DEFENSE STUDIES: Airbus Proposes Upgrade for Australian Attack Helicopters

Airbus Proposes Upgrade for Australian Attack Helicopters

16 Juni 2017


Australian Tiger ARH (photo : Ray Plekker)


LONDON — In the lead up to the 2017 Paris Air Show, European giant Airbus has revealed details of its two-stage proposal to upgrade the Australian Army’s Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter.


The managing director of Airbus Group Australia Pacific, Tony Fraser, said Airbus Helicopters is proposing an interim upgrade based on the Tiger Mark 2 development being mulled by European operators, including France. Beyond that, Fraser says a Mark 3 variant now on the drawing board will form the basis of a future armed reconnaissance helicopter, or ARH, replacement program flagged by the Australian government for the middle of the next decade. 


Australia has 22 Tigers and was to undertake an extensive capability assurance program, or CAP, to keep the fleet relevant in the coming years. However, the ARH program has been mired in controversy since the first helicopters were delivered at the end of 2004, suffering a lower-than-expected rate of effort and a higher-than-desired cost of ownership to the commonwealth.


Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper and the associated Integrated Investment Program singled the helicopter out from all Australian Defence Force platforms for criticism, describing the program as “troubled.”


Most recently, a 2017 report by the Australian National Audit Office, or ANAO, into the ARH program was scathing of the helicopter, which only achieved final operational capability last year, despite being in operational service for more than a decade.  


The program is now seven years late, and although it hasn’t reached planned levels of availability and reliability, recent remediation efforts by the Australian Army; the Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group of Australia’s Defence Department, or CASG; and industry continue to improve performance indicators to the point where the Tiger’s cost of ownership has dropped by almost a third since 2012.


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