BRUNEI - The Brunei military's long-awaited Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters are scheduled to arrive in the Sultanate sometime this month.
Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Brigadier General Dato Seri Pahlawan Mohd Tawih Abdullah, Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Deputy Commander, yesterday revealed they are expecting to receive the first batch of the uniquely configured aircraft.
He told The Brunei Times that the new helicopters will also make an appearance at the upcoming Brunei International Defence Exhibition and Conference (BRIDEX 2013) in December.
The S-70i Black Hawk helicopters, procured by the Ministry of Defence (MinDef) in 2011, were uniquely configured with role flexibility to replace the current fleet of Bell 212 and BO105 helicopters that have been in operation with the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) for over three decades.
According to a previous report, production of the 12 aircraft from Sikorsky was ahead of its scheduled timeline as the helicopters were initially slated for delivery in 2014.
The first three baseline aircraft had also completed their factory acceptance tests at Sikorsky's PZL Mielec facility in Poland last year, before heading for customisation work at the Sikorsky Military Completions Center (SMCC) in the United States.
Delivery of the new fleet will enhance the RBAirF's rotary wing capabilities in air mobility, tactical air lift, special operations, regional deployment as well as surveillance of Brunei's waters and borders.
The procurement of the S-70i Black Hawk helicopters was among the sweeping changes undertaken by MinDef to fulfil the requirement of a single-wave tactical airlift as identified in the Defence White Paper. Apart from supply of the 12 aircraft, the contract signed between MinDef and Sikorsky also covered spare parts, ground support equipment and training package. The new aircraft were reportedly equipped with technology to enable vision in both day and night operations. In addition, the S-70i Black Hawk helicopters can fly up to 500 nautical miles with a considerable number of troops.