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Airbus Helicopters offers H145M for Australian SOF role

18 March 2019
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Airbus Helicopters has confirmed it is to bid its H145M battlefield support helicopter for Australia's special forces requirement.

The H145M demonstrates its special forces credentials with the German KSK counter-terrorism unit. The type is now to be offered to Australia in a similar role. (Airbus Helicopters)The H145M demonstrates its special forces credentials with the German KSK counter-terrorism unit. The type is now to be offered to Australia in a similar role. (Airbus Helicopters)

The announcement, made by the company on 18 March, comes eight months after Jane's first reported that Airbus was discussing with a potential customer a requirement to airlift up to four H145Ms aboard a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft for rapid forward deployment.

While the head of H145M marketing, Christian Fachini, declined at that time to identify the prospective customer, Australia was known to have such a requirement for its special operations forces (SOFs).

Australia's Land 2097 Phase 4 requirement for an SOF helicopter came to light in the country's Defence Integrated Investment Programme (DIIP), which was published in 2016. As noted in the DIIP, the new fleet of deployable light reconnaissance and attack helicopters to provide air-mobility support for SOF missions is scheduled to be fielded from about 2025. As previously reported by Jane's , the helicopters will be able to be deployed rapidly from a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17 as a small force element of three-to-four aircraft and personnel.

The programme timeframe was listed as 2025-28, with a budget range of AUD2-3 billion (USD1.5-2.3 billion). Besides Airbus Helicopters and its H145M, Jane's was previously told that Bell is offering its UH-1Y Venom, Leonardo its AW109, and NorthStar Aviation its 407 MultiRole Helicopter (MRH) as potential SOF solutions. Other potential candidates that have yet to formally register their interest could include Boeing and its AH-6i, as well as MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) and its MD 530F/G.

Once in service, the selected airframe will augment the larger NHIndustries NH90 (MRH90 in national service), which is currently transitioning over to the special forces role in place of the Sikorsky S-70A Black Hawk. The first two MRH90s were delivered to the special forces regiment on 1 February, at which time two Black Hawks were withdrawn.

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