Siti Hajar, Hakim Hayat & Danial Norjidi
THE fourth instalment of the region’s premier defence and security event, the Brunei Darussalam International Defence Exhibition (BRIDEX 2013) was officially opened by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam at the Dome of the BRIDEX International Conference Centre in Jerudong yesterday.
His Majesty, who is also the Minister of Defence and Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), was accompanied by HRH Prince General Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and General of the RBAF and HRH Prince ‘Abdul Malik.
The highlight was the unveiling of the S-70i Black Hawk helicopter witnessed by His Majesty.
The unveiling brought about an air of excitement, as the new addition to the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) marked with Brunei flags stood proudly at Bridex’s Exhibition Hall 2.
As part of the royal tour following the official opening by His Majesty, the Ministry of Defence unveiled one of four Black Hawks that were recently delivered by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and the sophisticated flying machine received the royal seal of approval, with the avionic aspects receiving the most praise.
On the sidelines of His Majesty’s part-two tour that took place at the Rimba Air Base, the monarch made a special emphasis on the S-70i’s glass cockpit, which is unique to the latest in Sikorsky’s creation that was manufactured based on feedback and requests from international military customers.
“It’s nice with the glass cockpit,” expressed His Majesty to the Borneo Bulletin, and added: “I like it.”
What makes Brunei’s S-70i’s even more special is the fact that the fleet – a total of 12 with the remaining eight to be delivered next year – has been modified to meet Brunei’s configuration.
“This version of the Black Hawk represents the most advanced upgrades that have been made in the aircraft’s history to include upgraded engines, transmissions and rotor blades for improved performance, state-of-the-art avionics with dual-digit flight control computers, a four-screen glass cockpit, digital map displays, integrated vehicle heath monitoring systems, active vibration control system and terrain warning system and a fully coupled four-axis autopilot to greatly reduce cockpit workload for the pilot,” a press release stated.
Seen at most of the army bases around the world, the latest Black Hawk is powered by two GE T700-701D engines that produce a total of 4,000 shaft horsepower. The S-70i is centred upon safety, which has been made top priority for Brunei’s military and the high trust these aircrafts enjoy is testimony to its 30 years of engineering excellence and real world military experience.
“Survivability and crashworthiness are not just attributes of the Black Hawk family. They’re inherent to the design. A strict military standard makes the Black Hawk helicopter a rugged and extremely durable helicopter that delivers safety – safety that has been proven in real missions, around the world,” stated Sikorsky on its website.
It was further explained that the glass cockpit of the S-70i features crash-worthy seats for pilot and co-pilot. The fully integrated digital cockpit is also equipped with an advanced avionics suite incorporating four 10-inch colour multifunctional displays (MFDs), a dual digital automatic flight control system, coupled with flight director and flight management system (FMS).
The navigation and communication systems include a dual embedded GPS/INS system with digital map, two UHF/VHF AM/FM radios, automatic direction finder, VOR/ILS and three-station crew digital inter-communication system (ICS).
Along with its capability of lifting an external load of 4,082 kilogrammes, the S-70i has a top cruise speed of 300km/hr and a maximum speed of 357km/hr.
“With unmatched manoeuvrability, the Black Hawk is recognised worldwide as the premier utility helicopter for troop transport, cargo, medical evacuation and search and rescue missions.”
Earlier, His Majesty was welcomed upon arrival by the Commander of the Royal Brunei Air Force, Brigadier General (U) Haji Wardi bin Haji Abd Latif, who introduced the monarch to the local S-70i pilot and technicians, as the ruler took a closer look at the chopper.
During the unveiling, His Majesty also consented to receive a pesambah from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, before signing a plaque at the end of the proceedings.
BRIDEX 2011 saw MinDef select companies for the Royal Brunei Armed Forces’ Support Helicopter Project, and the ministry announced the selection of the S-70i aircraft on November 15 that year after several months of rigorous evaluation of competing helicopters.
Sikorsky said that the Aircraft Corp had signed the contract in December 2011 in Brunei to provide the choppers along with associated spare parts, training and ground support equipment.
- Borneo Bulletin
(4 December 2013)