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LIMA 2023: Leonardo promoting AW149 for Malaysia

Malaysia's requirement for new rotary-wing platforms has presented a major opportunity for helicopter manufacturers. Leonardo is promoting its AW149 helicopter as a replacement for Malaysia's grounded Nuri helicopter fleet. (Leonardo)

Leonardo is promoting its AW149 multirole medium helicopter to fill Malaysia's future rotary-wing requirements.

The Malaysian military, especially the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), has suffered a shortfall in helicopter assets since the retirement of the Sikorsky S-61A-4 Nuri fleet in 2020.

Speaking to Janes during the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Exhibition 2023 in Malaysia, a Leonardo spokesperson said the AW149 is a “possible candidate” to replace Malaysia's existing helicopters. This also includes the company's AW139 helicopter that originally entered production in 2001.

“In Malaysia, we see the AW139 as a filler aircraft,” the spokesperson said. “The AW149, however, is a possible candidate to support Malaysia's future requirements. It is a modern platform that is more capable and more effective than the AW139.” The company added that AW149 is a military helicopter by design.

Janes understands that Leonardo will also potentially pitch the AW149 as a replacement for the retired Nuri fleet. “Leonardo is interested in exploring opportunities for the armed forces; among them certainly, the Nuri replacement is one of them,” the spokesperson said.

At its peak strength, the RMAF's Nuri fleet comprised 42 helicopters, according to Janes data.

The RMAF currently operates 12 Airbus H225s and four Leonardo AW139s (on lease), Janes data adds. This shows that the RMAF has been able to replace only 38% of the Nuri fleet with newer aircraft. The RMAF has also operated two Sikorsky S-70As for VIP duties since 1997.

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