Black Hawk choppers expected to arrive in 2014

One of the S-70i Black Hawk helicopters procured by MinDef expected to arrive in 2014. Picture: Courtesy of MinDef

THE first batch of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters, procured by the Ministry of Defence (MinDef) last year, is expected to to be delivered to Brunei in early 2014.

The press statement provided by MinDef stated that the delivery of these advanced new aircrafts will also allow the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) to further strengthen its troop deployment capabilities in military and humanitarian and disaster relief operations in the region.

The delivery of the 12 S-70i Black Hawk helicopters will be uniquely configured with role flexibility in mind, and also replace the current fleet of Bell 212 helicopters and enhance the Royal Brunei Air Force's rotary wing capabilities in air mobility, tactical air lift, special operations, Search and Rescue (SAR), humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, regional deployment, and surveillance of Brunei's waters and borders.

Deputy Minister of Defence Dato Paduka Hj Mustappa Hj Sirat and a team from MinDef on June 26 conducted a site visit to the PZL Mielec facility in Poland to witness the factory acceptance test for Brunei's third baseline S-70i Black Hawk helicopter.

The first two baseline aircraft recently completed its factory acceptance tests in Poland in April 2012.

The first aircraft is scheduled to be inducted to Sikorsky Military Completions Center (SMCC) in the United States (US) this October for the start of its customisation work to produce the uniquely configured aircraft that meets the RBAF requirements.

The contract in the procurement of the helicopters was signed last year on December 2, between Mindef and Sikorsky International Operations, Inc.

The contract was signed for the delivery of 12 helicopters with spare parts, ground support equipment and training package.

Colonel (L) Muzri Hj Mokhsin, director for MinDef's Centre of Science and Technology, Research and Development (CSTRAD), during the contract signing explained that one of the needs for helicopters in Brunei is to reach Temburong, which is physically separated from the rest of Brunei.

In order to have flexibility in deployment with limited numbers, the RBAF would require the "air mobility" provided by helicopters. "You can actually deploy a considerable number of troops."

Furthermore, it is equipped with the technology to see well in both day and night, and can be equipped to fly up to 500 nautical miles.

"Brunei's Economic Exclusive Zone is about 200 nautical miles, so the helicopter could fly to the end, stay for a while then come back," he said.

According to the press statement, the project has achieved several major milestones, which include the completion of several design reviews and the completion of several baseline aircraft built in PZL Mielec, Poland.

PZL Mielec, a Sikorsky company, which is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp, produces the S-70i baseline Black Hawk helicopter, which is the latest international variant of the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter employed by the US Army. The Brunei Times

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