Airbus Australia Pacific Managing Director Andrew Mathewson said that the organisation stood ready with ARH Tiger capability well into 2040.
The Australian Department of Defence has a plan to continue with the replacement of the Army’s Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) as outlined in the 2020 Force Structure Plan (FSP).
“Airbus is seeking assurance that Defence will undertake it’s due diligence obligations through a competitive process and not progressing with a sole source replacement ARH under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) arrangements,” Mathewson said.
“The best outcome for Australia and the ADF is to extend the life of Tiger until 2040.
“We are seeking a fair go, a level playing field that ensures that all proposals are reviewed with due process. This in turn will give our hard working and loyal team members’ clarity of their future too,” Mathewson said.
Since the 2016 Defence White Paper announced Tiger would be replaced in the mid-2020s, Airbus and Defence have worked hard to remediate the capability. This achievement is reflected broadly by experts in Army’s aviation community.
On 14 July 2018, Brigadier Stephen Jobson, Commander 16 Aviation Brigade said: “Our Tigers now deliver reliability and performance that is the envy of the world. Proven reliability. Proven Performance. No more conjecture. No more wishing. It’s happening.”
Mathewson said that despite positive remediation, a review by the Department has been undertaken of the Airbus proposal to extend the Tiger, and has concluded that it is too risky and expensive to explore the extension.
“Airbus believes this conclusion is founded on assumptions not fully tested by the Department.
“The cost to Defence to provide support to the Tiger fleet including software upgrades is approximately $54 million per year. This represents a cost per flying hour of around $9k per hour. While even well credentialed journalists struggle to compare the costs of complex aircraft systems, the simple fact is that similarly complex systems cost similar amounts to support.
“The major difference in cost to Defence comes from the scope of work contracted to Industry. In the case of Tiger and MRH90, only 35 per cent of the cost relates to aircraft support, the remaining 65 per cent relates to the provision of training, training devices, engineering and modifications. On other aircraft types, such as Chinook, many support functions are carried out internally by the Department and training is managed separately.
“Acquiring a replacement for an Australian made and supported helicopter that is fully operational and proven will impact Australia’s economic recovery by diverting $3 billion from alternative and more worthy near term economic stimulus activities.
“It is not credible to suggest that replacing the Australian-built Tiger helicopters, via a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) process will build comparable local industry capability. Foreign-built helicopters via FMS negatively impact local jobs through deep dependence on overseas support,” Mathewson said. “To be clear, if Tiger is replaced, Australian jobs will be lost in the middle of the most profound economic downturn in history.”
Since delivery, the Australian Tiger has matured into a fully operational army capability, and is integrated into the combined arms team. It continues to prove itself as an adaptable platform, and is now a key element of Australia’s amphibious capabilities on-board the Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Docks.
ARH Tiger pilots now fly more than many of their counterparts in equivalent attack helicopter classes around the world. Similarly, their helicopters are now flying the same, or more than, equivalent attack helicopters around the world.
There is key opportunity is to build upon this platform of performance to achieve the advanced tactics, techniques and procedures these combat systems are capable of providing.
Mathewson said Airbus had built a substantial and critical industrial capability over the past 20 years in Australia for the Aussie Tiger, creating 500 highly skilled aviation jobs locally and injecting $640 million into the Australian economy.
Airbus Australia Pacific is proud of the work done to remediate Tiger and deliver the best possible support to our military and civil customers. As a company that employs 525 veterans, we understand the customer and the complexities of supporting military platforms.