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 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.
- 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.
Currently there are three contenders for the LAND 4503 program, including Boeing with the venerable AH-64 Apache, Bell Aerospace offering the AH-1Z Viper and Airbus promising enhanced reliability and capability for the Army’s existing fleet of ARH Tiger helicopters.