Attack helicopter will release live weapons against potentially armoured target

The Australian army's Eurocopter Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH) will enter a key period next month when the first of the service's 22 aircraft will conduct a final series of test firings of Lockheed Martin's AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided air-to-surface missile at the Woomera test range.

Planned for completion in May, the test campaign is expected to include the designation of targets from the ground for the first time for the Australian aircraft, and will culminate in the release of two live weapons against a potentially armoured target, says Marc Jouan, ARH vice-president for Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace. If required, additional clearance activities will be conducted during a range slot in September.

Software testing of the Tiger's EADS-supplied EuroGrid mission and moving-map system will conclude around the same time as the Hellfire's clearance, he adds. The Australian army took delivery of its first two Tigers last December from Eurocopter's Marignane plant in France and will receive six more this year, including its first examples assembled by Australian Aerospace.

The Australian Department of Defence is meanwhile poised to sign a letter of intent to advance its planned acquisition of 12 NH Industries MRH90 utility helicopters, says Eurocopter chief executive Fabrice Bregier. A contract signature is expected by late May, ensuring first aircraft deliveries by late 2007.

Australian defence minister Robert Hill and Eurocopter have agreed that Australian Aerospace will assemble eight of the army's MRH90s, against an original plan to complete just six of the aircraft locally.

Source: Flight International