By Peter La Franchi in Canberra

Australia may buy dedicated special forces light utility helicopters and seaplanes as part of revised plans for its Joint Project 2097 “Redfin” special operations upgrade project.

JP 2097 officials told a closed-door industry briefing in Canberra on 22 June that, while the immediate focus of the project would be on new vehicles, emerging special forces needs also emphasise force projection capabilities with aerospace solutions forming a major part of the requirements.

Australia’s revised 10-year defence capability plan, released last month, contained a JP 2097 funding allocation worth A$350-450 million ($260-330 million) with this due to receive government approval by mid-2008. The new equipment is required to enter service in 2010-11.

The JP 2097 industry briefing was told the proposed force projection capabilities now being examined by the project include air-to-air refuelling for selected Australian Defence Force helicopter types and new light utility helicopters.

The project is also working on requirements for a dedicated “maritime insertion system” comprising either specialised long-range small to medium surface craft, or seaplanes.

Development of the special forces reconnaissance capabilities may also necessitate additional tactical unmanned air vehicle acquisitions to augment the existing Aerovironment Raven and Elbit Skylark systems already purchased by Australia.

Source: Flight International