Special Forces helicopter: Industry brief for Land 2097 Phase 4 – Australian Defence Magazine

Kell O’Brien from Special Operations Command outlined that the craft would have to be able to perform domestic and maritime counter terrorism, special operational recovery and combat SAR missions with a strong focus on recovery, interdiction and assault.
“The capability needs to be able to insert and/or extract six operators at precision landing points,” O’Brien said. “This helicopter is replacing Black Hawk but this is not a Black Hawk replacement program, as that program is transitioning to the MRH-90 Taipan.”
He also explained the need to be able to perform in a range of environments and deploy four platforms from the back of a C-17.
Colonel James Brown, director of the battlefield aviation program, was clear in his need for a platform that is ‘ready to go from day one with no special tools or cradles in place’ when it comes to C-17 transport.
“A corporal needs to be able to do this without looking a manual every other moment or needing special tools,” COL Brown told the 100+ room of industry people, confirming that the program is ‘an adjunct to Taipan’ rather than a replacement.
Colonel Brown was also blunt in his assessment of the sustainment environment.
“Reliability, availability and maintainability are key,” he said. “We’re after a mature supply chain. We do not have the people to throw at this program. Fleet size and concurrency of operations across training, ready to go at short notice and deployment under a joint task group scenario are my priorities here. 6th Aviation’s response time is measured in minutes.”
Lieutenant Colonel Travis Hunt from the CASG program office went into further detail about his team’s expectations; a certified aircraft already operating in this role with the engineering work done for fast roping, a sniping position, FLIR fit-out and arming possibilities (a forward-facing machine gun was mentioned). Colonel Brown said the Land 2097 Phase 4 helicopter was not a light attack helicopter (no missiles please) and arming is to be presented as an option rather than a requirement.
The office is looking at running an RFT in Q1 2020 with 4-6 months consideration and an announcement in Q4 2021 to cover both acquisition and support. LTCOL Hunt confirmed that radios and GPS will be supplied as Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) with other GFE options still being explored.
The schedule was outlined as: phase-in 2022-2023 (flying, learning time); capability realisation 2024-2025 (full delivery and support system in place at Holsworthy complete with new facilities supplied by the Commonwealth); and a possible capability extension in 2026-2028 (additional aircraft, arming/weapons).
The program office is also keeping an eye on the US Future Vertical Lift program capability as a possible successor.
Amanda Hall, assistant director for AIC, confirmed that the AIC approach is more focused on ‘maximising opportunity by creating viable and sustainable industry’, noting that there are contractual commitments in terms of work packages and assurance activities to ensure that the outlined AIC plan is complied with.
“We don’t not prescribe percentages of AIC or weighting in decision making processes,” Hall said. “It’s more about development and enhancement of Australian industry by creating global and national opportunities.”
All three presenters noted that leveraging existing industrial bases would be key.
ADM Comment: There are already a mix of contenders who are positioning themselves for the program, with all but Leonardo confirming they will be bidding the program.
All four platforms can do the job. They will each do it slightly differently and each has its own pros and cons when it comes to how it fulfils the mission set. What is clear from the program office though is that C-17 deployability and availability/reliability will be key factors in their decision making process.
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