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.