Defence has issued a Request for Information (RfI) for a platform to replace the Army’s Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARH) under Land 4503.

The RfI specifies a timeline out to IOC in 2026 with 12 airframes and FOC in 2028 with 29 helicopters. 24 will be based at one location with five used for training.

The squadron of 12 intended for IOC include a deployable troop of four aircraft, continued force generation of four aircraft, and an initial training element of four aircraft.

“The acquisition strategy aims to reduce operational and in-service risk, and to allow the Australian Army to rapidly achieve operational milestones for the replacement armed reconnaissance capability, whilst achieving value for money,” the RFI states.

The ARH Tigers recently deployed overseas for only the second time in their operational history as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019. The deployment aimed to develop the Tigers’ interoperability with the Canberra class LHDs in preparation Joint Project 2048 achieving final operating capability.

News that the Tiger replacement is on the way may come as good news to some in Defence and government, who as ADM has previously reported appear to be suppressing good news stories around the platform. The Tigers were singled out for criticism in the 2016 White Paper and were subject to an ANAO report that listed 76 ‘deficiencies’ not specified in the original requirements.

Three likely contenders for Land 4503 include: Airbus’s Tiger Mk.III, which draws on combat experience in Afghanistan and Mali; the Bell AH-1Z Viper, a US Marine Corps attach helicopter that is specifically marinised by design for amphibious operations; and the Boeing Apache, which is reportedly due to be in service with the US Army until 2060.

Airbus recently won a contract extension to provide through-life support to the Tiger fleet, including aircrew training, design services, software development, complete parts support and technical publication.

An industry briefing on the Tiger replacement will be held in the Adams Auditorium at ADFA on Monday 15 July.

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