MELBOURNE, Australia — Six light attack helicopters ordered by Malaysia are in the final phase of delivery and acceptance, according to the country’s defense minister.
Hishammuddin Hussein replied to a question posed by lawmakers Sept. 30 that the six MD 530G helicopters will undergo another round of predelivery inspection at manufacturer MD Helicopters’ facility in Mesa, Arizona, in November.
This comes after a first round of inspections in June and July found “critical equipment and essential software” needed to be rectified prior to acceptance. The minister did not elaborate on the nature of these issues, but he said the long-delayed delivery of the helicopters could start if they pass the upcoming inspection.
The helicopters have also undergone type certification process by Malaysian aviation regulators, with Hishammuddin also confirming that all six helicopters are built and in flyable condition, and that Malaysian Army personnel already underwent training on the aircraft type in the U.S.
Pilots were trained in two separate groups between April and July, while ground crew also received technical training on the aircraft in two groups between May and August. The flight training took place on a range in western Texas that was leased by MD Helicopters, with the MD 530Gs carrying U.S. civil registration.
Malaysia ordered the MD 530Gs in 2016. Delivery was originally supposed to take place in two batches — the first two by July 2017, with the other four scheduled to arrive by December 2018. But delivery has repeatedly been pushed back over “technical” and other issues.
A delivery deadline was then set up by the end of 2020, but that timeline set by Malaysia’s Army chief, reported by Defense News last year, also slipped.
The MD 530Gs are fitted with a digital glass cockpit; a Tek Fusion mission management and weapons management system; ballistic armor protection; a crash-tolerant fuel system; a chin-mounted Wescam MX-10D electro-optical/infrared laser designation turret; and a Thales Scorpion helmet-mounted system to assist with a pilot’s situational awareness.
Malaysia opted to fit the helicopters with Belgian FN Herstal HMP400 50-caliber machine gun pods and seven-shot M260 pods for 70mm rockets. The helicopters will be based in the state of Sabah in eastern Malaysia, which has in recent years encountered security challenges related to ongoing insurgencies and general lawlessness in the southern Philippines.
Smuggling and piracy have also occasionally spilled over into the eastern Malaysian waters, along with gangs from the Philippines crossing the sea to raid Sabah’s popular beach resorts, sometimes kidnapping tourists for ransom.