CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Brunei has purchased six H145M helicopters from Airbus Helicopters as the Southeast Asian nation recapitalizes its fleet for close air support, surveillance and other operations.

The order follows a 2011 acquisition under Phase A of Brunei’s Support Helicopter Project for 12 Sikorsky-made S-70i Black Hawk helicopters.

The latest purchase for the Royal Brunei Air Force is part of Phase B. It’s unclear how much the contract is worth.

The Defense Ministry said the contract signing took place April 30 at Bolkiah Garrison, where the ministry’s is based. “All six helicopters will be introduced into service gradually starting from the year 2026 to replace the Bolkow Bo 105 helicopters, which have been retired from service,” the ministry stated.

Airbus Helicopters announced the sale May 2, but neither party mentioned whether the H145Ms would be armed. Still, the platform can carry 12.7mm machine guns, 20mm cannon pods, 70mm rockets, or air-to-ground missiles. The Bo 105 fleet was armed.

Among the H145M’s operational capabilities are medical evacuation and special forces missions. The helicopter might also become part of a manned-unmanned teaming fleet, as a console can be fitted in the rear cabin for controlling drones. Brunei already operates Insitu Integrator reconnaissance drones.

No. 1 Wing will fly the new H145Ms from Rimba Air Force Base, according to the Defense Ministry. It’s likely the aircraft will be allocated to No. 12 Squadron, the former operator of the Bo 105s. In their 41 years of service, those aircraft clocked about 32,000 flying hours.

Last month, the U.K. Defence Ministry announced it would buy six H145Ms for use by British forces in Brunei and Cyprus, meaning there will be some commonality between British and Bruneian helicopter operations in the sultanate. Thailand is the only other nation in Southeast Asia to adopt the H145M to date.

Brunei also has a pair of older Bell 206B-3 JetRanger helicopters used for training, though they’re due for replacement.

For the current fiscal year, Brunei allotted 796.3 million Brunei dollars (U.S. $589.3 million) for defense, representing a 31.6% jump over last year’s budget.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the program phase under which Brunei ordered Black Hawk helicopters. That was Phase A.

Gordon Arthur is an Asia correspondent for Defense News. After a 20-year stint working in Hong Kong, he now resides in New Zealand. He has attended military exercises and defense exhibitions in about 20 countries around the Asia-Pacific region.

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