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17 February 2016

White Paper II: Bell Bonds with BAE to Target Tiger

In a thinly veiled threat to Airbus Helicopters’ assertions that its mid-life upgrade will solve the Australian Army’s ongoing dissatisfaction with its Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH), Bell Helicopter and BAE Systems Australia have signed an agreement regarding future military helicopter opportunities that may arise within the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Lisa Atherton, executive vice president of Military Business for Bell Helicopter said that the agreement “establishes the groundwork… for future customers of Bell Helicopter military rotorcraft in Australia.”

The executive summary of the Defence White Paper 2015 set the following for consideration:
“The number of attack helicopters must be significantly increased, be ship deployable, and carry air-to-air missiles for self-defence. If problems persist with the current ARH Tigers, and/or increased numbers of these aircraft become too expensive or impractical to acquire, then off-the-shelf AH-64Es, British AH1s, or USMC AH-1Zs should be acquired.”

Atherton said that its AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter will be in production for its U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) main customer until 2021. Should the Australian government see a requirement for the attack helicopter for the ADF, she stated that Bell Helicopter had the potential to increase its production capacity without effecting deliveries to the USMC, or to the Pakistan Army who are acquiring 15 AH-1Zs.

Director Steve Drury signed the MoU on behalf of BAE Systems Australia Aerospace. His company already supports the ADF’s fleet of Boeing CH-47 Chinooks and the Royal Australian Navy’s Sikorsky S-70B Seahawks.

Andrew Drwiega