Australian Army looking at special-ops ‘little birds’

The Australian Army is looking to possibly acquire a fleet of light helicopters to enhance the its special-operations aviation capability.

FILE PHOTOSpecial operations operators onboard an MH-6 Little Bird helicopter assault a simulated enemy position in an urban setting during a capabilities demo at the 2018 International Special Operations Forces week in Tampa, Florida. Photo by US Air Force Master Sergeant Barry Loo.

Project LAND 2097 Phase 4 is currently in an exploratory phase, collecting information and proposals to inform concepts that could help bring this capability to fruition.

This development was advised in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

The helicopters being sought must to be proven (already in service) commercial- or military-off-the-shelf.

They should be optimised for operating in dense urban environments, and capable of being rapidly deployed by air in RAAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III aircraft.

The helicopter should be capable of being fitted with simple, proven, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment and weapon systems.

Project LAND 2097 Phase 4 is considering a wide range of procurement options based around a light helicopter as the major system.

The acquisition strategy for the project is developmental and is subject to government approval.

This RFI seeks industry’s input on potential solutions that could satisfy the project’s needs.

Initial goals are to identify major systems that can form the basis for the capability and is the primary focus of Defence’s engagement with industry at this time.

A Defence spokesman said the project sought experienced prime system integrators who held the ability to source a suitable platform, conduct integration of specialist role equipment and support the introduction into service of a new aviation capability.

“Proposals should address ongoing support in sustainment which may include engineering and supply services, while allowing for flexibility in transfer of technical data for sustainment services by a provider of the Commonwealth’s choosing,” he said.

“Responses to this request for information should be submitted in the knowledge that funding for this project has not yet been approved and that the Commonwealth may decide not to proceed.

“However, the information being sought by this RFI has been identified by Defence as important for planning purposes, and to inform Defence decision making.”

These helicopters – if they are eventually purchased – would not be delivered to the ADF for at least five years.

They are intended for operation by the Army’s 6th Aviation Regiment at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney, alongside the Blackhawks, supporting special operations forces.

Project LAND 2097 Phase 4 is valued at between $2 and 3 billion.

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Brian Hartigan

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