Six new copters set to shore up surveillance in Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR: The Defence Ministry has begun in earnest to further strengthen border security in Sabah with the purchase of six MD530G helicopters from the United States.

The multi-purpose armed reconnaissance helicopters, to be delivered this year, will be stationed with the aviation unit of the Malaysian army and deployed to strengthen surveillance in areas under the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the procurement of the assets was in line with the ministry’s two major thrusts of preparedness and national security, which is focused on Sabah.

“It’s not an empty promise. We have already signed the contract,” he told reporters after the agreement for the procurement of the MD530G helicopters was inked between the US-based McDonnell Douglas and Halaman Optima Sdn Bhd.

He added that the contract to procure the helicopters was signed last year during US President Barack Obama’s visit here for the 27th Asean Summit.

Yesterday’s signing was held during the Defence Services Asia Exhibition and Conference 2016. The four-day event at the Putra World Trade Centre ends tomorrow.

Hishammuddin said the helicopters were part of a larger effort to deploy assets and strengthen security in Sabah.

Apart from the procurement, the security effort included Gempita 8x8 armoured vehicles, offshore and forward bases in Lahad Datu and Sepanggar, as well as the refitting of submarines, he said.

Other notable procurements during the ceremony were the coastal surveillance system (CSS) for the Eastern Sabah Security Zone and a harbour surveillance underwater detection system for the Royal Malaysian Navy base in Kota Kinabalu.

“These signings show that the Government will not compromise national security despite uncertainty in the regional and global economy,” said Hishammuddin.

In total, 10 contracts and four letters of acceptance worth RM2.9bil were signed at the ceremony, alongside three letters of intent and seven memoranda of understanding.

On another matter, Hisham­muddin said Malaysia would take delivery of four S-70A Blackhawk helicopters from the Royal Brunei Air Force in November.

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bol­kiah had pledged to give the helicopters to Malaysia, he added.

“We will weaponise and update the helicopters ourselves. I give my assurance to Tuanku that they will be used in Sabah not only to protect the state, but also Brunei.

“The collaboration between the two neighbouring countries is a win-win situation,” he said.

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