The Australian defense ministry announced it has selected Boeing’s Apache attack helicopter as the Australian Army’s armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH).
Australia selected the Apache over the AH-1Z Viper offered by Bell and BAE Systems Australia. Airbus had also offered to upgrade the 22 Tiger helicopters that currently serves in the role.
A total of 29 helicopters are expected to be procured to replace the Tiger from 2025.
“Defense considered a number of helicopters against key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system. By pursuing a proven and low-risk system offered by the Apache, defense will avoid the ongoing cost and schedule risk typically associated with developmental platforms,” Australian defense minister Linda Reynolds commented.
Lessons learnt from issues with the ARH Tiger and other rotary wing projects had informed the strategy to seek a proven, mature ARH replacement capability, the defense ministry said.
As Australia is one of four countries operating the Tiger aircraft, the small size of the international fleet creates challenges in sustaining the aircraft. What is more, Australia declared final operational capability for the Tiger in April 2016, seven years later than planned.
The new ARH is expected to reach full operating capability by 2029. One of the benefits of the choice of the Apache will be the availability of local industrial capability to sustain the fleet.
Flown by the United States and 15 other countries, the Apache has recorded more than 4.5 million flight hours with the US Army alone. There are currently 1,180 Apaches in service today.
“The project will deliver on the government’s vision to maximize Australian industry involvement in defense capability. There are potential opportunities for Australian industry in logistic support, warehousing services, training development, engineering services, and maintenance, repair and overhaul,” defense minister Reynolds said.