Only two weeks after
announcing it, Malaysia is cancelling the purchase of a dozen Eurocopter Cougar
EC725 helicopters. The main reason is the current threat of a world-wide
recession. Another, less discussed reason, were recent accusations that bribes
were paid to make the sale.
This will delay, by a year or two,
efforts to begin replacing the 40 elderly Sea King helicopters Malaysia
currently uses. These are actually British built (under license) U.S. S-61s.
The nine ton Sea King is a late 1950s
design, and contemporary of the U.S. Army's UH-1 "Huey." In the U.S.,
the Sea Kings were replaced by a navy version of the Hueys successor, the UH-60
Blackhawk. Over a dozen other navies bought the Sea King, and many still use
it. But these aircraft are getting old.
The Sea King has a range of about a
thousand kilometers, and a top speed of 210 kilometers an hour. It was mainly
used for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. Some 1,500 were built
(about ten percent were the civilian S-61 version), and over a hundred are
still in use. Such long service lives are increasingly common. Some of the
first Sea Kings survived for over three decades.
The Eurocopter Cougar EC725 is an 11
ton aircraft with a useful load of 5.5 tons, a top speed of 324 kilometers an
hour, a range of about 850 kilometers and can stay in the air for about five
hours per sortie. This makes them excellent replacements for the elderly Sea
Kings. Malaysia was going to pay about $50 million for each Cougar, which
training, tech support, a supply of
spare parts and some bribes.