The Australian Army’s pursuit for a new attack helicopter has gathered pace as both Boeing and Bell Helicopters have presented offers for the venerable Apache and AH-1Z Viper, respectively.
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The Australian Army is planning to replace the current fleet of EC665 Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters (ARH) from the mid-2020s as identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper: "The government will replace the 22 Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters with a new armed reconnaissance capability from the
The government has brought the LAND 4503 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Replacement program forward and aims to acquire a proven and mature, off-the-shelf manned armed helicopter to deliver armed reconnaissance effects in the close and deep contested battlespace in support of the Australian Defence Force.
The acquisition strategy aims to reduce operational and in-service risk, and to allow the Australian Army to rapidly achieve operational milestones for the replacement armed reconnaissance capability, while achieving value for money.
The LAND 4503 capability may be based on up to 29 aircraft, including support equipment and aircraft for individual training – LAND 4503 is a key part of the Army's modernisation and recapitalisation programs for the Australian Army and is designed to contribute to the creation of the modernisation and development of a 'networked and hardened' Army.
LAND 4503's program of delivery is broken down into three delivery stages beginning with projected IOC in 2026 and FOC in 2028, including:
- Up to 24 aircraft would be based at one primary location and another five are intended at a training location. The aircraft fleet may also be co-located in one primary location, however this is yet to be determined.
- IOC for LAND 4503 is based on a squadron of up to 12 aircraft. This organisation would be capable of generating a deployable troop of four aircraft, continued force generation of four aircraft, and an initial build-up training element of four aircraft. IOC will be supported by trained personnel and support systems.
- FOC for LAND 4503 is based on a regiment of up to 24 aircraft. This organisation would be capable of generating multiple concurrent deployed forces of up to squadron size. FOC will also be supported by a mature training system of up to five aircraft, with trained personnel and support systems.
In response, Bell Helicopters has proposed its AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter currently in service with the US Marine Corps – the AH-1Z is designed and built to support the expeditionary requirements of the USMC.
With virtually identical front and rear glass cockpits, fully integrated weapons, avionics and communications systems, the marinised Bell AH-1Z flies with what Bell describes as "the most advanced aircraft weapons and survivability equipment in the world".
The Zulu is the only attack helicopter in the world with a fully-integrated air-to-air missile capability. Target identification is crucial in the modern battlefield. The Bell AH-1Z’s Target Sight System provides the longest range and highest accuracy of any helicopter sight in the world.
Not to be outdone, Boeing Defence Australia has presented the AH-64E Apache as an option for the LAND 4503 program – Boeing describes the Apache as "the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter and is used by the US Army and a growing number of international defence forces".
To date, Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches to customers around the world since the aircraft entered production. The US Army Apache fleet has accumulated (as of July 2016) more than 4.2 million flight hours since the first AH-64A was delivered to the US Army in January 1984.
Since the first delivery, Boeing's global customers for the Apache include Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the UK.
More information about the LAND 4503 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Replacement is available here.