Army’s Tiger ARH achieves FOC

written by australianaviation.com.au | May 12, 2016
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Tiger is “ready to go” as a full operational capability. (Paul Sadler)

The Australian Army’s 22 Airbus Helicopters Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARHs) achieved final operating capability (FOC) on April 18, more than 11 years after the type first entered service.

“Tiger is ready to go as a full operational capability with a full regiment of two squadrons,” confirmed Commander 16 Aviation Brigade, Brigadier Michael Prictor.

“In the past decade we have built an attack helicopter regiment, which has taken a multi-generational, cultural, philosophical change to do that and Army is just coming to grips with the fact that we have now got a world-class attack helicopter regiment.”

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Tiger’s FOC was declared with some minor caveats. “There are some classified things that are not quite ready yet but they will be by the end of the year,” said BRIG Prictor. “FOC is not just about the aircraft, it is the whole system which includes the entire regiment being certified. All of the build-up pieces, all of the milestones, were completed by August 2015 and it was mainly technical issues to make sure the sustainment was in place and serviceability rates were up to speed. Then it has been up to us who run the capability to sign it off and to let the Chief of Army know that Tiger is good to go as a full operational capability.”

The first two Tigers, A38-001 and -002, were delivered to Army during a ceremony at the Army Aviation Training Centre, Oakey on December 15 2004, while the final Tiger, A38-022, was delivered in late 2011.

BRIG Prictor said Tiger has been the most complex piece of equipment the Army has ever introduced.

“It wasn’t mature when we bought it and it has been a challenge getting it there. Over the last few years though, Airbus has stepped up to the plate with fixing the parts supply problems and all the things you need in the back office to get this capability ready to go.”

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In late February the federal government’s Defence White Paper and its accompanying Integrated Investment Program outlined plans for the Tiger’s earlier than expected retirement.

“The Tiger has had a troubled history – essential upgrades are programmed to maintain the capability’s effectiveness,” the Integrated Investment Program document stated.

“Defence will invest in a future armed reconnaissance capability to replace the Tiger, which could include manned or unmanned systems or a combination of both, to be introduced from the mid-2020s.”

In the meantime, “It will be an operational aircraft for at least the next 10 years until any replacement and we will continue to make it the best possible weapon system we can,” Airbus Group Australia Pacific managing director Tony Fraser said in welcoming the FOC attainment.

It has been a while coming but we are indebted to Army and the Defence project teams, and are equally committed to making sure the crews, Defence and government have the confidence to deploy ARH Tiger should they need to do so.”

Fraser is himself a former Commander 16 Aviation Brigade and later was Head Helicopter Systems Division within the then Defence Materiel Organisation where he oversaw the Tiger’s introduction into service. He acknowledges the Tiger ARH has had its delays but says Airbus Helicopters “will stay focused on making sure Tiger ARH is ready to go to war”.

“We will continue the improvements made on reliability and increasing flying rates critical to capability maturity. Flying rates were up 20 per cent in 2015 at almost 4,000 hours, and are continuing the 20 per cent increase in 2016 over 2015 rates.”

Further capability expansion for the Tiger will get underway in June, when it will conduct flightdeck handling trials on the Navy LHD amphibious assault ship HMAS Adelaide while alongside in Brisbane. LHD first of class flight trials will then be conducted in early 2017.

“There is a lot of work to be done to get Tiger on to the LHDs,” said BRIG Prictor. “It is a much more complex feat because we have to make sure we safely handle its Hellfire missiles, 70mm rockets and gun rounds while on board, something that you wouldn’t normally have to worry about with our other helicopter types on the LHDs.

“Tiger is not just a helicopter, it is a complex instrument with three precision weapon systems on it with a suite of sensors and electronic warfare self protection systems which all had to be integrated into a machine that flies,” he said.

“It truly is an extraordinary piece of equipment.”

An Australian Regular Army ARH Tiger Helicopter conducts Close Air Support during Exercise BLACK DAGGER in Townsville.
A Tiger takes part in Exercise Black Dagger in Townsville earlier this year. (Defence)

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13 Comments

  • TimC69

    says:

    If we have FOC and all the issues have been resolved, then why not keep the Tigers and if anything order another squadron or two?

    40 Tigers
    40 Taipans
    10-12 Chinnoks
    20 UH 72 lakota’s

    The above would be a formidable air group in anyones language.

  • Ben

    says:

    Well Done

  • BH

    says:

    Given the recent exercise that proved systems can be put in place to allow the Tiger’s Euro grid link to communicate with other platforms, it will be interesting to watch over the coming years to see if the early retirement mindset changes…
    The whitepaper is a high level document so there is potential for plans to change.
    It’s now up to Airbus and the Tiger to exceed expectations…

  • mick181

    says:

    The White Paper could fly out the door the moment if and when Bill Shorten is sworn in as PM,after that it’s all up in the air. Will he stick by the current DWP, write his own or go back to Gillards?. If we have a couple of terms of Labor government than i suspect there will be no Tiger replacement.

  • Adrian P

    says:

    Eight Defence Ministers and Five prime Ministers.
    I wonder who is going to claim the credit?

  • Steve

    says:

    FOC for Tigers took 11 years.

    When are the F-35s going to reach FOC?

  • Peter

    says:

    Project Air 87 (1987) finally meets requirements
    Ex Aaavn

  • mick181

    says:

    Steve the final F-35 is not due in Australia to about 2023 so sometime after that and by then we may be close to a decision on the replacement for the Super Hornets, most likely more F-35As.

  • Adrian P

    says:

    In 1997, Lockheed Martin was selected as one of two companies to participate in the Joint Strike Fighter concept demonstration phase. In October 2001, the Lockheed Martin X-35 was chosen as the winner of the competition and teamed with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems to begin production.
    Come 2023 not such a new aircraft and the concept /reason for having it will be 26 years old.
    How many out there are using a 26 year old computer.

  • Jason

    says:

    F-35 FOC is more likely to be around 2024 once all 72 aircraft have been delivered and supporting basing and other facilities are in place.

    I doubt we’ll see Tiger leave service until 2030 or after as there will be an overlap while the replacement capability is in development and workup.

  • Geober

    says:

    If and when Labor gets in, we shall see another razor taken to defence spending, including cutting the Collins class replacements from 12 to who knows what. Remember last time they were in power.

  • Jason

    says:

    Goeber – it was Labor who first stated we should get 12 subs in PM Rudd’s first White Paper. Both parties have been in step on Defence and security issues in recent years, so your call is a big and largely unfounded one.

  • Andrew64

    says:

    Jason – I agree it was Rudd that stated we needed 12 submarines, and that was as far as it got. All Gillard and her lap dog Steven Smith did was reduce the defence spend. Only the Liberals have increased money into defence, while for Labor it becomes the first department to pull funding.

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