Australia has issued a request for information (RFI) for 29 airframes to replace the Australian Army existing Tiger attack helicopter.
Under the Land 4503 program, the first 12 new rotorcraft must achieve initial operating capability (IOC) by 2026.
According to the RFI Australia wants to purchase 29 “proven and mature, off-the-shelf” armed reconnaissance helicopters of which five will be used for training operations. Initial Operational Capability of twelve helicopters (one squadron) is expected by 2026, with full operational capability from 2028.
The new helicopter must be of a size that it fits in a C-17A Globemaster III for easy transportation to a deployment location, it is necessary that it can operate from the Australian Navy’s landing helicopter dock vessels, and it is requested that the new helicopter must be able to work together with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) as Australia is replacing its fleet of Textron RQ-7 Shadow 200 tactical UAS and is acquiring the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.
Australia selected the current fleet of 22 Eurcopter/Airbus Helicopter Tigers in 2001 and the final Tiger was delivered (eighteen were built with Eurocopter Australian at Brisbane) to the Australian Army ten years later. The helicopters are based at Oakey (Qld) with the Army Aviation Training Centre, School of Army Aviation and at Robertson Barracks-Darwin with two operational squadrons, 161 and 162 Reconnaissance Squadrons as part of the 1st Aviation Regiment. Due to all kind of issues, the helicopters became fully operational only by 2016 and first sea-borne ops by April 2019.
Scramble Facebook News Magazine assesses that only the Bell AH-1Z Viper and the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian could compete in the RFI. With note that the Viper is using the same engines as the MH-60Rs with Aussie service (standardization) and the Apache is fore-runner with the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (manned-unmanned teaming, MUM-T) that is developed for operations with UAS loyal wingman operations. This BATS/MUM-T is focused on joined operations with the Boeing P-8A Poseidon, E-7A Wedgetail and the Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II, aircraft types in use with the RAAF.
Noteworthy the Apache and the Viper are currently deployed to Australia and are taking part in exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 (TS19). So both types can be observed during realistic operations by the Aussies from nearby.
This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2019.