Military

Airbus Joins Competition for Australia’s Special Forces Helicopter

By Brian Garrett-Glaser | April 3, 2019
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Airbus Helicopters H145M

Airbus Helicopters H145M. Photo courtesy of Airbus

Airbus Helicopters confirmed it has responded to Australia’s search for a rapidly-deployable, multi-role light helicopter with its H145M — the military version of the Airbus H145. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is seeking at least 16 new rotorcraft for its special forces to carry out a wide variety of missions, to be delivered by 2022.

“The Airbus H145M helicopter is ... the most advanced member of Airbus’ multi-purpose twin-engine category,” said Andrew Mathewson, managing director for Airbus Australia Pacific. “It is based on a commercial off-the-shelf platform with military-specific modifications and is an operationally proven, affordable and low-risk option for Australia.”

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The ADF is looking for a light helicopter that “can be rapidly deployed in C-17s, and can insert, extract and provide fire support for small teams of Special Forces undertaking tasks ranging from tactical observation through to counter-terrorism missions, or hostage recovery,” according to its 2016 Defence White Paper. These aircraft will complement the ADF’s larger helicopters, which it is transitioning from Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawks to Airbus MRH90 Taipans.

The ADF plans to create four troops of four helicopters each, transportable via a single C-17. In July, Airbus revealed it had modeled the ability to fit four H145Ms in a C-17 cargo hold and unload them ready-to-fly within 30 minutes of landing at a deployed location.

Airbus faces stiff competition from Bell, which is proposing its single-engine 407 and twin-engine 429, and Leonardo, which has confirmed it will offer three twin-engine platforms as options: the AW109, AW159 and AW169. Boeing is expected to offer its AH-6i Little Bird and MD Helicopters may propose the MD530G.

The ADF released its  request for information in October 2018 and plans to release an official RFP at the end of this year.

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