22 Februari 2016
Airbus Helicopters Tiger ARH (photo : Ray Plekker)
Airbus Helicopters is making the Australian Army’s troubled Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) programme a top priority, the company insisted at the Singapore Airshow.
Philippe Monteux, senior vice president and head of region Southeast Asia Pacific for Airbus Helicopters, said the status of Australia’s 22 Tiger ARHs had seen some ‘very interesting improvement’ and that the army was currently ‘much more satisfied’.
Earlier during the air show, Bell Helicopter and BAE Systems Australia signed a teaming arrangement aimed at offering and sustaining the Bell AH-1Z Viper in Australia.
If the Tiger does not perform as desired by the time of its Capability Assurance Programme (CAP) in 2019, Australia will decide whether to upgrade or replace the Tiger fleet.
With Australia’s Defence White Paper due out soon, more clarity could emerge on this Land 9000 Phase 3 project.
Responding to Shephard’s question whether Airbus Helicopters believed Canberra would stick with the troubled Tiger platform, Monteux said, ‘Yes, I am confident’.
Australia has already indicated its interest in the global Tiger Mk 3 midlife upgrade alongside other users. Indeed, after all the time and money invested in the Tiger to date, it would be a surprise if Australia abandoned the platform at this point.
However, such a decision is not without precedent, as the painful Kaman Super Seasprite episode illustrated.
The Tiger has not yet reached full operational capability (FOC), but this is affected in some degree to the late delivery of Canberra-class landing helicopter docks that has affected maritime trials of the Tiger. Monteux predicted FOC to be ‘very close’ and that ‘we are working very intensively on this’.
The regional head highlighted recent successes in Thailand, including the sale of 11 H145M aircraft. As part of a follow-on requirement after it earlier ordered 12 Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawks, Brunei is expected to announce a plan to replace incumbent Bell 212 and Bo 105 rotorcraft. Monteux suggested the H145M would be a good fit there too.
Australia could have a light utility helicopter requirement, for which Monteux believed the H145M was suitable. He mentioned further opportunities in Malaysia too, though financial woes are affecting its modernisation efforts.
Airbus Helicopters has some 2,200 staff directly employed in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region. Monteux said cooperation with local players ‘is part of our DNA’, and he gave the example of PTDI in Indonesia, Boustead in Malaysia and Mahindra in India. He also revealed Airbus was exploring a partnership in Thailand but could not divulge any details.
Monteux mentioned ‘a lot of interest’ among smaller and emerging Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam. While Myanmar remains under an arms embargo, OEMs are positioning themselves in this market for the time it is lifted.
Monteux said Airbus Helicopters was successful in maintaining its civil rotorcraft market share in 2015, with one out of every two helicopters delivered in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region being from his company.
In terms of bookings, Airbus scooped 68% of regional orders in 2015. However, regional sales declined last year by an estimated 15-20% as the worldwide market faces a bust cycle.
In terms of customer satisfaction, Monteux admitted ‘we’re not yet where we want to be’. Nevertheless, he said the company’s capacity to deliver spare parts on time had risen from 85% a few years ago to a current 95%.