Page 18 - Australian Defence Magazine Oct 2018
P. 18

The possible field of contenders L-R Lockheed Martin’s Little Bird, Bell 407GT and the Airbus H145.
Companies position
for Special Operations helicopter RFI
LAND Forces 2018 saw details of Army’s Special Operations Aviation Capability, to be acquired under Land 2097 Phase 4, pro- vided during a project briefing to industry.
The Commonwealth’s requirement is for an armed light helicopter, in the four-tonne class, which is capable of being rapidly de- ployed by air and able to operate in a dense urban environment. A Request For Infor- mation (RFI) will be issued to industry shortly, followed by a Request For Tender (RFT) in the fourth quarter of 2019, with the major delivery of systems and support to follow in 2022. ADM understands that around 16 helicopters will be acquired.
“We’re currently developing requirements around enhancing our Special Operations Aviation Capability through Land 2097 Phase 4, which will be a smaller helicopter – MOTS or COTS – proven, light, rapidly deployable by a large aircraft and capable of operating in complex urban terrain,” Briga- dier Scott Benbow, Director General Avia- tion at Army Forces Command said during the concurrent Army Aviation Symposium. “We are in the requirements phase of that program and we’re getting ready to prepare those conversations with broader Defence and then Government.”
Contenders represented at Land Forc- es included Airbus, which will offer its
H145M; Bell, with an armed version of the 407GTi, known as the 407GT, and Boeing, with its AH-6i ‘Little Bird’.
Airbus Group Australia Pacific Manag- ing director Tony Fraser confirmed that Airbus will offer the H145M helicopter, together with the company’s ‘plug and play’ HForce weapons management system and Helionix avionics suite, for Land 2097/4.
The 3.7-tonne H145M is an armed devel- opment of the UH-72A Lakota, of which 411 are being delivered to the US Army. The H145M has been selected by the armed forces of Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Serbia and Thailand and the manufacturer claims a mission readiness rate in excess of 95 percent across the fleet.
“We’re engaged with Army but we expect that there will be a competitive process,” Fra- ser said. “We expect that Special Forces will work with Defence to define a requirement and we will compete the H145M, which we expect will be a very strong competitor.”
The Bell 407GT is a 2.5-tonne helicopter of which 60 are already in service in Iraq and the UAE (split between Bell and third- party conversions), with more than 10,000 combat flight hours under its belt.
“It’s COTS and it’s in the field in Iraq and in the UAE at the moment, maintained through a commercial supply chain,” ex- plained Bell’s business development direc- tor for Australasia, Dan McQuestin. “You can have a full range of options with this air- craft: it can carry troops, guided munitions
including Hellfire and miniguns – or if you just want to have unguided rockets and a machine gun, then you can do that as well.”
Boeing Defence & Security’s vice presi- dent of Global Sales and Marketing for Australia and NZ, Jeff Shelton, said that the AH-6i Little Bird is also a viable op- tion for the Special Operations Aviation Capability requirement.
“We are keen to see what the Common- wealth’s requirements are and what that solu- tion might be,” he said. “Certainly, we think the AH-6i is a viable alternative, it’s a highly- capable, small platform that’s excellent in urban environments, carrying troops and weapons.”
The AH-6i is a light attack helicopter which weighs around 1.6 tonnes and has re- cently been sold to Saudi Arabia, which has a reported requirement for up to 120 aircraft.
“Based on our conversations we think AH- 6i is a viable alternative (for Land 2097/4),” Shelton added. “We’re expecting an RFI to come out soon (and) we’ll see what’s in that (but) we certainly expect to bid.”
Other contenders are likely to include Leonardo Helicopters (AW169M), MD Helicopters (MD530G) and Northstar Aviation with their third-party armed ver- sion of the Bell 407 (407MRH Lightning). The Turkish National Police operates a fleet of 21 twin-engine Bell 429s which, accord- ing to some sources, have a mission effectiv- ity rate in excess of 90 percent in austere environments, and it is possible that this helicopter may also be an option.
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