04 Juli 2016
RSAF CH-47 Chinook helicopter will be upgraded or replaced. (photo ; Jane's)
Singapore's defence minister Ng Eng Hen has reiterated that a decision on the winning bid to supply the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) with new medium-lift transport helicopters is imminent, with the service's heavy-lift helicopter fleet also due for upgrades or replacement.
In a media interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day, which fell on 1 July, Ng told reporters that the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) is "finalising evaluations for the replacement", and will be announcing it "soon".
Ng did not confirm or deny recent reports claiming that the replacement programme for the RSAF's ageing Aérospatiale AS332M Super Pumas was delayed as a result of a fatal crash of a civilian H225 medium helicopter - which is derived from the same Super Puma range now owned by Airbus Helicopters - in Norway on 29 April, which killed all 13 oil workers and crew on board.
The RSAF currently operates 32 platforms from the AS332 range, comprising 18 AS332M Super Puma and 14 AS532U2 Cougar medium multirole helicopters, which serve as the service's primary tactical lift platforms and were first delivered in 1985 and 1995 respectively. Noting that the Super Puma helicopters have already been in service for around 30 years, Ng said replacements for these platforms will be acquired by 2025.
"Safety is a big issue, obviously; effectiveness is a big issue," Ng said. "And when there are developments, the evaluation committee will look into it. You cannot ignore it, and that goes for every platform."
Press agency Reuters claimed on 3 May that MINDEF has downselected offerings from Airbus Helicopters and Leonardo-Finmeccanica to provide "a dozen" helicopters for land and maritime operations, although a subsequent report indicated that all 32 platforms will be replaced under a tender thought to be worth USD1 billion.
Ng also stated that the RSAF's tandem-rotor Boeing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift platforms will also be upgraded or replaced.