Malaysia Announces Cougar as Replacement for Nuri
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has chosen the Eurocopter Cougar EC725 to replace its aging Sikorsky S-61-A4 Nuri Sea Kings. The RMAF has roughly 40 Sea Kings serving in the medium transport role.
In service since 1968, the Nuri has suffered 18 crashes and killed 95 servicemen. The aircraft is scheduled for retirement in 2012.
The Cougar beat out the Sikorsky H-92, the AgustaWestland EH-101 Merlin, the Boeing CH-47F and the Russian Mil Mi-17 Hip in an open international tender issued at the Langkawi International Maritime and Air Show in December 2007.
The tender was for 12 helicopters, eight for the RMAF and four for the Royal Malaysian Army at a reported cost of $600 million.
On Sept. 26, Prime Minister and Defense Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stated a letter of intent had already been sent to Eurocopter Malaysia Sdn Bhd.
Abdullah would not explain the decision in detail except to say that the Ministry of Defense "considered all the necessary specifications in the helicopters before making the decision." Not everyone is happy with the decision. Suspicions have been raised over transparency issues and the timing of the letter.
"Was it legit? Yes. Was is a straight and level playing field with complete transparency? No," said a U.S. source in Malaysia.
One Malaysian defense official acknowledged the problem. "It was not the best and most amicable decision, but we just take what is given," the official said.