Boeing Australia formally announced as AIR 9000 Phase 7 HATS winner

The new EC135s will replace the Navy Squirrel and Army Kiowa in service. (Paul Sadler)
The new EC135s will replace the Navy Squirrel and Army Kiowa in service. (Paul Sadler)

Defence Minister Senator David Johnston has formally declared the team comprising Boeing Defence Australia and Thales Australia as the winning tenderer of the Project AIR 9000 Phase 7 Helicopter Aircrew Training Systems requirement.

The announcement comes some 10 months after Defence confirmed to Australian Aviation sister publication DIAR by ADBR that the Boeing/Thales teaming had been the preferred down-select. The contract is still yet to be signed, but industry sources say that this was scheduled to occur by the end of October.

The winning bid included 15 Airbus Helicopters EC135 machines, three full motion simulators, and the addition of a flightdeck to Navy’s new (and as-yet-unannounced) sea-going training vessel, Minister Johnston told media at HMAS Albatross near Nowra on Thursday morning.

“This will deliver a fully-integrated modern training environment with both inflight and virtual environments on contemporary twin-engine helicopters and flight simulators,” the Minister said. “These will prepare both Navy and Army for the new generation of advanced combat helicopters such as the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, MRH 90 Taipan, MH‑60R Seahawk Romeo and our new CH-47F Chinook Foxtrots.”

“Defence will also achieve a significant efficiency now that all Army and Navy aircrew will do their initial helicopter training in the one location,” he added. “Being based at Albatross will also bring the advantage of aircrew being able to train in realistic conditions at sea including ship deck-landing and search and rescue skills.”

The Boeing/Thales team was informed it was the preferred tenderer last December, selected ahead of a direct bid by Australian Aerospace (now part of Airbus Group Australia Pacific) with the EC135, and a teaming of Raytheon Australia and Bell which had offered a solution based on the Bell 429. The EC135s will be acquired through a commercial agreement with Airbus Helicopters which is not part of the Boeing/Thales team.

Other teamings which weren’t shortlisted included one of KBR, Elbit Systems and Qantas Defence Services which had also offered the EC135; and AgustaWestland, CAE Australia and BAE Systems Australia which had offered the AW 109. An earlier team comprising Lockheed Martin Australia and Bristow Helicopters Australia chose not to respond to the formal tender.

The first EC135s are expected to commence training in late 2016. Along with the simulators and other synthetic training devices, the 15 twin-engined EC135s will replace about 15 Navy Eurocopter AS350 BA Squirrels and 30 Army Bell 206B Kiowas, and will train about 130 helicopter aircrew members for both services per year. No details were available about the specification of the new machines, nor whether any military equipment had been specified.

Boeing Defence Australia managing director Kym Gillis told Australian Aviation that more information on the winning tender would be available after the contract was signed, including details about the facilities, staffing numbers, costs, and timings. But he did say that the number of helicopters and simulators to be provided had been determined through extensive modelling by Boeing at its Systems Analysis Laboratory (SAL) in Brisbane, and that the company had seen extensive interest in its modelling techniques from overseas training organisations.

Australian Aerospace will bid the EC135 for the HATS program. (Eurcopter)
Swiss army EC135s. (Airbus Helicopters)



  1. Peter says

    So hopefully some news on AIR 5428 soon to help clarify this. Currently Navy pilot trainees go with RAAF trainees to 2FTS and onto PC-9s at Pearce after graduating BFTS. Army trainees stay at BFTS about 6-7 weeks longer before heading straight to helos at Oakey and therefore don’t convert to PC-9s.
    So if Army & Navy will convert to EC-135s together at HMAS Albatross, is there a presumption that initial fixed wing training will differ from above ( ie, that Navy won’t go to PC-9s at Pearce ) ? It would be complicated if Navy pilot trainees had 6 months PC-9 experience, and Army guys had many less hours and only TC-4 experience, and both try to convert onto EC-135s within the same course.
    As said, a decision on AIR 5428 will hopefully clarify this.

  2. Andrew says

    Don’t the navy guys go to 2fts because they have a different end product? Ie navy guys are expected to transition a a single pilot operation ( Seahawks/ Romeos) as opposed to two pilot ops that army guys go to. The extra training/ experience gives graduates a better grounding (confidence, captaincy, if skills etc etc) preparing them better for demanding single pilot ops in a complex helicopter??

    Will be interesting to see where the fixed wing grainy heads.

  3. Dan says

    Surprised by the low numbers – what are they going to use for utility element for RAN and Army

  4. Damian says

    I still don’t get it. To me it sounds like they are replacing 45 machines with 15. Although clearly the use of sims and modern training methods will account for some of that difference, it still seems that there is a loss of a significant liaison and light utility component to the ADF. Won’t this end up meaning Taipans and Romeos doing minor jobs currently tasked to Squirrels and Kiowas?

  5. Paul says

    Why does the contract include “the addition of a flightdeck to Navy’s new (and as-yet-unannounced) sea-going training vessel”. Firstly, the Aviation Training Vessel has already been decided – DMS is getting it built in Vietnam based on the Damen OPV2400 design. Secondly, why would the specification for such a vessel not include a flightdeck?

  6. says

    I asked that same question about the aircraft numbers of Chief of Navy at the presser yesterday, but didn’t really get a complete answer. Boeing assures us that the training numbers stack up, but it’s clear some of the liaison/LUH roles currently performed by the Kiowas and Squirrels will have to be handed off to other platforms.

    Once the contract is signed I’ll be interviewing the Boeing/Thales team principals. Look for a more comprehensive report in the next issue of ADBR and the Jan/Feb issue of AA.

    With regards to the training vessel, whilst many in industry and the specialist media know the Damen OPV has been selected to fulfil that role, for some reason Defence has not announced it and has refused to confirm it despite being asked specifically about it, hence the “as yet unannounced” statement in the story.


    Andrew McLaughlin

  7. Johnny says

    I think you will find that the level of maintenance down time that the current fleet of 45 has is alarming and that the 15 + sims can easily replace these with less maintenance down time. Especially seeing these helicopters are getting over 20,000 flight hours now, they are coming up to the big checks. With the 15 EC-135s, the ADF will be sorted for the next 10-15 years.

  8. Timmy says

    Totally agree with Johnny.
    Finally a team that uses innovation to train future pilots as save the tax payer some money.
    Glad someone is pulling the defence training out of the dark ages…

  9. Wayne says

    Great training machine. The US Army are starting to use the UH-72A [EC145] as their helo trainer replacing the Jetrangers etc. They, of course, use that type as a utility helicopter in the Army and Guard. The US Navy uses it too and it is short listed for USAF to replace their N model Hueys. The EC135 may be just the cab for “all seasons”.

  10. Ken says

    Re aircraft numbers, the 2013 Defence Annual Report states that Navy has 13 Squirrels and Army has 41 Kiowas on their books.

    Of the Navy Squirrels, 1 is described as an “attrition” airframe and several (probably 3-4) support flights on 2 Leeuwin Class survey ships, leaving 8-9 as training cabs.

    Of the Army Kiowas, I understand that only 27 received a recent instrumentation upgrade (I stand to be corrected) and I assume the remaining 14 are not being used. The 27 were allocated to 173 Squadron (8) and the Army Aviation Training Centre (19).

    So we are looking at 27-8 airframes reducing to 15 for HATS. While some of this is no doubt reduced maintenance and possibly a benefit from combing 2 schools, the use of (probably hard-worked) simulators will be significant. There was a report recently on RNZAF helicopter training that suggested an approximate reduction of 40% in flying hours resulting largely from the use of simulators.

    The remaining questions relate to the replacement of the Navy survey ship helicopter replacements (3-4) and the 173 Squadron replacements. I would expect to hear of the Navy survey ship replacements when the contract is signed with Boeing (if Boeing is to provide them as an adjunct to the training contract) or in the 2015 White Paper. In a sense, the 173 Squadron Kiowas have already been replaced by Black Hawks (down from Townsville, with the 8 Kiowas having been sent to the Army Aviation Training Centre). We’ll probably have to wait for the 2015 White Paper to see what replaces 173 Squadron’s Black Hawks.

  11. William says

    173 Sqn no longer operates the Kiowa. I assume their former aircraft are in storage somewhere.

  12. Raymond says

    Just regarding numbers again, for comparison purposes even Switzerland has a larger fleet of 18 EC135s.

    The low number specified certainly demands further explanation. Looking forward to your Boeing / Thales interview report, Andrew.

  13. Bill says

    @ Dan/Damian The number of aircraft reflect that this is for aircrew training only. No utility capability is part of the project form what I’ve heard.

    @ Ken 723 Sqn rarely embark these days. They have no standing flights

  14. Raymond says

    “With regards to the training vessel, whilst many in industry and the specialist media know the Damen OPV has been selected to fulfil that role, for some reason Defence has not announced it and has refused to confirm it despite being asked specifically about it, hence the “as yet unannounced” statement in the story.”

    Does anyone know why Defence is being so cagey thus far about an innocuous training vessel even though it’s basically public knowledge? It’s not just because it’s being built overseas in Vietnam, surely?

  15. Stewart says

    Peter, forget about any concepts of Navy and Army not converting to “PC-9s” as part of AIR5428. There will be one training aircraft for the entire system; the PC-21 or the T-6C. There will be two fleets of these aircraft; one at Pearce for the Advanced Phase and one at either East Sale, West Sale or Tamworth for the Basic Phase. Every student, RAAF, Navy or Army, supported with simulators, will undertake all their flights in one of these aircraft. There will be no low cost, basic trainer in the new system for the Basic Phase. Even with the use of high fidelity simulators that should help reduce some of the early failure rate, I predict this will turn into a very expensive phase, putting aside the additional pressures of huge budget deficits and the need to find savings that our politicians constantly beat us up about.

    Army will continue to have a relatively short course before heading off to Nowra into HATS but Navy students will undertake the same course as the RAAF students, right through to graduation at Pearce. Navy students will then head to Nowra for their HATS.

  16. Damian says

    This comment is simply to boost the total comments on this story up over the number of airframes being procured ! (:

  17. Bobby says

    I hope the selected platform, the EC135, can support the training model proposed by BDA and Thales. I read recently (Flight Global article June 14) that the German military are planning to buy new aircraft to support their EC135 training fleet “to make up for a problem discovered with its 14 Airbus Helicopters EC135 basic trainers that leaves them unsuitable to perform certain crucial training manoeuvres”.

    What was interesting is that the article goes onto quote Airbus Helicopters and say “the potential for costly damage to be incurred may make the aircraft unsuitable for entry-level students.”

    I obviously cannot confirm the validity of the Airbus quote, but I can only assume the Germans wouldn’t be looking for new aircraft without good reason.

  18. Darren says

    Interesting to read the comments above and I agree the numbers seem low. It does make sense to me for additional aircraft being purchased to form a composite flight of utility aircraft for Navy/Army. Here pilots can consolidate training and increase hours while performing valuable utility work for defence. In times of natural disaster they can really contribute. They can be used to train personnel for sling loads, winching and fast roping. They can be used for community public relations. So an extra 8-10 for Navy and Army would not go wanting. It would probably be one of the best investments defence could make. Let’s hope they do.

  19. Rhys says

    I can maybe see the 15 EC-135s + sims doing the training job. But is there any hint of the ADF requiring/acquiring some light/liaison helos (perhaps in the 2015 White Paper)? Seems expensive to have the MRH90/Blackhawk/MH-60 as the smallest helicopters in the fleet.

    Agree with Darren above. Perhaps some EC 635s down the track would make sense and surely free up their much more expensive big brothers from light duties.

  20. Derrick says

    15 seen like a low number, in saying that it wouldn’t surprise me if the government wasn’t planning on purchasing more after the units have seeded into the ADF. Just look athe the raft of aircraft the government has decided to purchase at the last minute, the 2 extra C-17 the F-35.

  21. Paul says

    Loved Damiens comments above. Perhaps we can keep the theme and continue the comments until it reaches the number of airframes required to meet both the training and light utility helicopter needs? 🙂

  22. Bill says

    @ Bobby, that “a problem discovered with its 14 Airbus Helicopters EC135 basic trainers that leaves them unsuitable to perform certain crucial training manoeuvre” is that they can’t perform auto rotations except in an emergency.

    I guess Boeing intend to do that in the simulator, although it seems odd that if you could do this successfully in the simulator then why don’t Germany and Spain just get a simulator, rather than use other aircraft types.