The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has reportedly grounded 12 Sikorsky S-61A Nuri transport helicopters indefinitely due to maintenance issues.

The fleet of S-61A Nuri helicopters has an average age of 45 years, according to Cirium fleets data.

Speaking at a press conference, RMAF chief general Datuk Seri Ackbal Abdul Samad told reporters that the maintenance of the helicopter will cost a lot of money.

Samad was quoted by national news agency Bernama as saying: “Even if RMAF has the money to buy Nuri maintenance equipment, it can take between nine to 18 months to obtain the spare parts.

“Besides, RMAF has plans to procure new aircraft to replace Nuri, but it is still in the evaluation stage.”

The rotorcraft have been grounded since August 2019 following an unspecified air crash due to technical issues.

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Malaysian company Airod performed upgrades to one Nuri helicopter, featuring improved avionics and glass cockpit, in order to demonstrate the possibility of improving the fleet’s lifespan.

The upgraded version was officially unveiled at Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) air show in March 2017. However, it has not yet been accepted by Kuala Lumpur.

The RMAF is also looking for a potential replacement of its Sikorsky S-61 Sea King medium-lift transport helicopters. It seeks to lease eight helicopters.

RMAF chief general Affendi Buang was quoted by Jane’s as saying: “We will do a tender and conduct our evaluation based on cost and capabilities. Many companies are interested in the project.”