Airbus to compete in Australian Special Forces Helicopter Under LAND 2097 Programme

Airbus confirmed that they will be offering their H145M platform for the requirement of LAND 2097 Phase 4 of Australian SAS, — create partnership with a number of local suppliers to support their Australian Industry Capability (AIC) approach.

“The H145M is a proven mature helicopter and it’s got about five million hours of heritage that has been slowly developed over the years,” Andrew Mathewson, MD Airbus AP said. “The reason I mention that, of course, is that we know that the customer is after an off-the-shelf capability and we can offer that. This is an aircraft that’s been used by hundreds of customers around the world.

“The M version specifically though is a military version. It’s being used by the German Special Forces. We in Airbus provide aircraft from Europe. The engineering that supports this capability is through the engineering that comes out of Donauwörth in Germany and one of the very happy end users of the H145M is the German Special Forces.

The Program Office has made it very clear that they want something commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) which can be supported through the civil aviation environment. AAP is looking to leverage the existing civil network in the region to support the military variant in Australia.

“The H145 and the H145M is the latest version on the BK117 family of aircraft and this stems all the way back to the old BO105,” explained Laurie Alexander, Senior Sales Manager Military Helicopters, Strategy Sales and Marketing. “So it’s really been developed over quite a few decades, this platform.

“But globally this aircraft has quite a strong footprint and that’s quite good for the number of airframes in operation. It also means that the supply, the support solution for the helicopter is mature, and as Andrew alluded to, this aircraft is being used by the German special forces is achieving very good metrics, and it’s got very good performance for the platform itself.

“These spares will be in existence for support to all aircraft around the world, and what that means is that you don’t suffer the same challenge in terms of supply chain. The supply chain is assured because it’s providing the same components to a number of customers around the world and you don’t end up also having the difficulty of having to track specific serial numbers, they’re dynamic components, as you do with other aircraft types.

“Defence is slowly moving into this way of supporting its aircraft. And there are a number of other platforms already that have a shared pool of spare components.”

Airbus AP is also on board with the AIC emphasis coming from government. Their team includes Safran Helicopter Engines for engine support, QinetiQ Australia for verification and validation work and mission trainers, Toll Helicopters, Rafael, Thales Australia, Sigma Bravo for mission planning and a company called Helicopter Logistics from WA.

“We want to partner with Helicopter Logistics as a loyalty partner so that when these aircraft, if we’re successful, are operating in the west in support of special operations, we’ll have a footprint on the ground to provide that direct support, so that Defence doesn’t have to have a separate logistics arrangement in place because industry will be able to cover that off,” Matthewson explained.

1,600 of the helicopters have been delivered worldwide. 
1,600 of the helicopters have been delivered worldwide. Airbus

“We’ve worked really hard to develop a really comprehensive team of companies that will contribute to this. We want to offer our customer the greatest agility in how they utilise and adapt this aircraft to their future use. In this instance, we’re using a teaming agreement to complement the Airbus AP offering.

At this point, Leonardo’s Augusta Westland would not comment on the program except to say that ‘it is a program of interest for them’.

Two contenders have officially broken cover on the Special Forces helicopter requirement under Land 2097 Phase 4; Airbus Australia Pacific (Airbus AP) and Babcock Australia.

Interestingly, the company did release the fact that its Bankstown Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility has expanded its CASA 145 approval with the addition of Bell 429 Helicopters last month.

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