The Malaysian Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has announced a deal to lease four Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters at the ongoing Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Exhibition 2023. The helicopters will be leased from Aerotree Defence & Services Sdn Bhd. The defense news and analysis company Janes reported that the helicopters will be used for the Malaysian Army Aviation (Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat; PUTD) 882nd Regiment Nucleus team. The Black Hawk for acquisition as it boasts the capabilities required by the air arm to enable it to effectively replace its ageing fleet of Sikorsky S-61A-4 Nuri (Sea King) helicopters. The contract has a value of MYR187 million (USD40.4 million).
Malaysian Army Aviation has three operational squadrons (No. 881 Squadron, No. 882 Squadron and No. 883 Squadron), though more units are planned. Currently equipped with helicopters in the liaison, transport and light attack roles. This remains a responsibility of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, though it is a logical progression that Army Aviation will be equipped with light and medium utility helicopters in the future. Army Aviation acquired 14 Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King from Royal Malaysian Air Force as an interim solution before buying the new helicopter. The Royal Malaysian Air Force previously operated two S-70A-34 Black Hawks – which entered service in September 1997 – but these have since been replaced in operational service by the EC725AP Cougar.
The Malaysian Army Aviation’s 882nd Squadron is a transport squadron formed after they received 14 Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King medium helicopters. Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King will be replaced by Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. In 2023, Sikorsky S-61A-4 Nuri (Sea King) will be replaced by Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. The replacement of the Nuri (Sea King) has been deemed to be urgent, and it is believed that the 4 Black Hawk helicopters are only stop-gap measures as the Malaysian Ministry of Defence looks for a more permanent solution. Purchasing helicopters, even directly from the manufacturer requires a longer delivery lead time and more time-intensive process and approvals from the exporting country’s government and other authorities.
The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-blade, twin-engine, medium-lift utility military helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft. Sikorsky submitted the S-70 design for the United States Army’s Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) competition in 1972. Named after the Native American war leader Black Hawk, the UH-60A entered service with the U.S. Army in 1979, to replace the Bell UH-1 Iroquois as the Army’s tactical transport helicopter. This was followed by the fielding of electronic warfare and special operations variants of the Black Hawk. Modified versions have also been developed for the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. In addition to U.S. Army use, the UH-60 family has been exported to several nations.