-6i.
Eurocopter unveiled (by video link from Marseille) the first of 12 EC725 Tigers that the RMAF has ordered for delivery in 2013 and 2014. They were slated to replace the RMAF’s long-serving Sikorsky S-61 fleet. But at LIMA, Sikorsky signed an MoU with local company MRO Airod “to explore maintenance and support for the S-61, including the S-61T” upgraded version. Sikorsky displayed the S-92, and Schiebel flew the unmanned Camcopter 100.
AgustaWestland displayed one of five AW139s bought by Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency, and announced new Malaysian orders for civilian versions of the AW139/169/189 series. Meanwhile, nearby Brunei selected the Sikorsky S-70i as a new support helicopter to replace Bell 212s, ordering 12 and optioning 10 more. Eurocopter’s EC725 was the losing finalist in an evaluation that earlier eliminated the AW139 and Bell 412.