The Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) took delivery of first four S-70i Black Hawk helicopters at the Brunei Darussalam International Defence Exhibition and Conference (BRIDEX) yesterday.
Samir B Mehta, president of Sikorsky Military Systems, was quoted as saying by The Brunei Times that the first batch of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters were delivered ahead of schedule, owing to their collaborative working relationship with the Ministry of Defence (MinDef).
Uniquely configured for Brunei, the new S-70i model represent the most advanced upgrades that have been made to the aircraft over its history to include state-of-the-art avionics with dual-digit flight control computers among others.
Four out of 12 helicopters have been delivered and the fifth is expected to be shipped sometime this month, while the remaining aircraft will be transported over the following year. Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) pilots have also been trained to fly the S-70i at the West Palm Beach facility.
“The delivery of the helicopters is not the end of the relationship, but the beginning… It’s also about making sure these helicopters have a high rate of mission availability for the next 20 to 30 years,” said Mehta.
He added that Sikorsky has a significant amount of spare parts available to support the S-70i helicopters as it goes into operational service. They will also provide on-site technical service and logistic representatives to ensure the supply of parts and services remain uninterrupted.
Brigadier General (U) Hj Wardi Hj Abd Latip, RBAirF commander, was quoted in the report saying the new fleet of aircraft will be fully operational latest by early 2015.
The S-70i will replace the current fleet of Bell 212s that have been operation for over 30 years.
Equipped with long-range tanks, the new Black Hawks will facilitate deployment around the region. Although the RBAirF’s four S-70A helicopters share similar capabilities, Brigadier General (U) Hj Wardi explained the previous version will be obsolete with the introduction of the S-70i.
“They will become obsolete soon with these new ones supplementing our operations and deployment in Mindanao. They can carry more fuel, more load. It’s a state-of-the-art aircraft,” he said, noting the S-70i aircraft were battle-proven.
Sikorsky and MinDef in 2011 signed a contract for the supply of 12 S-70i Black Hawk helicopters with associated spare parts, training and ground support equipment.