Defence is planning to acquire a fleet of up to 16 light helicopters to enhance the aviation capability of Australian Special Operations Forces through increased mobility, direct air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) as part of LAND 2097 Phase 4.
The helicopters are to be proven (already in service) commercial or military off the shelf, optimised for operating in dense urban environments, and capable of being rapidly deployed by air transport in ADF C-17 aircraft.
The helicopter should be capable of being fitted with simple, proven ISR equipment and weapons systems.
LAND 2097 Phase 4 is currently in the exploratory phase, collecting information and proposals to inform concepts for capability realisation. The project is considering a wide range of procurement options based around a light helicopter as the major system.
The acquisition strategy for the project is developmental and is subject to government approval. The initial phase is to identify major systems that can form the basis for the capability and is the primary focus of this engagement. For this reason, the project seeks experienced prime system integrators who hold the ability to source a suitable platform, conduct integration of specialist role equipment and support the introduction into service of a new aviation capability.
Proposals should address ongoing support in sustainment, which may include engineering and supply services, while allowing for flexibility in transfer of technical data for sustainment services by a provider of the Commonwealth’s choosing.
It is expected that, should the program continue to procurement, all airframes would be delivered with an approximate time frame of 2023.
Land Forces 2018 saw a number of contenders presenting themselves, with standouts including:
- Airbus H145M: A medium-sized military multi-role helicopter capable of performing a wide spectrum of missions with a common platform, from transport, SAR, and medevac to armed scout.
- Bell 407GT: A light attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter Textron. It is a multi-role, multi-mission helicopter, which can be reconfigured to suit troop transport, medical evacuation, search and rescue or command and control missions.
- Boeing Defense & Security AH-6i Little Bird: A highly capable light attack/armed reconnaissance helicopter specifically designed with superior performance characteristics and flexible, easily configurable mission equipment ideal for light attack, precision attack, anti-armor, close combat attacks, reconnaissance, security and escort, troop insertion/extraction, combat search and rescue.
- Leonardo AW109 Trekker: A light-weight, twin-engine, multi-purpose helicopter providing search and rescue organisations with a high speed, high performance, twin-engine helicopter with leading-edge mission equipment to ensure mission success.
The successful helicopters are intended for use by the Australian Army’s 6th Aviation Regiment, based at Holsworthy, south of Sydney, and will complement a squadron of larger MRH-90 Taipan helicopters.
More information regarding the program, including tender applications, is available here.