Army’s special-ops helicopter purchase cancelled

The Australian Army has reportedly cancelled its requirement for 16 light helicopters for use by Special Operations Command.

FILE PHOTO: H145M helicopter with ‘plug-and-play’ weapon systems was one of the contenders for Army’s Project LAND 2097 Phase 4, now cancelled. Airbus Helicopters photo by Anthony Pecchi.

This requirement for a new fleet of helicopters was identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper, but now cancelled in light of the acquisition of new Black Hawk and Apache fleets and the expansion of the Chinook and UAV fleets.

In 2018, Project LAND 2097 Phase 4 formally explored concepts that could help bring this capability to fruition.

The helicopters being sought were to have been already proven, commercial- or military-off-the-shelf, optimised for operating in dense urban environments, and capable of being rapidly deployed by C-17A Globemaster.

Initial requests for info, which progressed to a formal tendering process in 2020, said the helicopter should also be capable of being fitted with simple, proven, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment and weapon systems.

However, speaking at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon, Victoria, this month, the Australian Army’s Aviation Command boss Major General Stephen Jobson reportedly said the project was cancelled because of overlapping capabilities in Army’s new and expanding helicopter and UAV fleets.

“The UH-60M Black Hawk will come into service as an aircraft system that will provide dedicated support to Australia’s special forces,” Major General Jobson said.

“All 22 Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters will be replaced by 29 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters later in the decade, and the CH-47 fleet has already been increased from 10 to 14 aircraft.

“We’re also moving from two batteries of Shadow tactical unmanned aerial systems to three batteries of the Insitu Integrator UAS.”

Three bid teams were in the running for Project LAND 2097 Phase 4 – Airbus with its H145M (pictured) and two teams both with solutions based on the Bell 429.

Project LAND 2097 Phase 4 was initially valued at between $2 to $3 billion.


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Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

2 thoughts on “Army’s special-ops helicopter purchase cancelled

  • 14/03/2023 at 4:04 pm
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    Airbourne assault, other than in uncontested airspace and poorly armed enemies is or should be a dead concept, as for using in Urban combat, that’s just ridiculous, even Somali tribesmen were able to knock out US helicopters and the weapons these days are more dangerous. Ukraine has pretty much sealed it’s fate too. At best attack helicopters are used as expensive rocket launchers from a distance as anything too close to the front line is too dangerous. Russia has lost half if not more of its KA-52’s and many of its Mi24 and Mi28’s. Ukraine too has lost a lot of Mi-24 and other helicopters.
    This is a smart decision, but even the use of Chinook’s, Apache, and Blackhawks needs to be reconsidered in any future war, if it’s against China, forget about it or be prepared for major losses.

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  • 13/03/2023 at 8:00 am
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    So the capability gap that H145M was going to fill is left wide open again? Seriously, a UH-60M is going to be able to do what these aircraft were going to do – if you can get one when you need it. As for UAS, these aircraft are being changed, made redundant and up graded continuously.

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