More than 60 new Australian businesses, supplying specialised equipment and services, have expressed interest in joining the Bell/BAE Systems (Team Zulu Viper) proposed solution for the replacement of the Army’s armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH) fleet.
Over the past four weeks, senior representatives from Bell Textron and BAE Systems Australia have travelled to every capital city presenting their combined solution to hundreds of small and medium enterprises, outlining the breadth of opportunities they may create.
As part of the LAND 4503 ARH replacement project, the Commonwealth has requested a fleet of 29 new helicopters be delivered and in-service by 2028.
Bell is offering the AH-1Z Viper under a foreign military sales (FMS) framework, while BAE Systems will draw upon 65 years’ experience and reputational rapport with Australian industry to introduce the aircraft into service as well as delivering through life, in-service and training support services.
Bell global military sales and strategy manager Javier Ball said, "We have had a significant degree of interest from suppliers in the maintenance, repair, overhaul, and training industries, which is encouraging to see."
Maximising Australian industry capability (AIC) as part of the proposed solution is a priority for both Bell and BAE Systems Australia. The recent industry engagement of SMEs across the nation saw nearly 450 suppliers attend the recent forums, with more than 80 registering on the Industry Capacity Network (ICN) gateway, which will remain open until late January.
"The feedback from SME representatives who attended the national roadshow has been extremely positive, with many expressing their desire to get on board and be part of this proposed solution for the Commonwealth," Ball added.
Team Zulu Viper aims to establish a dynamic and diverse mix between FMS and direct commercial sales to maximise AIC.
The acquisition strategy aims to reduce operational and in-service risk, allowing the Australian Army to rapidly achieve operational milestones for the replacement armed reconnaissance capability coupled with guaranteed value for money proposition.
Service personnel would be trained to fly and maintain the AH-1Z Viper within Australia and while deployed. To help ensure capability outcomes, we envisage that BAE Systems Australia would support embedded service personnel within our maintenance, repair and overhaul team.
Rowan Tink, senior business development manager at BAE Systems Australia, added, "Our partnership with Bell, established in 2016, has gone from strength to strength. We have a clear and united focus on capability and delivering sovereign capability for Australia."
Underpinning this effort would be Australian industry’s capabilities to deliver services and a range of through life support activities.
With lower acquisition and total life cycle costs, the AH-1Z Viper is well positioned to provide a value for money product with the best aircraft weapons and survivability equipment in the world.
As the only marinised attack helicopter currently in operation, the Viper operates optimally in all climatic conditions over land and sea both day and night. Possessing unequalled speed, range and payload, the AH-1Z platform delivers unmatched multi-mission flexibility.
Threats are detected, identified and dispatched while employing advanced countermeasure technology.
"We’ve also been encouraged by the diversity of companies eager to be involved in what promises to be an exciting and significant program. We have seen in excess of 80 businesses officially registering on the ICN gateway, which is testament to this enthusiasm," Tink explained.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re a supplier and you would like to register your interest in working on the Bell/BAE Systems Australia proposed solution, or would like to know more, please visit www.icn.org.au. The deadline for registrations is 24 January 2020.