Bell has released a statement extolling the virtues of its AH-1Z ‘Viper’ helicopter to replace the Tiger ARH in Australian Army service.
Although the company has not directly confirmed to ADBR that it has responded to the LAND 4503 armed reconnaissance helicopter replacement RFI which closed on August 30, the company has provided a statement which lists capability and performance attributes which neatly align with those of the RFI.
“The combat proven Bell AH-1Z Viper is the only marinised attack helicopter in the world that is specifically designed and built for expeditionary and maritime operations,” a company statement reads. “Marinisation is more than just corrosion protection against saltwater. Unlike unproven and costly add-ons, Bell’s marinisation begins at aircraft design and is built into the aircraft at point of manufacture to insure conformity to shipboard operations.”
The company says the marinisation process also includes the AH-1Z’s composite rotor blades and yoke style main rotor hubs which it says “significantly outperform legacy ‘strap-pack’ type systems which are prone to corrosion and failure”.
The AH-1Z, “also includes semi-automatic blade folding for quick stowage either on board ship or for rapid C-17 deployment, rotor brakes, ease of maintenance, electromagnetic environmental effects (E3) hardening which provides safety against the ship’s powerful radars and other sensors from interfering with aircraft onboard weapons and systems.”
The company also points out the Viper’s commonality with those helicopters operated by the US Marine Corps, some of which are based in Australia on regular rotations to the Northern Territory, and which are permanently deployed to the wider region.
Bell’s statement effectively confirms the LAND 4503 project will be a race between three contenders – the AH-1Z, Boeing’s AH-64E Guardian Apache, and a significantly upgraded Tiger ARH offered by Airbus Helicopters.