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Defence seeks new light helicopters for special operations

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 26, 2018

The German Army operates 15 H145M helicopters in the special forces support role. (Airbus Helicopters)

The Department of Defence has begun the process of acquiring new light helicopters for Army special forces support with the release of a request for information (RFI).

“The helicopters are to be proven (already in service) commercial or military off-the-shelf, optimised for operating in dense urban environments, and capable of being rapidly deployed by air transport in ADF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III aircraft,” the RFI, released on the Australian Government’s AusTender website on Tuesday, reads.

“The helicopter should be capable of being fitted with simple, proven, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment and weapons systems.”

The project is in an exploratory phase, the RFI notes, and will evaluate “a wide range of procurement options based around a light helicopter as the major system”.

The AusTender website lists a timeframe for delivery of the capability of “approximately 2023”.

A project to acquire a light helicopter for special operations support was first flagged in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

The White Paper’s accompany Integrated Investment Program detailed the need for “deployable light helicopters”, with “a new fleet of light reconnaissance and attack helicopters … acquired from around 2025 to provide air mobility support optimised for special operations missions.”


The Integrated Investment Program listed a program timeframe for the special forces helicopter as 2019-2028 with a budget range of $2-3 billion.

“The new helicopters will likely feature some light armament and modern intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications capabilities for integration with the joint force,” the Integrated Investment Program read.

“They will be able to be deployed rapidly as a small force element of three to four aircraft and personnel by the [C-17] Globemaster.”


The US Army’s Boeing AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird series or the Airbus Helicopters H135M (which would also bring commonality benefits with the H135s/EC 135 T2s recently acquired for Defence helicopter pilot training) or H145M could be among the types offered for the requirement.

The US Army operates the MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird in the special forces support role. (US Army)

Comments (6)

  • PAUL



  • Geoffrey Wilcox


    UH-1Y Venom all the way & AH-1Z Viper to get rid of the tigers . Sure Bell be happy to a good deal for 40 – 45 helicopters

  • Mick C


    Geoffrey you won’t get 4 Venoms into a C-17. The MD-540 based AH-6 purchased via FMS will be the overwhelming favourite.

    • Geoffrey Wilcox


      Just want to see the venoms in Aussie colours

    • Bob


      Except the MD 540 can only carry 4 people and no ISR equipment or /weapons, or ISR and no people or weapons (see where I’m going).

      And you still really need a Blackhawk sized aircraft to carry your main assault force with MH-6 aircraft (that’s what delta etc do).

      There are some confusing / mixed requirements in this RFI. But it’s only an RFI not and RFT so they clearly are looking at what’s out there. I won’t be surprised to see a larger aircraft eg EC-135/A=109 or B429 as possibility depending on what the actual requirements in the RFT are.

      It really depends how heavily weighted the “numbers in one C-17” is as what aircraft types are bid. Plus FMS is traditionally more expensive than a commercial purchase, which is clearly an option here

  • PAUL


    THE MD540F is Armed & carries Minigun Rockets etc Google it to see its capabilities. The RFP states LIGHT HELICOPTER. Even a Tiger is no Light weight.

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