A request for information (RFI) for the replacement of the Australian Army’s Airbus EC665 Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH) was released to industry on July 1.
The RFI calls for submissions from industry for Project LAND 4503 which is seeking a total of 29 airframes to replace the Army’s 22 Tigers. It specifies that 24 aircraft will be operational at a single location, likely to be 1 Aviation Brigade (1Avn) at Robertson Barracks in Darwin, and five airframes will be assigned to training, likely to be at Oakey in Queensland.
Designed to “deliver armed reconnaissance efforts in close and deep contested battlespace”, the RFI calls for an initial operational capability (IOC) of one squadron of 12 aircraft in 2026, and a fully operational capability (FOC) to follow just two years later in 2028. It states that, at IOC Army will be able to operationally deploy a troop of four aircraft, and that at FOC, will be capable of generating 12 aircraft for deployment whilst maintaining a training system of five aircraft.
The specific details and ambitious timings outlined in the RFI suggest Army is seeking a near one-for-one replacement of Tiger with what it says will be a “proven and mature, off-the-shelf” capability, of which there are only two clear options available – the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian, and the Bell AH-1Z Viper.
It further suggests that, not only has the fate of Tiger as outlined in the 2016 Defence White Paper been sealed, but it also overlooks possible next-generation capabilities such as those being developed under the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program which is expected to mature in the early 2030s.
The AH-64E is the latest development of the Apache family and is currently in production for the US Army, the UK and international customers. The AH-1Z is a marinised variant of the long-running AH-1 Cobra family and is also in production for the US Marine Corps and international customers.
It also suggests that value will be placed on the successful system being able to integrate and operate with unmanned systems such as that to be acquired under LAND 129 Phase 3 to replace Army’s Shadow 200, and the GA-ASI Predator/Reaper being acquired under the RAAF’s AIR 7003 program.
ADBR will feature an in-depth analysis of the Tiger ARH replacement program in the May-July issue of the magazine, due to be released in late July.