MELBOURNE, Australia — Malaysia’s Army chief confirmed the country will receive the first of six light attack helicopters this year, with Malaysian personnel bound for training in the United States.
Gen. Ahmad Hasbullah Mohd Nawawi also told local media during a news conference that the remaining MD Helicopters-built MD 530G armed reconnaissance/attack helicopters will be delivered in stages through 2021. He added that a technical team from Malaysia will go to the U.S. to obtain certification from the manufacturer.
“Once that is done, we will send the pilots for conversion training, followed by the maintenance crew to equip themselves with the know-how for the helicopters’ upkeep,” he said in remarks carried by Malaysia’s New Straits Times newspaper.
Malaysia ordered the MD 530Gs in early 2016 under a contract estimated to be worth $76.4 million. Local company Halaman Optima was originally selected as the intermediary between the Malaysian government and MD Helicopters, although Halaman Optima was later acquired by Destini Berhad, which is now executing the contract.
The company confirmed to local news outlet Malaysiakini that the Malaysian government had given approval to Destini Berhad to continue fulfilling the remaining obligations for the acquisition, including ensuring all six helicopters are “ready for delivery.”
The MD 530Gs were originally slated to be delivered in two batches — the first two by July 2017, with the other four scheduled to arrive by December 2018. But the delivery dates have repeatedly been pushed back over “technical” and other issues.
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 spilled over into the eastern Malaysian waters, along with gangs from the Philippines crossing the sea on occasion to raid Sabah’s popular beach resorts, sometimes kidnapping tourists for ransom.