Boeing’s AH-64E Apache Guardian will replace the Australian Army’s beleaguered Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter capability from 2025, writes Stephen Kuper.
It comes after a damning National Audit Office report in 2016 found 76 “capability deficiencies” with the Tiger fleet, including 60 of which that were deemed to be critical. It was then revealed only a fraction of the aircraft were available to be flown on any given day in 2015.
Lessons learnt from issues with the ARH Tiger informed the strategy to seek a proven, mature ARH replacement capability.
“This new ARH capability will strengthen Australia’s armed reconnaissance force to better shape our strategic environment and deter actions against our national interest. Defence considered a number of helicopters against key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system,” Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said.
“The Apache Guardian is the most lethal, most survivable and lowest risk option, meeting all of Defence’s capability, through-life support, security, and certification requirements.
“By pursuing a proven and low-risk system offered by the Apache, Defence will avoid the ongoing cost and schedule risk typically associated with developmental platforms.
“The project will deliver on the government’s vision to maximise Australian industry involvement in defence capability. There are potential opportunities for Australian industry in logistic support, warehousing services, training development, engineering services, and maintenance, repair and overhaul.
“Maximising these opportunities for Australian businesses will enable the future growth of our local rotary wing industry and will present opportunities for Australian industry involvement in the aircraft’s global supply chain.”
The AH-64E Apache is one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter and represents the backbone of the US Army attack helicopter fleet, as well as a growing number of international defence forces.
A Boeing Defence Australia spokesperson said, “Boeing appreciates the Commonwealth of Australia’s confidence in selecting the AH-64E Apache’s proven, reliable and value-for-money capability.
“The AH-64E Apache provides Australia with a low-risk, fully-integrated, battle-proven capability which is interoperable with Australia’s key allies. It is supported by an active production line and a US Army modernisation plan through the late 2040s, thereby ensuring the platform remains the leading attack reconnaissance capability through 2050 and beyond.”