Airbus Helicopters has been awarded an extension of the Australian Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) Tiger through-life support (TLS) contract by the Australian Department of Defence, the company announced today.
Airbus Australia Pacific Managing Director Andrew Mathewson said that the five-year, TLS contract extension reflected the current standing of the Tiger in Australia.
“Airbus is committed to ensuring the success of the Australian ARH Tiger fleet, and we have worked closely with the Australian Army and our industry partners to improve the fleet‘s performance over many years,” he said.
The TLS extension covering the ARH programme until 2025 includes:
- More extensive aircraft and component deeper maintenance;
- Operational maintenance of aircraft allocated to training;
- Aircrew and technician training including maintenance of training devices;
- Design services including OEM design incorporation;
- Systems and software development and testing;
- Complete parts support including MRO, purchasing, storage and distribution;
- Technical publications; maintenance policy; and fleet management.
“I’m proud that more than 200 full-time positions will remain in Australia to carry out this very important work supporting the Army Aviation Australia-wide, including the creation of apprenticeships in Darwin,” he added. “Moreover, our Airbus engineering capabilities continue to expand thanks to this contract, with key software and modifications being developed on Australian soil.”
Mr Mathewson also said that there would be a cycle of continuous improvement as Airbus continues to learn from the extensive operational experience gained by Tiger helicopters in other countries.
“This is an aircraft type that will serve on into the 2040s in the worldwide fleet. “We will endeavour to provide the best armed reconnaissance helicopter capability in Australia over the same timeframe,” he said.
Australia selected the then Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) EC665 Tiger in 2001 to fulfil its Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter requirement under Project Air 87. The ARH replaced the Kiowa in the battlefield reconnaissance role and a small number of Vietnam-era Bell UH-1H Iroquois helicopters, which had been modified to ‘Bushranger’ (gunship) configuration.
A total of 22 Tigers (A38-001 to 022) were ordered and all except the first four were assembled and flown in Brisbane by Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace (today Airbus Group Australia Pacific).
Australian Tiger force
The 1st Aviation Regiment at Robertson Barracks in Darwin is home to two reconnaissance units, the 161st and 162nd Squadrons, equipped with the ARH Tiger.
The 1st Aviation Regiment was initially formed in 1966 as the 1st Division Army Aviation Regiment, before changing to its current designation the following year. Having previously operated the Kiowa in the (unarmed) battlefield reconnaissance role, the regiment relocated to Darwin in 2005 and began converting to the Tiger.
After significant delays, both the 161st and 162nd Squadrons are now operational on the Tiger, supported by a technical support squadron and a logistics support squadron.
“The 1st Aviation Regiment is capable of operating in centralised, dispersed and independent roles, either in support of, or commanding a combined arms force at combat team or battle group level,” an army spokesperson explained.
Although based in Darwin, the Tigers of 1 AVN REGT provide support to the three regular army brigades, as they cycle through the ‘ready’, ‘reset’ or ‘readying’ (training) phase of their force-generation cycle.
To date, the fleet of 22 ARH Tigers has flown over 30,000 hours, deployed for day-and-night surveillance and fire-support missions.