Boeing and Thales have selected the Eurocopter EC135 as the preferred platform in their bid for the Australian Defence Force's (ADF) Air 9000 Phase 7 Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) tender.
"Thorough flight and ground assessments of the EC135 [as well as] its suitability for ab initio training and as a lead-in trainer to more complex and larger helicopters made it clear the EC135 was the optimum platform to meet the ADF's requirements," said Kim Gillis, managing director of Boeing Defence Australia.
The EC135 is already used as a training asset by operators including Japan's navy
Other teams bidding for the tender include BAE Systems/CAE/AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter/Raytheon and Lockheed Martin/Bristow Helicopter. Eurocopter's Australian unit, Australian Aerospace, could also enter a bid.
Air 9000 Phase 7 aims to provide a comprehensive training package that includes both facilities and aircraft for the joint training of Royal Australian Navy and Australian Army helicopter pilots. It will see the replacement of the navy's Eurocopter AS350 Squirrels and the army's Bell OH-58 Kiowa helicopters with a single type.
A request for the tender of the requirement was issued last week.
Australia's Defence Materiel Organisation has not specified the number of helicopters to be operated, leaving it up to bidders to submit their suggestions. It estimates the cost of the programme to be between A$500 million ($530 million) and A$1 billion.
"HATS is intended to provide a rotary wing training capability for [the] navy and army to meet the future rotary wing training needs of the ADF," said Australia's Department of Defence.
"The project aims to deliver a system that encompasses elements of live, synthetic and classroom aviation instruction, to overcome the broadening gap between the current rotary training systems and the advanced operational helicopters in the current and planned future ADF inventories. There is a broad range of acquisition options under consideration," the DoD added.