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Airbus Australia Pacific secures Tiger ARH contract extension

written by WOFA | April 23, 2019

A 2017 file image of an Army Tiger ARH conducting first of class flight trials with the LHD HMAS Canberra. (Defence)
A 2017 file image of an Army Tiger ARH conducting first of class flight trials with the LHD HMAS Canberra. (Defence)

Airbus Australia Pacific managing director Andrew Mathewson says the company is committed to ensuring the success of the Australian Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) Tiger helicopter after securing a through-life-support contract extension.

Outgoing Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne and Minister for Defence Industry Senator Linda Reynolds first announced the five-year contract extension to 2025 valued at up to $790 million on April 6.

Mathewson, who prior to becoming Airbus Australia Pacific managing director in early January was head of helicopter systems division at Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), said there would be a cycle of continuous improvement as Airbus continued to learn from the operational experience gained by Tiger helicopters in other countries.

“Airbus is committed to ensuring the success of the Australian ARH Tiger fleet,” Mathewson said in a statement on April 17.

“We have worked closely with the Australian Army and our industry partners to improve the fleet’s performance over many years.”

The Army has 22 ARH Tigers operating out of Darwin and Oakey with the 1st Aviation Regiment.

The first two helicopters, A38-001 and -002, were delivered in December 2004. The 22nd and final Tiger, A38-022, arrived in late 2011.


VIDEO: A look at the work of the 1st Aviation Regiment from the Australian Army’s YouTube channel.

Final operating capability (FOC) for the two-seat helicopters was achieved in April 2016, albeit with some operational caveats, some 11 years after the type first entered service.

The fleet was also the subject of a critical audit published in September 2016, which highlighted the program’s lower than expected serviceability rates and growing obsolescence issues.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report also questioned whether upgrading the Tiger fleet provided value for money when the aircraft was slated for replacement in the middle of the next decade.

A file image of an Australian Army Tiger ARH. (Defence)
A file image of an Australian Army Tiger ARH. (Defence)

Airbus Australia Pacific said the contract extension would cover more extensive aircraft and component deeper maintenance, operational maintenance of aircraft allocated to training, aircrew and technician training, design services, systems and software development and testing, complete parts support including MRO, purchasing, storage and distribution, and technical publications, maintenance policy and fleet management.

“I’m proud that more than 200 full time positions will remain in Australia to carry out this very important work supporting the Army Aviation Australia-wide, including the creation of apprenticeships in Darwin,” Mathewson said.

“Moreover, our Airbus engineering capabilities continue to expand thanks to this contract, with key software and modifications being developed on Australian soil.”


  • TwinTiger


    So are the Tigers finally fully certified for operations off the LHD, or are they still limited (ie calm sea / dockside ops only)?
    Having them as an integral part of the LHD offering gives these assault landing craft broadens the offensive air options. Great to see the Tigers finally in exercises outside of Australia, some 15 years after the delivery of the first 2.

  • Greg Alexander


    Very gratifying to read this article, the tiger is a valued asset. I was a part of Plan Pelican, army aviation reform program. Very rewarding to see an extension that will keep the Tiger flying. Congratulations to Col Steve Evans and KPMG lead Tim Conn for their dedication to Army Aviation.

  • JD


    Wow as a civilian I can’t believe we have a tool of war that after all this time hasn’t been used in a war like situation despite the fact we been fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and where ever. What a disgrace! How much again $$$

  • Mick C


    Even if the Tigers had entered service as intended it doesn’t automatically mean we would have sent them to Afghanistan(Australia’s involvement in Iraq predates the Tiger). At the height of Afghanistan Australia only had 1500 ADF Personnel in country. Only a small % of ADF capability was ever deployed. Once they have reached FOC all ADF Equipment is doing it’s job whether it is back here in Australia or deployed overseas.
    I think sending them to Malaysia means they are deployable in most Weather conditions.

  • Im astonished the curent Liberal governmet has shelled out yet more money for this impoverished project. From the start it has been a failer, which RAAF failed to recognise. Rather than 750 mill from us the them, Airbus military projects devision HQ Europe should pay us for all maintainance and upgrades given the ineptitude of the shallow sighted project from word go. Gutless govenment spending attitude. The sooner we get rid of this craft the better.

  • G4george


    close to a billion dollars to keep 200 people employed for 5 years! Holden only cost 250 million over 5 years and employed tens of thousand across car part manufacturing. Labor are always screaming for royal commissions, how about looking into this.



    As a former serving member this program is an absolute disgrace! This is not directed at the boys flying them,l know how much they wanted to deploy to provide us air support instead of having to use American and Dutch Apaches! Whom were over stretched as it was. First air-frame delivered in 2004 and final 2011. Australia’s longest war and it still couldn’t deploy. Where are the individual’s who were responsible for purchasing this lemon!Promoted as move on l am guessing… We would of rather had 1 Apache purchased than the 22 lemons! Remember the cost is the R&D which the Americans have already provided this data from decades of deployment with this air frame. Priceless!!

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