KUALA LUMPUR, 28 Oct 2008: The government has put on hold the purchase of Eurocopter’s EC 725 Cougar helicopters until the global economic situation stabilises, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today.
Abdullah, who is the defence minister, said the decision was made at a 13 Oct 2008 National Economic Council meeting which he chaired.
“At the moment, the decision is that the purchase of the Eurocopters has been put on hold as we need allocations to fund other projects,” he told reporters after attending a Hari Raya open house at the Defence Ministry.
Abdullah said the government had to focus its attention on more important projects which would benefit the people.
“This does not mean that we will not buy the aircraft; when the financial situation warrants it, we will buy,” he said.
Abdullah said the government would buy the helicopters much earlier than the time frame of 2011 if the economy recovered.
He also said that the acquisition process would take about three years.
“The decision has been made (to acquire the helicopters) by 2011. If we have the money, we want to purchase them much earlier, maybe in 2009, and in three years we will get the helicopters.”
The cabinet, at a meeting on 18 July 2007, decided to acquire new helicopters to replace the ageing Nuri following complaints among legislators and others that the helicopters had been involved in numerous fatal accidents.
On 3 Sept 2008, the Defence Ministry received an approval from the Finance Ministry to pick a tender submission from Eurocopter Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS).
The Defence Ministry issued a letter of intent to Eurocopter on 15 Sept.
Abdullah also said that the allocation for the EC 725s was RM1.679 billion, and not RM2.3 billion as previously reported.
He said the price was a bit high due to the helicopter’s specifications.
“They have high specifications… they can function as combat helicopters as well as used for search and rescue and troop lift. They can also be relied upon when executing specific missions. They are not ordinary helicopters,” he said.
When asked whether the government had notified EADS on the deferment, Abdullah said the company had not been informed yet.
He said that the Malaysian air force currently had 28 Nuri helicopters which needed constant maintenance.
He added that the government was aware that the time had come for the ageing aircraft, which has been in use for the past 39 years, to be replaced. — Bernama