Malaysia is buying a dozen Cougar EC725 transport helicopters. This is an 11 ton, European made, aircraft with a useful load of 5.5 tons, a top speed of 324 kilometers an hour, endurance of about five hours. The first EC275 will arrive in two years, and another one or two dozen are will be purchased if the budget can handle it. The EC725 cost nearly $50 million each. Malaysia wants the EC725 to replace its existing 30 S-61 Sea Kings. There are elderly aircraft that Malaysia has a hard time keeping in flying condition. There have been 15 accidents, killing 89 people, since the aircraft entered service in 1968.
The nine ton Sea King is a late 1950s design, and contemporary of the U.S. Army's UH-1 "Huey." In the U.S., the Sea Kings were replaced by a navy version of the Hueys successor, the UH-60 Blackhawk. Over a dozen other navies bought the Sea King, and many still use it. But these aircraft are getting old. The Sea King has a range of about a thousand kilometers, and a top speed of 210 kilometers an hour. It was mainly used for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. Some 1,500 were built (about ten percent were the civilian S-61 version), and over a hundred are still in use. Such long service lives are increasingly common. Some of the first Sea Kings survived for over three decades. And many of the navy Sea Kings will continue to serve with the marines, where even the U.S. president still travels aboard them.