Airbus Australia Pacific has confirmed it has responded to the Commonwealth’s request for information (RFI) for Army’s Project LAND 2097 Phase 4 light deployable special forces support helicopter with its H145M.
Under the project, the Army requires at least 16 helicopters for urban special forces operations and that can be deployed rapidly via Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A transports. The new helicopter will complement the larger machines currently operated by the Army’s 6 Aviation Regiment (6Avn) at Holsworthy in Sydney, which is currently transitioning from the S-70A-9 Black Hawk to the Airbus MRH90 Taipan.
The new helicopter’s primary mission will be to support small-team air assault by special forces, but will have the ability to be rapidly reconfigured for utility, ISR, and fire-support roles. It is envisaged there will be four troops of the light helicopters, each with four helicopters.
“The Airbus H145M helicopter is the military version of the H145 – the most advanced member of Airbus’ multi-purpose twin-engine category,” Airbus Australia Pacific managing director Andrew Mathewson said in a statement. “It is based on a commercial off-the-shelf platform with military-specific modifications and is an operationally proven, affordable and low-risk option for Australia.”
“The Airbus Australia Pacific response included selected industry partners and the provision of training, maintenance, logistics and engineering activities. A comprehensive transfer of technology and skills will make Airbus Australia Pacific a regional centre able to proactively support Australian operational needs, and export this knowledge back into the wider H145M community.”
Mathewson started as Airbus Australia Pacific managing director in January 2019. Previously, he was the head of helicopter systems division at the Department of Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG).
Last July, Airbus revealed it had modelled the ability to fit four H145M helicopters in a C-17 cargo hold and to be able to unload them to be ready to fly within 30 minutes of landing at a deployed location, but declined to say which customer it was modelling it for.
The H145 was formerly designated EC145 which itself was a development of the Kawasaki/MBB BK117 helicopter. The machine has been continuously improved over the years, most notably with the addition of a redesigned forward cab, advanced Helionix avionics, more powerful engines and dynamic components, and a shrouded fenestron tail rotor.
Other possible responses to the four-tonne LAND 2097 Phase 4 requirement are expected to include Boeing with its AH-6i Little Bird, Bell/BAE Systems with the Bell 407GX/GT or the larger Bell 429, and possibly Leonardo with its A119.