Last week, Malaysia moved closer to the delivery of helicopters dating back several years with a confirmation of the deal’s completion planned for late 2020. The development highlighted the ongoing challenge Malaysia faces with respect to this platform within the Southeast Asian state’s wider military capabilities.
As I have noted previously in these pages and elsewhere, despite continued investments in its military capabilities, Malaysia continues to face challenges with respect to some of its key platforms. Addressing these challenges continues to be a priority for the Malaysian government, including through the release of documents such as the defense white paper last year, which sets out areas of emphasis over the next decade.
One of the aspect of Malaysia’s defense capabilities is its helicopters, particularly as the Southeast Asian state has looked to manage its aging fleet including decommissioning some of them. And one manifestation of this was six MD 530G armed reconnaissance/light attack helicopters ordered from MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) back in 2015, under the previous government led by Prime Minister Najib Razak which had been ousted in a shock election result back in May 2018.
Last week, we saw this aspect of Malaysia’s defense capabilities in the spotlight again with a confirmation of the helicopter delivery. Malaysia’s army chief said that the Southeast Asian state expects to take delivery of the helicopters later this year in a sign of continuity of the purchase under the post-May 2018 Malaysian government.
Per local media outlets, Malaysia’s Chief of Army Ahmad Hasbullah Nawawi said on February 25 that Malaysia would take delivery of the six helicopters ordered from MDHI later this year. Hasbullah said that the government had made the decision to continue moving forward with the delivery of the helicopters “sometime back.”
Hasbullah did not offer any more specifics on the delivery, including the exact delivery date or how exactly Malaysia would plan on utilizing the helicopters. But he did mention that the delivery would occur after technical checks are complete and training is completed for air crew and technicians. He also noted that the helicopters are set to be based on the eastern coast of Sabah, the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo.
How exactly things will progress with respect to Malaysia’s capabilities in this regard remains to be seen. Beyond any delays that may occur, we will also have to await details about how Malaysia is utilizing the helicopters in order to assess its significance for the Southeast Asian state’s capabilities. These aspects and more will continue to be important to watch in this regard for the rest of 2020 and beyond.