THE AUSTRALIAN Army has begun a study to define its requirements for an enhanced air-defence missile system to replace the British Aerospace Rapier.

Expressions of interest are now being sought from Australian-based (or registered) consultant companies to conduct a study of costs and technical trade-offs. The study forms part of the initial project-definition stage.

A complementary, major capabilities study, to identify future threats and define the system's operational performance, is being carried out internally within Australia's Defence Department. The two studies are due to be completed by mid-1998.

Stage two calls for formal approval for the Land 117 project and request for tenders by the following fiscal year. A final decision on system procurement is tentatively scheduled for around 2000/1.

According to programme sources, preliminary requirements call for a "mid-level system" capable of defeating high-performance aircraft and standoff precision-guided weapons. The new missile will need to have an effective field of fire at least twice that of the 7km (3.8nm)-range Rapier.

The system will be equipped with an all-weather day/night operational capability. It will be fitted with its own integral surveillance system and will be compatible with Australia's air-defence network. In addition, it will need to offer strategic and tactical mobility and be able to fit inside a Lockheed Martin C-130 transport.

Rockwell Australia has completed the first avionics upgrade of an Australian Army Bell 206B-1 Kiowa helicopter. The $8 million programme covers the fitting of new communications equipment, antennae, navigation aids and cables. The modified helicopter will undergo a one-month flight-test programme at Williams AB, Laverton, after which the remaining 41 Army Kiowas will be upgraded.

Source: Flight International