LKS – Nuri too dangerous now?

(The workhorse of the RMAF for a very long time now. Image source: http://alo3drv.blogspot.com/2010/04/projek-nuri.html)

I may not be in the Air Force or flown in one (I have sat in the pilot’s seat once) but I have read enough into military equipment to say that LKS is shooting at the wrong target (read also Kuda Ranggi who is sharing LKS’s angle).

LKS said this in his blog:-

It is a very serious reflection of the shocking state of morale in the air force when Nuri pilots are living in literal fear of flying the helicopter.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak reiterated yesterday that the Nuris were airworthy “workhorses” of the armed forces in transportation and operations. However, when asked whether he had flown on the Nuri, Najib said he had done so earlier but now used a special VIP aircraft. Can Najib produce the log of the number of times he had used the Nuri each year since he became Defence Minister in December 1999, and the number of times VVIPs had used the Nuri helicopters in recent years and their identities.

If the Defence Minister and VVIPs are steering clear of the Nuri, with Nuri pilots like Azlan living in fear of flying the helicopter, is it right to risk the lives of air force personnel in the continued use of Nuri helicopters?

I really wonder why LKS is targeting Najib here unless he knows something that we don’t but not obliging enough to put it up in the post. If given a choice, why waste fuel loading VVIPs in a big Nuri (which was designed for heavy load duty) when it is easier, cost effective and perhaps safer (VVIP lah) to use newer helicopters (although Super Puma is also a heavy duty helicopter but that is not the point).

LKS say Nuri pilots are living in literal fear of flying the helicopter. I agree that it is a tragedy to lose the nation’s warriors in such crashes and it will be hard on the nation and their families but the question is, is the Nuri helicopters really too dangerous to use?

It is understating statement for a helicopter which is widely used around the world and in most of the search and rescue operations. The Nuri or Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King is the workhorse of many Air Forces around the world including US and UK (the other is of course C130 Hercules which started service even earlier). The fact that it is being use to ferry the President of US shows how trustworthy the helicopter is.

The issue that should have been forwarded by LKS is not whether Nuri is a “dangerous” helicopter but instead LKS should have focused on:-

1. Whether the country need re-look into the age of military equipment (not just Nuri) and start changing for newer ones?

2. Whether the right procedure has been followed (for example instruction to fly despite the problem with the helicopter) and the quality of maintenance of the military equipment is up to mark? Read the maintenance related Sea King crash story here, here and here

3. Whether there were any lapses in the last upgrade exercise of Nuri helicopters (did inferior parts used for the upgrade or improper service made)?

4. Whether there is need for another upgrade exercise for the old military equipment (with proper qualifications of course)?

5. There have been Nuri crashes before this – so, what was the contributory factor of those crashes? What was action taken to curtail future crashes? Did anyone slept on the recommendations?

So, uncle Lim, there are more relevant questions to be asked than harping on the how dangerous the helicopter is and how some VVIP been seen avoiding a ride in it. That is not the point because by design, the Sea King has a good track record but when it comes to maintenance, upgrading and even flying them, the best equipment in the hands of human can be disastrous or fatal.

The investigation into the tragedy will take time and until then, we will never know what caused the crash – human factor or the hardware. So, given the history of the helicopter around the world, I won’t be too quick to pin point it to the helicopter (not yet) until the official investigation is out.

Read also

Lesson from the Sea King

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10 thoughts on “LKS – Nuri too dangerous now?

  1. There are a few arguments on possible wrong doings in recent military contracts… nobody have solid proof about that, but you can probably understand why LKS is targeting Najib for this.

    I can see your point though. I am not sure how bad the weather was, but I doubt it was bad enough to bring down a fully functional copter. Age could be a matter… or as you suggested, faulty maintenance.

    Btw, the latest news… the government decided to replace Nuri…

    http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v3/news.php?id=274077

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  2. The Sikorsky Sea King is a superbly designed and built helicopter. Many airforces around the world still operate it – safely. As you pointed out, the US President’s helicopter transports – Marine One – are Sea Kings.
    Helicopters are unforgiving machines when they suffer mechanical failure – they have no glide capability and can quickly go out of control. Yes, the machines which the RMAF flies are ageing, but that does not automatically equal unsafe operation. Close attention to maintenance and pilot training are the key. The Defense Minister’s automatic default statement “The helicopters are well maintained” does not inspire confidence.

    I hope they don’t end up replacing the Sea Kings with Russian choppers – like jumping from a frying pan into the fire.

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  3. Jee – Agree that recent boo-boos in military contracts is a sore thumb in our defence planning but that does not mean we get inferior equipments. We may have paid higher than what we should have paid but not on the quality.

    Kittykat46 – I hope they go for Black Hawks instead of Russian helicopters too (RMAF already operating 2 Black Hawks).

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  4. Hello folks, don’t get confused due to my American name because I am a Malaysian and also, a military observer.

    The news of the latest Nuri Helicopter’s crash has really made me wonder why the ministry doesn’t phase out this old machine sooner? Even they reluctant to then why don’t the ministry proposed an upgrade programs as another cost-effective solution? Nuri is designed by the Sikorsky and unlike their Russian counterpart, the western designed helicopter are designed to be as effective as possible if proper maintainance is given. But sadly, I don’t see this in my country’s Air Force. And Nuri has been crashed one time too many and this is just unacceptable.

    Well, right now it’s a bit too late for any decent upgrade on the Nuri even it’s really been given. And in modern warfare which enemy can be as sneaky as possible, and the slow and cumbersome Nuri won’t stand a chance if she’s caught in the rain of fire. And technically speaking, even some Russian models like Mi-17 can outrun Nuri in the event of rapid deployment situation. Therefore, I hope the ministry and the government as a whole will find a good replacement to this 30 years old machine.

    Right now, I saw in some reports said that the NH Industries NH-90, Agusta-Westland CH-101 (hope the name is correct) and Mil Mi-17 is top in ministry’s shopping list although other candidates like Eurocopter Cougar, Sikorsky Black/Sea Hawk also been chosen. And as a resident in the tropical country with long stretch of coastal line plus some jungle and mountainous area, I hope the ministry will choose a right replacement that will suit our environment and of course, the mission’s requirement, safety issue, reliable and versatile.

    For me as a bystander, I’ll choose either the impressive Agusta-Westland model (technical superiority) or the ever hardworking Mil Mi-17 (proven in the Malaysian Fire Department). Both got their own superiority by their own standard.

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  5. Mike – Mil Mi-17 started it’s service in the late 70s, so it will not be long before that is considered as an old design. Westland’s AW101 is a more suited for Nuri replacement due to it’s medium duty lift capacity. In future, we can then tap into other Westland’s other variants like the Lynx and ahem, Apache helicopters for the Navy and Army.

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  6. I think the most important question in the selection of which helicopter to replace the Nuri S61 is , who is the agent for the new machine?

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