Airbus Forms Team Nightjar to Offer H145M for Australian LAND 2097 Phase 4 Spec Ops Helicopter Program

Airbus Helicopters has joined hands with over 20 Australian partners to form Team Nightjar to offer its H145 helicopter for Australian LAND 2097 Phase 4 program.

Under Project LAND 2097 Phase 4, the Commonwealth of Australia is seeking a fleet of helicopters to support the Australian Defence Force (ADF)’s Special Operations Forces.

The Team Nightjar members include: Cablex, Cyborg Dynamics, Deakin University, DEWC, ECLIPS, Ferra Engineering, Helicopter Logistics, Helimods, Kinetic Fighting, Kratos Australia, Microflite, PREDICT Australia, QinetiQ Australia, Safran Helicopter Engines Australia, Seeing Machines, Sigma Bravo, Rusada, TAFE NSW, Tagai Management Consultants, Toll Helicopters, University of Technology Sydney, Varley Group and Varley Rafael Australia.

The team is named after Australia’s smallest nocturnal bird of prey, the nightjar. The bird’s characteristics include agility, stealth through its compact size, excellent camouflage, silence in flight and non-reflective eyes. The nightjar is known to hunt in pairs, and catch prey on the wing, combining its heightened senses, agility, speed, power and focus – characteristics which are critical for Special Operations.

“We recognise the importance of working with Australian companies on this programme, with each partner offering niche capabilities to the Commonwealth. Building on our established commitment to Australian industry, Team Nightjar will have a strong focus on Australian industrial support and innovation,” said Andrew Mathewson, Managing Director of Airbus Australia Pacific.

Airbus H145M
The Airbus H145M multi-role helicopter being offered for the Australian Defence Force (ADF)’s LAND 2097 Phase 4 special operations helicopter program. Airbus Photo.

The local consortium will deliver world leading training solutions, empower indigenous participation, and enable rapid design and delivery of enhancements throughout the programme’s lifetime. With a clear commitment to invest in Australian-led innovation, the teaming proposal will generate over AUD250 million of economic benefits and more than 170 Australian jobs.

“We believe these capabilities will greatly enhance the core offering of the very capable H145M helicopter, while providing local jobs, technology transfer and export opportunities. The Commonwealth is seeking a proven, mature and highly reliable off-the-shelf platform and robust support systems. The H145M that we are proposing is the latest member of the H145 family, which has flown over 5.9 million hours with more than 1,400 aircraft in service globally across civil, parapublic and military domains. It is well supported by a mature global network.”

“The H145M is an exemplar platform for light special operations and is a solid match for the Special Forces’ requirements, with proven capabilities for no-fail, high-readiness missions,” added Mathewson.

LAND 2097 Phase 4

The LAND 2097 Phase 4 project seeks to procure a fleet of light helicopters to enhance the Special Operations Aviation Capability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as advised in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

According to the RFI released, the helicopters are to be proven (already in service) Commercial or Military off the shelf, optimised for operating in dense urban environments, and capable of being rapidly deployed by air transport in Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)’s C-17A Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft.

The helicopter should be also capable of being fitted with simple, proven, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) equipment and weapons systems. The new helicopters are scheduled to enter service around 2023.

Airbus Helicopters is offering its H145M for the program while Babcock is offering customised  Bell 429 Global Ranger.

Airbus H145M

The light twin-engine Airbus H145M rotor-wing aircraft is an operationally proven, affordable and low-risk option for Australia, complementing the MRH90 Taipan with improved mobility and situational awareness for special operations.

By virtue of its compact size, the H145M will be optimised for operations within dense urban terrain and will be rapidly deployable via a RAAF C-17A Globemaster strategic airlifter.

The H145M is tried and tested and is gaining popularity among defence forces due to its excellent price-performance ratio and the short delivery time, counting military forces in Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Serbia and Thailand as customers. In particular, the H145M is today supporting special operations roles with the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) with mission readiness of above 99%, delivering safety and superior power and payload.

Hungarian Defence Forces H145M Helicopters
Airbus H145M helicopters of the Hungarian Defence Forces. Airbus Photo.

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