Australia’s Special Air Service (SAS) is on the hunt for a new helicopter

Australia’s Special Operations Forces are among the hardest worked troops in the defence force. From the mountains of Afghanistan to the deserts of Iraq, they’ve spent the past two decades quietly doing their immensely difficult job.

Australia’s Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) is looking for the best helicopter available to carry them into — and out of — harm’s way. The chopper must be able of delivering an air-assault team to a desired landing zone and return home safely.

The 2016 Defence White Paper called for a new helicopter to “insert, extract and provide fire support for small teams of Special Forces undertaking tasks ranging from tactical observation through to counter-terrorism missions, or hostage recovery.” it must be compact enough for several to be stowed aboard the RAAF’s Boeing C-17 strategic cargo aircraft, enabling them to be deployed alongside special forces troops anywhere around the world — at a moment’s notice.

Defence has stated they will be used by the Australian Army’s 6th Aviation Regiment as four separate units. Two will be deployable teams. One will operate independently. The fourth will be stationed at Holsworthy Barracks in NSW, alongside rapid-response special forces troops.

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Here are three of the main contenders- a medium-sized multi-role helicopter, the Airbus H145M, a key feature of the H145M is the wide range of available optional mission equipment packages that can be rapidly installed and removed, based on the requirements of the mission. Second option, the GT model of the commercial Bell 407GX utility helicopter is being sold as a light attack, multi-role, multi-mission vehicle, the Leonardo AW109 “Trekker” lightweight twin-engine design is a commercial aircraft already used in medical evacuation and rescue roles. Italian manufacturer Leonardo says it can carry six troops, has state-of-the-art digital avionics, and can be given cargo, infra-red, video and weapons capability.

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