Air 5416 - Project Echidna Update
Greg Combet, Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, today announced that the Government had agreed to a Defence recommendation to reduce the scope for approved project AIR 5416 Phase 2 - electronic warfare self protection for rotary wing assets, known as Project Echidna.
Mr Combet said Defence will complete modifications to 12 Black Hawk helicopters to provide a basic level of electronic warfare self protection but discontinue work on a more advanced equipment suite including the Australian developed ALR-2002 radar warning receiver.
"Defence has reassessed the operational requirement and has determined that the fitting of additional electronic warfare self protection capabilities would have an adverse effect on aircraft availability," Mr Combet said.
Chinook firing flares (photo : chinook helicopter)
"Black Hawk helicopters are currently being utilised for a wide variety of roles for the ADF and it is vital that they continue to be available to fulfil these roles.
"Defence also advised the Government that the return on investment involved in completing, installing and sustaining the advanced electronic warfare suite would not be justified given the remaining life of the Black Hawk fleet."
"This decision will return savings of $50 million to Defence"
"Project Echidna has already enhanced the survivability and protection of the Australian Chinook fleet for operations in Afghanistan. This has included fitting warning systems coupled to flare dispensers to counter heat seeking missiles and ballistic protection against direct fire weapons.
"The twelve Black Hawks to be fitted will have similar levels of electronic warfare self protection and ballistic protection to that fitted to the Chinooks. Five Black Hawk aircraft have been modified and the remaining seven aircraft will be completed before mid 2010," said Mr Combet.
Project Echidna also included the modification of all 12 C130H aircraft to provide a missile warning, radar warning and counter measures dispense capability.
In announcing this decision, Mr Combet stressed that the performance of the prime contractor BAE Systems on the Echidna project had met all expectations and that development of the skills, capabilities and technology by BAE Systems during the conduct of the project will pay dividends for Defence and the company into the future. BAE Systems should be congratulated on its performance."
The C-130H modification program, the equipment fitted to Chinooks for operations, and an equivalent capability currently being fitted to some Black Hawks, has markedly increased the knowledge and capability of the ADF and Australian industry in the complex and sensitive area of aircraft electronic warfare self protection."