Australia replaces ARH Tiger with AH-64E Guardian | Defence Database
Australia replaces ARH Tiger with AH-64E Guardian
Posted by: Andrei Dcs on 2021-05-09 06:27:45

The AH-64E Guardian will be the future attack helicopter of the Australian Army.

The American model will replace the Eurocopter ARH Tiger attack helicopter that will be withdrawn from service after an operational period of almost 20 years.

Australia has finally made this decision following numerous problems it has had with the European helicopter.

Picture Author: Andrew Arch from Melbourne, Australia / Wikimedia Source: [link] / Main Source: [link]

End of the road for the Eurocopter Tiger in the service of the Australian Army

Australia will replace the current Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters with the American AH-64E Apache Guardian.

The acquisition of American Apache helicopters takes place within the Australian LAND4503 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) Replacement program.

Australia has decided to withdraw the Tiger helicopters due to several issues related to their reliability and maintenance costs.

Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds justified the decision by saying the Australian government had learned its lessons from the Tiger problems and had chosen a mature and proven successor.

Thus, Canberra will buy 29 Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters whose delivery will start in 2025.

Eurocopter Tiger in the service of the Australian Army

Since 2004, the Australian Army has operated 22 Eurocopter Tiger reconnaissance and attack helicopters.

Australia has purchased the Tiger ARH (Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter) variant to replace the old OH-58 Kiowa and UH-1 Iroquois Bushranger models.

Twenty years ago, back in December 2001, Australia placed an order for 22 Eurocopter Tiger ARH attack helicopters.

The first two units were delivered to Australia on December 15, 2004, and six years later, in June 2010, Australia received all the 22 Tiger helicopters.

The plan provided for the full operationalization capability to be reached by December 2011.

Entering the service of the Australian Army, they reached the final operational capacity on April 18, 2016.

In April 2019, the Australian Army and Airbus Helicopters extended the maintenance contract for Tiger helicopters for another five years, until 2025.

Australia has chosen the Tiger ARH model

Eurocopter Tiger is a four-blade, twin-engine attack helicopter, developed by the European consortium Eurocopter, Airbus helicopter division, now called Airbus Helicopters.

The Tiger ARH, the Australian model, is a modernized version of the Tiger HAP with upgraded MTR390 engines.

The Tiger ARH is also equipped with a laser designator built into the Strix sight.

The laser designator was installed to guide the Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles.

Instead of SNEB unguided rockets, Tiger ARH uses 70 mm (2.75 in) caliber missiles manufactured by the Belgian company Forges de Zeebrugge (FZ).

Most Australian Tiger helicopters are operated by the First Aviation Regiment based at Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

The Tiger helicopters were delivered to Australia in pieces and assembled locally by Australia Aerospace at Brisbane Airport.

Australia is the only non-European customer of the Eurocopter Tiger

Australia, being the only non-European customer of Tiger and being at a considerable distance from Europe, faced problems regarding the logistics chain that the European allies did not have.

With the exception of Australia, the Eurocopter Tiger is used by three major European powers that are also the manufacturers of this helicopter.

These countries are France, Germany and Spain.

Australia has encountered problems with the operationalization of the Eurocopter Tiger

Australia, far from Europe, was a somewhat exotic customer for the Eurocopter Tiger, which is only used by its producing countries: France, Germany and Spain.

Thus, the operationalization of Tiger proved to be problematic for the Australian Army, which encountered many problems in the operation and maintenance of the European helicopter.

Eurocopter Tiger has proven to be an expensive to maintain rotorcraft for the Australians, and its the price/performance ratio became questionable from Canberra's perspective.

The Tiger helicopters have given the Australians a hard time, as they face technical problems and high operating costs.

In 2012, there were three incidents regarding steam in the cabin, which endangered the health and lives of Australian pilots.

As a result, Australian pilots decided not to pilot the aircraft until these problems were remedied.

In 2016, the Australian Defence White Paper mentioned the decision to replace the Tiger ARH helicopters with other reconnaissance and attack helicopters in the mid-2020s.

Among the problems mentioned were the incompatibility of Australian Tiger helicopters with other Tiger variants, huge costs for maintenance works on the engines as well as the long time to send components to Europe for repair or reconditioning.

Although most of these issues have been resolved, the decision to look for an alternative has remained a final one.

Three options have been considered regarding the future of Australian attack helicopters

Prior to the final decision for the AH-64 Apache, three options were considered by Canberra regarding the future of the Australian Army's attack helicopter fleet.

Criteria considered by the Australian Department of Defense regarding future attack helicopters included proven combat and operational capability, the maturity of the aircraft and the completed operational system.

It analyzed not only the acquisition of new helicopters or the modernization of existing ones, but also the cost over a period of operation of 20 years, operational availability and compatibility with allied systems.

1) Option no. 1: Modernization of existing Tiger ARH helis and acquisition of another 7 units

A first option provided for the upgrading of the 22 Tiger helicopters already in service as well as the purchase of seven additional units.

That's because the Australian Army has determined that it needs 29 reconnaissance and attack helicopters.

2) Option no. 2: Acquisition of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters produced by Bell Helicopters

The AH-1Z Viper is the latest model in the Cobra attack helicopter family.

Featuring two engines, the AH-1Z Viper is the main attack helicopter of the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

3) Option no. 3: Acquisition of Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters

The third option provided for the purchase of Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters.

This was also the winning option, with Australia concluding that the new Apache version is the most capable and proven combat helicopter available on the market.

Following a thorough analysis, it was concluded that the modernization of the current fleet of Tiger helicopters, the acquisition of seven more units and their operation over a period of 20 years would be similar in price to the purchase of 29 Apache helicopters and their operation on a similar period of time.

The final decision to withdrawn the Tiger helicopters from active service

Although most of the problems with the Tigers have been resolved, the decision to retire them has been made.

In 2016, the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) Replacement program was launched, which included the acquisition of a successor to the Tiger ARH helicopters.

In July 2019, Australia's Capability, Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) issued a request for information to replace the Tiger helicopters.

Australians were looking for an existing, mature helicopter, whose combat and operational capabilities have been proven, and which can be operated even on board the Australian helicopter carrier then under construction.

According to the deadlines issued in the request for information, the initial operational capacity had to be reached by 2026 and all 29 helicopters and training systems had to be delivered by 2029 at the latest.

AH-64E Apache Guardian, the future Australian Army attack helicopter

As part of the Australian Army's new Land 4503 procurement program, Boeing has submitted an offer to Australia offering 29 AH-64E helicopters.

Boeing has guaranteed that all 29 helicopters will reach initial operational capability in 2026 and full operational capability by 2029 as set out in the request for information document.

In January 2021, the Australian Government officially announced that it would purchase an unspecified number of AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters to replace the Tiger helicopters.

According to Defense Minister Linda Reynolds, the government has learned its lessons from the problems with the Tiger helicopters and has chosen a "proven and mature" successor (AH-64).

Minister Reynolds added that the upcoming AH-64 Apache will provide new opportunities for the local defense industry that will support the local aircraft industry including local maintenance and repairs works, plus hangar hosting services, and staff training.

Negotiations with the Americans for the 29 Apace helicopters are carried out in the government-to-government [G2G] mode via the FMS system.

Currently the details of the transaction are still being negotiated.

The AH-64E Guardian is a heavy attack helicopter adapted for maritime operations.

Being a newer version of the famous AH-64 Apache, the AH-64E Guardian is equipped with the new T700-GE-701D engines and its rotor blades are made of composite materials.

Australia will become the seventh user of Apache helicopters in the region along with South Korea, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan.