Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei could receive the first batch of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters this year, said the Deputy Minister of Defence.
Dato Paduka Hj Mustappa Hj Sirat told The Brunei Times that production of the 12 uniquely configured aircraft from Sikorsky was ahead of its scheduled timeline. The helicopters were previously expected to be delivered in 2014.
"We are progressing very well. In fact, we are slightly ahead of time. We can expect to receive the helicopters at the end of this year," he said.
The S-70i Black Hawk helicopters, procured by the Ministry of Defence (MinDef) in 2011, will be uniquely configured with role flexibility to replace the current fleet of Bell 212 helicopters that have been in operation with the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) for over three decades.
It is also expected to 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 delivery of these advanced new aircraft will also allow the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) to further strengthen its troop deployment capabilities in military as well as humanitarian and disaster relief operations in the region.
Last year in September, an official delegation from Brunei conducted a site visit to Sikorsky's PZL Mielec facility in Poland.
It was reported that the purpose of the site visit, led by administration and finance permanent secretary. Hjh Suriyah Hj Umar, was to witness the factory acceptance test for the fourth baseline aircraft.
The first three baseline aircraft had also completed their factory acceptance tests in Poland in April and June 2012.
MinDef said that the baseline aircraft will then be sent to the Sikorsky Military Completions Center (SMCC) in the United States "for customisation work to produce the uniquely configured aircraft that meet RBAF requirements".
PZL Mielec is an affiliate of Sikorsky Aircraft, which is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp, and currently produces the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters.--Courtesy of The Brunei Times