In a proposal the company says will generate over AUD3bn in savings for the Australian Defence Force and taxpayers, Airbus Helicopters is offering to continue to support its Tiger attack helicopter to meet Australian Army beyond 2040.
The manufacturer is responding to Australia’s request for information (RFI) for the Project Land 4503 Armed Reconnaissance Capability. The RFI seeks solutions for the army’s future armed reconnaissance helicopter needs, replacing the current Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARH).
The RFI stipulates initial operational capability (IOC) in 2026 using 12 airframes and full operational capability two years later with 29 helicopters. The dozen aircraft earmarked for IOC will be divided into a deployable troop of four rotorcraft, a continued force generation component of four examples, and an initial training element of the final four. Ultimately, 24 of the new aircraft will be based at a single location (one regiment, comprised of two squadrons) and the other five helicopters will be used for training, potentially at a separate location.
The tandem-seat Tiger was introduced to Australian Army service in 2004. Eighteen of the 22 units were assembled at the Airbus site in Brisbane, Australia. Since then the fleet has been supported by Airbus in Australia for more than 15 years. It is unclear if the Airbus offer involves the planned Tiger Mk3, either as a new build aircraft or via remanufacture of the existing fleet of ARHs.
Andrew Mathewson, Airbus Australia Pacific Managing Director, said: “Tiger is an extremely agile, effective, and digitally connected armed reconnaissance helicopter. Since delivery, the Australian Tiger has matured into a fully operational army capability, and is integrated into the combined arms team. It continues to prove itself as an adaptable platform, and is now a key element of Australia’s amphibious capabilities on board the Canberra-class landing helicopter docks.”
According to Airbus, cost per flight hour of the Australian Tiger has reduced by more than 30% since introduction, and the sortie success rate is currently at above 95%. The Australian Tiger fleet has logged more than 30,000 flight hours.
“Airbus proudly delivers a strong Australian industry capability, including more than 260 local staff supporting Tiger,” Mathewson added.
Other leading candidates for Land 4503 include the AH-1Z Viper and AH-64E Apache, which meet the demand for a “a proven and mature, manned off-the-shelf” platform. Responses to the RFI were due by August 30.