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Airbus targets special ops helicopter project

written by WOFA | March 1, 2019

airbus helos
The MRH90 – destined for use by Special Forces

Airbus has delivered the first two of 12 MRH90 helicopters equipped for special operations to the Australian Army’s 6th Aviation Regiment, and is looking to expand its support for the Special Forces with a new platform.

The remaining MRH90 helicopters are expected to be progressively received by Army to replace the Black Hawk by the second quarter of next year under a program that is a high priority for the company, said Andrew Mathewson, managing director of Airbus in Australia Pacific.

On its website, Airbus says the MRH90 is a fly-by-wire, all-composite construction, medium-lift helicopter with a rear ramp, weather radar and forward-looking infra-red.

Being a true multi-role machine, the MRH90 can undertake troop transport, search and rescue, special operations and counter-terrorism missions.

Airbus says it is capable of carrying two pilots, two loadmasters and 18 combat troops up to 900km at speeds of up to 300km/h (160kts).

airbus helos
Airbus is also pitching the H145M

Meanwhile, Airbus is offering the H145M battlefield support helicopter for the LAND 2097 Phase 4 Special Operations Rotary Wing Capability project that will deliver a light deployable helicopter capability.

Mathewson assumed the role of managing director in early January.


“It’s a great honour to be selected by the company to continue with my passion, which is delivering capability for the Defence Force,” he said, speaking to the media at the 2019 Avalon Airshow on Wednesday.

“I’m incredibly impressed with the company, and also the opportunities that sit outside the helicopter realm, particularly in the areas of space and commercial aircraft.”


  • Black Hawk fan


    Heres hoping we learnt our lesson from the TIGER and MRH debacles. 15 years of Tiger and it still operates under caveats. The thing will retire without ever reaching FOC. MRH appears to finally be kicking goals (after 12 years) but is still far too expensive to operate. Airbus is a terrible company and I really hope the powers that be remember these 2 contracts when selecting the SF Helo.

    This is a much better option. Or hoping Boeing offers little bird.


  • Josh


    Australian Aviation has some great content, but articles like this, which read like press releases, are the reason I stopped buying the magazine. A well-written article would explain what Airbus has changed to make the MRH acceptable to SOCOMD.

    When I was serving, the helicopter’s poblems seemed too fundamental to fix with any modification program, and the program proposed was far more costly than purchasing another type through FMS.

  • Robert


    Over ten years since the first MRH-90 was accepted by defence and the aircraft is still not ready for SF. I have asked both MRH-90 pilots and maintainers, is it a battlefield aircraft? The answer is no. The MRH-90 is a great aircraft but is not suited to the battlefield. Five billion dollars has been spent and still the aircraft is not ready. If this defence project was run like a business, it would have gone bankrupt years ago. When the special forces deploy, they mostly use American aviation assets. The Special forces want to train at home in the aircraft they will be deploying with.
    Defence needs to make a tough decision; Do we keep pouring millions of dollars into trying to modify an aircraft to suit or cancel the SF project and purchase an off the shelf platform that is proven on the battlefield.

  • TwinTiger


    Agree – if I could upvote your comment I would.
    I learned nothing from the article other than someone has done something to some helicopter and now its better somehow.

  • Mick C


    Robert I suspect the Army got the choice of either brand new Blackhawks or the new Light Utility SF Support Helicopters under the 2016 DWP/IIP , they went with the latter and that is what it looks like we are getting.
    For the cost of around $5-6b you would probably only get 6-8 Special Mission Blackhawks at most and the Army would still be short on Utility Helicopters. Don’t forget that the new Utility Helicopters will take over some of the roles of the SF Blackhawks

  • Fabian


    wait, Im confused…. is the army receiving 12 totally new mrh-90’s for the special forces role making a total of 59 Mrh-90’s?? or is the army transitioning 12 Mrh-90’s from 5th aviation regiment to the 171st aviation regiment and modifying them for special forces?? because Ive never heard of this extra procurement of Mrh-90’s

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