Defence has selected the Boeing Apache Guardian to replace Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) from 2025 under Land 4503.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the AH-64E Apache Guardian is equipped with improved sensors, communications suites, attack capabilities and improved survivability.
“This new ARH capability will strengthen Australia’s armed reconnaissance force to better shape our strategic environment and deter actions against our national interest,” Minister Reynolds said.
“Defence considered a number of helicopters against key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system.
“The Apache Guardian is the most lethal, most survivable and lowest risk option, meeting all of Defence’s capability, through-life support, security, and certification requirements.
“By pursuing a proven and low-risk system offered by the Apache, Defence will avoid the ongoing cost and schedule risk typically associated with developmental platforms.”
In a statement, Defence said: "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 project will deliver on the Government’s vision to maximise Australian industry involvement in defence capability,” Minister Reynolds said.
“There are potential opportunities for Australian industry in logistic support, warehousing services, training development, engineering services, and maintenance, repair and overhaul.
“Maximising these opportunities for Australian businesses will enable the future growth of our local rotary wing industry and will present opportunities for Australian industry involvement in the aircraft’s global supply chain.”
"Detailed transition planning will be conducted to ensure effective management of the skilled workforce, across Defence and industry, as Defence transitions the Tiger to the Apache," the Defence statement said.
The Apache was selected over a Bell/BAE Systems Australia teaming arrangement (offering the Bell AH-1Z Viper) and an Airbus offer of an upgrade to the incumbent Tiger platform.
In October 2020, Airbus Australia Pacific managing director Andrew Mathewson called for an open competition to fulfil Defence’s requirement for 29 replacement armed reconnaissance helicopters amid media reports that Defence was negotiating a sole source foreign military sales acquisition of the Apache.
At the time, Defence told ADM that 'no procurement pathway has been decided.'