News of four S-70A Blackhawk helicopters from the RBAirF to be transferred to the Malaysian Armed Forces have been widely reported in prominent Malaysian websites since early this week and was confirmed by a statement from Brunei’s Ministry of Defence on its website yesterday.
“The Ministry of Defence is pleased to inform that the defence relations between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia continue to be strengthened especially with the close consultation between the two countries; exchanges in trainings and joint military exercises; exchange of information; participation of both countries in international operations, such as the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT); and many others.
“This cooperation will be further enhanced with the transfer of the S-70A Blackhawk helicopters belonging to the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) to the Malaysian Armed Forces.
“The helicopters are still operational in the Royal Brunei Air Force and are expected to be ready for the handover as early as September when the new RBAirF S-70i Blackhawk helicopters are fully operational.
“Details of the transfer will be further discussed by both sides.
“The Ministry of Defence hopes that the transfer of these helicopters will contribute towards enhancing the Malaysian Armed Forces capability and to the efforts of both countries in preserving regional peace and security,” read the statement.
Brunei’s Ministry of Defence had ordered 12 S-70i Blackhawk helicopters that were contracted to Sikorsky as part of Royal Brunei Air Force’s helicopter fleet modernisation.
The new fleet will enhance the Royal Brunei Air Force’s rotary wing capabilities in air mobility, Search and Rescue (SAR) and enhance surveillance of Brunei’s waters and borders. The first batch of the uniquely configured aircraft was delivered in early 2014.
Equipped with a suite of advanced avionics and sensors, the multirole aircraft can perform a variety of missions over land and water, including search and rescue, humanitarian relief, anti-piracy, troop transport and medical evacuation.
The contract includes ground support equipment, spares and technical training.
The Ministry of Defence has an option to order an additional 10 aircraft as part of the same contract.
Meanwhile, Malaysia will almost certainly operate the second-hand tactical / transport helicopters out of Labuan RMAF Base on an island just eight kilometres off the coast of Borneo, the land that holds Brunei, the Malaysian provinces of Sarawak and Sabah and Indonesian Kalimantan. From Labuan the choppers will likely be deployed to maintain peace in the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone), airheadfly.com reported.
By helping neighbouring Malaysia with additional rotary wing, Brunei more or less provides an extra forward line of defence for its own security, the website added. The Blackhawk is not new to Malaysia, as the Royal Malaysian Air Force flies a pair for VIP duties.
The RBAF has four S-70As in service.