Malaysia grounds S-61 Nuri helicopters indefinitely

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has announced it has grounded its 12 remaining Sikorsky S-61A-4 Nuri heavy-lift transport helicopters indefinitely.

Recently appointed RMAF Chief of the Air Force, Gen Datuk Seri Ackbal Abdul Samad, announced the grounding during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on January 7. During the conference, he said that the Nuri was close to the end of its career and its operational costs were proving to be too great to maintain, citing that “it can take between nine and 18 months to obtain the spare parts”.

S-61A-4 Nuri [US Navy]
A RMAF S-61A-4 Nuri rescues a mock casualty as part of Pacific Partnership 2018 – a maritime search and rescue exercise held in Tawau, Malaysia, in May 2018. US Navy/MCS SM Caledon Rabbipal

The RMAF operates 12 Nuris under 3 Squadron at RMAF Butterworth in Penang and 7 Squadron, located at RMAF Kuching, Sarawak. The Sikorsky S-61A-4 has been in service with the air arm for almost 53 years, joining the service in late 1967. The aircraft have notoriously suffered problems since the early 1990s, being involved in crashes and emergency landings, with at least four incidents since 2010.

Malaysia is now planning to procure a replacement for the Nuri fleet, with Gen Samad explaining at the press conference that several types have been identified as possible replacements. He added that this procurement process is “still in the evaluation stage”.