Boeing is displaying an example of its AH-64E APACHE Guardian attack helicopter at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon this week, in an attempt to influence a future requirement for a TIGER Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter replacement.
Fresh from the production line, the helicopter is flying an intensive series of flights during the four trade days of the show as it demonstrates its prowess to VIPs.
“The AH-64E APACHE can provide Australia with the industry-leading, battled-tested, armed reconnaissance and attack helicopter that the Commonwealth needs,” a Boeing spokesperson said at the show. “For long-term value, the APACHE’s modernisation roadmap combined with Boeing Defence Australia’s proven sustainment capabilities can keep APACHEs flying well into the 2060s.”
The Australian Army has 22 Airbus Helicopters TIGER ARH, a variant of the Hélicoptère d'Appui Protection (HAP) in service with the French Army, but the programme has been troubled by delays and technical issues.
The first two TIGERs were delivered in December 2004, but Final Operational Capability (FOC) was not declared until April 2016 and although it has earned a fearsome reputation for its effectiveness in recent large-scale exercises, its availability rate and cost of ownership remain a concern to the Commonwealth.
Recent efforts by Defence and industry to address the problems has seen a significant improvement in availability and a reduction in cost of ownership but despite this, the ARH capability was singled out for criticism in Australia’s Defence Industry Investment programme (DIIP). Released last year, the DIIP surprised many in Defence and industry by calling for an Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter replacement programme between 2021 and 2030.
“The TIGER has had a troubled history – essential upgrades are programmed to maintain the Capability’s effectiveness,” the DIIP states. “Defence will invest in a future armed reconnaissance capability to replace the Tiger, which could include manned or unmanned systems or a combination of both, to be introduced from the mid-2020s.”
Other candidates include the Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter and the proposed TIGER Mk.3 variant being developed by Airbus Helicopters. Head of Airbus Group Australia Pacific (AGAP) Tony Fraser said yesterday that the Commonwealth has engaged in discussions with the European manufacturer with regard to defining the capability of the new TIGER variant.