Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has revealed the successful contender to replace the Australian Army’s beleaguered Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter capability, beginning in 2025.
The Australian Army’s armed reconnaissance capability will be strengthened following the selection of the Boeing Apache Guardian to replace Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) from 2025.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the AH-64E Apache Guardian is equipped with improved sensors, communications suites, attack capabilities and improved survivability.
“This new ARH capability will strengthen Australia’s armed reconnaissance force to better shape our strategic environment and deter actions against our national interest. Defence considered a number of helicopters against key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system,” Minister Reynolds said.
Lessons learnt from issues with the ARH Tiger and other rotary wing projects had informed the strategy to seek a proven, mature ARH replacement capability.
Minister Reynolds added, “The Apache Guardian is the most lethal, most survivable and lowest risk option, meeting all of Defence’s capability, through-life support, security, and certification requirements.
“By pursuing a proven and low-risk system offered by the Apache, Defence will avoid the ongoing cost and schedule risk typically associated with developmental platforms,” Minister Reynolds said.
Minister Reynolds also detailed the potential for Australian industry engagement and support of the new ARH fleet, stating, “The project will deliver on the government’s vision to maximise Australian industry involvement in defence capability. There are potential opportunities for Australian industry in logistic support, warehousing services, training development, engineering services, and maintenance, repair and overhaul.
“Maximising these opportunities for Australian businesses will enable the future growth of our local rotary wing industry and will present opportunities for Australian industry involvement in the aircraft’s global supply chain.”
Detailed transition planning will be conducted to ensure effective management of the skilled workforce, across Defence and industry, as Defence transitions the Tiger to the Apache.
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The AH-64E Apache stands as the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter and represents the backbone of the US Army attack helicopter fleet, as well as a growing number of international defence forces.
A Boeing Defence Australia spokesperson told Defence Connect, "Boeing appreciates the Commonwealth of Australia’s confidence in selecting the AH-64E Apache’s proven, reliable and value-for-money capability.
"The AH-64E Apache provides Australia with a low-risk, fully-integrated, battle-proven capability which is interoperable with Australia’s key allies. It is supported by an active production line and a US Army modernisation plan through the late 2040s, thereby ensuring the platform remains the leading attack reconnaissance capability through 2050 and beyond.
"Boeing will continue to expand its industry capability and supply chain in Australia. At the same time, we remain committed to delivering a sovereign in-service support infrastructure as evidenced by our proven history with the CH-47 Chinook, F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18 Growler and P-8A Poseidon platforms," the spokesperson added.
The US Army Apache fleet has accumulated more than 4.5 million flight hours. With more than 2,400 Apaches delivered to customers around the world, Boeing is committed to the continuous modernisation of the program to ensure that AH-64 capabilities outpace adversaries to maintain battlefield dominance today and for decades to come.
The Australian Army is planning to replace the current fleet of EC665 Tiger 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 mid-2020s.”
LAND 4503’s program of delivery aims to support the Australian Army and is designed to contribute to the creation of the modernisation and development of a ‘networked and hardened’ Army.
The acquisition 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; and
- 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.
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.