Australia will replace its fleet of 22 Airbus Helicopters Tiger armed reconnaissance rotorcraft in the mid-2020s with a mix of manned and unmanned assets.
The disclosure was made in Australia’s 2016 defence whitepaper. Other requirements include the planned acquisition of light helicopters for special forces use, and a plan to explore the possibility of a long-range combat search and rescue asset.
“Armed reconnaissance helicopter operations will rely increasingly on intelligence and mission data and access to the common operating picture and other real time data for effective integration with joint forces,” says the whitepaper.
“The Tiger has had a troubled history – essential upgrades are programmed to maintain the capability’s effectiveness. Defence will invest in a future armed reconnaissance capability to replace the Tiger, which could include manned or unmanned systems or a combination of both, to be introduced from the mid-2020s.”
Canberra also plans to obtain “light helicopters” that can be easily transported aboard the Boeing C-17 strategic transport.
“A new capability for the ADF will be introduced with the acquisition of dedicated light helicopters to support Special Forces operations,” says the whitepaper. “These light helicopters can be rapidly deployed in C-17s, and can insert, extract and provide fire support for small teams of special forces undertaking tasks ranging from tactical observation through to counter-terrorism missions, or hostage recovery.”
Another new capability Canberra plans to explore in the 2020s is “a long-range, aero-medical evacuation and combat search and rescue aircraft.”
The whitepaper did not explicitly state if this would be fixed-wing aircraft or a helicopter, but it requires that it be “capable of operating with the amphibious ships.”
In addition, Canberra confirmed its interest in three additional CH-47F Chinooks, taking its fleet of the twin rotor type to 10. The US government approved a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) case for this in December 2015.