Re-launch of Australia's Air 87 armed reconnaissance helicopter competition could slip to March as the requirement is reconsidered as part of an ongoing defence policy review.

The Department of Defence had planned to restart the project with the release of new tenders on 30 June, but missed the deadline. The Australian Government shelved the initial competition in January after a successful appeal against the shortlist by Bell.


The Air 87 project office requested permission from defence minister John Moore in mid-June to restart the bidding, but this was deferred for possible consideration by the cabinet in early August. The plan was also dropped pending the outcome of the defence white paper.

In late June, head of rotary wing and missile projects in the Defence Material Organisation, Gunnar Tuisk, wrote to Agusta, Bell, Boeing and Eurocopter advising that the new tender was potentially delayed for up to three weeks. Redrafting could take at least two months, say Australian analysts.

The decision to defer the tender release until after the white paper is published raises the possibility of significant requirement changes leading to a further reworking of the documentation.

Prior to the Bell appeal, Australia shortlisted the Agusta A129I Scorpion, Boeing AH-64 Apache and Eurocopter Tiger for the 25-30 aircraft requirement.

Source: Flight International