Australia has selected Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters to replace the Australian Army’s Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) fleet.
The A$4.5 billion acquisition of 29 new helicopters to replace the 22-strong Tiger fleet is being conducted under the LAND 4503 ARH replacement program and will strengthen Australian Army’s armed reconnaissance capability. The government is expecting the delivery of the new helicopters from 2025 with the fleet reaching full operating capability by 2029.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the AH-64E Apache Guardian is equipped with improved sensors, communications suites, attack capabilities and improved survivability.
“This new ARH capability will strengthen Australia’s armed reconnaissance force to better shape our strategic environment and deter actions against our national interest,” Minister Reynolds said. “Defence considered a number of helicopters against key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system. 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.”
Lessons learnt from issues with the ARH Tiger and other rotary wing projects had informed the strategy to seek a proven, mature ARH replacement capability.
“The project will deliver on the Government’s vision to maximise Australian industry involvement in defence capability,” Minister Reynolds said. “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.”
Australian Department of Defence said in a statement that a detailed transition planning will be conducted to ensure effective management of the skilled workforce, across Defence and industry, as Defence transitions the Tiger to the Apache.
Boeing AH-64 Apache/AH-64E Apache “Guardian”
Boeing AH-64 Apache is an American four-blade, twin-turboshaft attack helicopter considered as one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter.
The AH-64E Guardian, formerly known as AH-64D Block III, is the latest variant of the AH-64 Apache. The AH-64E features improved digital connectivity, the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTDS), more powerful T700-GE-701D turboshaft engines with upgraded face gear transmission to accommodate more power, capability to control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), full Instrument flight rules (IFR) capability, and improved landing gear.
The Apache Guardian is armed with an M230 30mm automatic chain gun carried between the forward-positioned main landing gears. It has four hardpoints mounted on stub-wing pylons, capable of carrying a mixture of Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles (AGM), Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) II guided rocket pods, 2.75 in. Hydra rocket pods and FIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles (AAM).
The helicopter features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems and can also be equipped with the AN/APG-78 Longbow millimeter-wave fire-control radar (FCR), housed in a dome located above the main rotor.
Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches, across the variants, to customers around the world since the aircraft entered production with the primary customer being the U.S. Army.
The Tiger ARH (Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter) is a version of Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) Tiger attack helicopter ordered by the Australian Army to replace its OH-58 Kiowas and UH-1 Iroquois-based ‘Bushranger’ gunships.
The Tiger ARH is a modified and upgraded version of the Tiger HAP with upgraded MTR390 engines as well as a laser designator incorporated in the Strix sight for the firing of Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles. Instead of SNEB unguided rockets, the ARH will use 70 mm (2.75 in) rockets from Belgian developer, Forges de Zeebrugge (FZ).