Airbus' Australian Helicopter Headache

Airbus Helicopters has suffered a setback in Australian Defence's LAND 4503 project as the government rejected an offer for 22 upgraded Tiger helicopters. Project LAND 4503 is aimed at replacing the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter currently in service with the Australian Army. The Tiger has a troubled history in Australian service. Twenty-two were ordered for the Army, with the first one delivered in 2005. Full operational capability was only achieved on 18 April 2016, eleven years later. Despite this, in the 2016 Defence White Paper it was already decided that the Tigers would be replaced in the 2021-2030 timeframe.

Three contenders were in the race to fulfil the LAND 4503 requirement for new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters. The Bell Helicopter AH-1Z, the Boeing AH-64E and the Airbus Helicopters Tiger. Airbus offered upgraded Tigers and an additional seven H145M helicopters. So now it is back to the drawing board for Airbus.The H145M were meant to - partly - fulfil the requirement for a new armed light helicopter for Special Forces support under project LAND 2097. In 2018 a request for information for at least 16 special operations support helicopters was released. The helicopters are intended for use by the Australian Army’s 6th Aviation Regiment, based at Holsworthy and will complement a squadron of larger MRH-90 Taipan helicopters. Next to Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter has also submitted a proposal for the support helicopter, a militarised version of the Bell 429.


Photos: Commonwealth of Australia 2019

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