Airbus Australia Pacific will double-down on its unsolicited proposal for the Commonwealth’s LAND 4503 ARH replacement program by offering an enhanced Tiger ARH upgrade proposal.
Speaking to media on October 7, APAC Managing Director Andrew Mathewson said the company’s initial proposal of an upgrade to the current 22 Tiger ARHs and an additional seven Airbus H145M helicopters had been formally rejected in a letter to the company from Defence Minister, Senator Linda Reynolds.
But Mathewson is not deterred and says that, rather than the previous offer of a mixed fleet including seven H145Ms to make up the LAND 4503 requirement of 29 airframes, the company will up the ante by proposing a more comprehensive upgrade to the current Tiger fleet, and is actively seeking seven additional Tiger airframes from European stocks. While he wouldn’t be drawn on where these airframes could be sourced from Mathewson said that, while discussions were ongoing, he was relatively confident he could do so.
The Tiger assembly line closed in 2018, but the aircraft is also operated by Germany (51), France (40), and Spain (24), with the French and Spanish Tiger HAP/HAD model being the most common configuration to Australia’s Tiger ARH.
He said the seven additional airframes would likely be the first delivered in the proposed upgraded form, and then the 22 Australian ARH machines would then be inducted and rotated through the upgrade process. Most of the upgrade work would be conducted by Australian industry led by Airbus from its Brisbane Airport facility in Queensland, and could be completed for less than $1.5 billion.
Mathewson said he wasn’t ready to publicly discuss what the enhanced upgrade proposal might include, but did offer that Airbus would be looking to leverage as much of the planned Tiger Block 3 upgrade which would bring the three European operators’ Tigers closer to a common configuration. He added that, while the Block 3 upgrade had recently been defined, it has not yet been made public.
But despite claimed cost savings of up to $3.5 billion compared to a FMS buy of new helicopters, Airbus may not have sufficient time to develop and present its enhanced concept before a decision to proceed to tender is made by the end of 2020. Recent media reports have indicated the Commonwealth is favouring a sole-source tender to Boeing to the AH-64E Apache.