PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has taken possession of six MD 530G armed reconnaissance and light attack helicopters after several years of delays.
Aircraft manufacturer MD Helicopters Inc. said the helicopters were handed over in Texas on Thursday to an agent of the Malaysian defence ministry. “They are currently being transported to Malaysia, and are expected to arrive by March,” the company said.
The helicopters were ordered in 2016 and became the subject of controversy when they were not delivered as expected in 2017 and 2018. A later deadline of end-2020 was also missed, reportedly because of technical problems.
The helicopters, equipped with Belgian-made 50-calibre machine gun pods and seven-shot pods for 70mm rockets, are expected to be based in Sabah.
MD Helicopters said eight pilots and nine technicians from the 881st Regiment of the Malaysian Army’s Aviation Unit had completed training in forward arming and refuelling point operations in West Texas.
The delivery of the helicopters was also announced by the Malaysian armed forces on its Twitter account.
Last year, Defence Forces Chief Affendi Buang said the six helicopters were scheduled to be delivered by end-2021. MD Helicopters won the bid to supply the helicopters in 2016, making Malaysia the launch customer for the MD 530G, known informally as the “Little Bird”.
The helicopters, reportedly costing RM321.9 million, are expected to be part of the Malaysian Army’s plans for three aviation squadrons for light observation, heavy lift, and attack duties.