MELBOURNE, Australia — Figures released by Airbus Helicopters today appear to indicate that Singapore has ordered 16 H225M medium-lift helicopters.
The Southeast Asian island nation, which is a close regional security partner of the United States and a strong supporter of the U.S. security presence in the region, had announced in November that it had selected the Airbus Helicopters H225M and Boeing CH-47F Chinook to recapitalize its medium- and heavy-lift military helicopter fleets.
The new helicopters will replace the fleet of AS332M/M-1 Super Pumas and older CH-47D Chinooks currently operated by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Neither Singapore's Ministry of Defence nor Airbus Helicopters have revealed the number of H225Ms Singapore has contracted for, although earlier reports had put the number of Super Puma replacements Singapore was seeking at 12 aircraft.
Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury said today at a press briefing to announce its financial results that the division had logged 23 orders for the H215/225 Super Puma family in 2016, although an Airbus Helicopters spokesperson contacted by Defense News declined to give a breakdown of the number of customers for the type.
A check by Defense News showed however that Airbus Helicopters had announced orders for seven H215/225s from four customers other than Singapore throughout the year, which would leave 16 aircraft unaccounted for in its order books.
Typically very secretive about its military acquisition programs, Singapore normally makes its defense acquisitions in small, incremental batches, gradually building up experience on new equipment and avoiding spending spikes and troughs.
A Singapore Ministry of Defence spokesperson had previously said that the helicopters will be delivered from 2020, and it is expected that this will represent only the first batch of H225Ms to be acquired, with Singapore possibly looking to eventually acquire around 24-30 aircraft.
The RSAF currently flies approximately two dozen Super Pumas out of an original fleet of 34 ordered in 1983 and 1991, with two Singapore-based squadrons and a training detachment based at the Australia's Army Aviation Centre Oakey (AACO), which have primarily been used to support Singaporean army operations.
The type has also participated in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) missions throughout the region, and the aircraft are also used for regular medevac and search-and-rescue (SAR) missions throughout Singapore's large Search and Rescue Region (SRR), with one helicopter placed on 15-minute standby 24 hours a day.
The Airbus Helicopters H225M is a long-range tactical transport military helicopter developed from the Super Puma/Cougar family for military use. It has proven to be an export success in the Asia-Pacific, with the militaries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan all also using the type in various guises.
Singapore's long association with the Super Puma will mean a reduced learning curve to integrate the equipment into the RSAF's inventory. The reduced footprint from the H225M's folding rotor blades and tailboom compared to the Super Puma will also be useful for shipborne operations, with Singapore expected to use the H225Ms on a new class of Littoral Mission Vessels.
The country is also finalizing its requirement for new amphibious multi-mission ships with expanded helicopter facilities, which will almost be certain to operate the RSAF's H225M at some point when commissioned.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.