Boeing’s AH-64E Apache Guardian has been selected to replace the Australian Army’s 22-strong fleet of Airbus Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARHs), with the first of 29 aircraft expected to be delivered in 2025.
The selection came under Australia’s LAND 4503 programme and was announced by the nation’s Defence Minister Linda Reynolds on January 15. In which, she said that the Apache Guardian will be delivered to the Australian Army, equipped with improved sensors, communications suites, attack capabilities and enhanced 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.
“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,” Reynolds said.
Under the LAND 4503 programme, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) considered a number of options against a key criteria of proven ability, maturity and an off-the-shelf operating system. According to the DoD, lessons learned from issues with the Tiger ARH and other rotary wing projects informed the strategy to seek a proven and mature replacement capability. The AH-64E was selected over Bell’s AH-1Z Viper and Airbus Helicopters’ proposed upgrade of the army’s incumbent Tiger ARH fleet.
The Australian Army’s Tiger ARH fleet entered service in December 2004. The service received its 22nd and final example of the platform on December 1, 2011. During its time with the service, the ARH has suffered from availability, performance and logistics support issues.