In 2001, the Australian Army ordered 22 ARHs, with the first of the deliveries being made in December 2004. The Australian Tiger was a somewhat different animal to its European brothers, however, on account of its increased armament capability and its resulting complexity, a response to Australia’s desire for a platform capable of firing both missiles and cannons.
A turning point
“The ARH Tiger is an extraordinary machine, that outperforms anything in its class,” says Andrew Mathewson, Airbus Australia Pacific’s Managing Director. “But in the first few years the complexity of both the system and the supply process made it an aircraft that was difficult to maintain. The Tiger was unable to show everything it was capable of and, as you might expect, there was quite a lot of discontent in the Army, with some calling for it to be replaced by another helicopter.
Since 2014 with the agreement of a new performance based contract, we devoted all our efforts, both in Australia and Europe to simplifying supply chain performance, improving the design, reliability and optimising our interaction with the CASG and end customer in Army. Above all, though, we took the crucially important step of focusing all our attention and energy on the end user rather than wasting time and effort on contractual engagements that didn’t really deliver capability to the customer.
An example of this new collaboration is the way in which operational maintenance and deeper maintenance is carried out. Thanks to the close relationship that Airbus’s experts, who know the product inside out, now enjoy with the customer’s maintenance teams, who have a perfect command of operational needs, the maintenance process is optimised, bringing the best out of both teams.
A new era
The improvements made in fleet availability and the aircraft’s capabilities were quickly demonstrated in military exercises. The Tiger’s latest notable success came with its deployment of four ARH Tiger aboard HMAS Canberra, which contributes to the Australian Defence Force aim of establishing an Amphibious Task Force with the enhanced security provided by the Tiger.
“Last April, Airbus was awarded an extension of the Tiger through-life support contract until 2025 by the Australian Department of Defence,” says Andrew, looking resolutely to the future. “It’s a show of faith on the part of the customer and it lets us know we’re on the right path. Our next major challenge now is to prove that we’re able to keep the Tiger updated and operational through to 2040 by addressing obsolescence problems. The Tiger still has a lot to offer. It’s the most effective and efficient option for the government, and we’re going to prove that to them.”
“Everybody knows the Tiger had a difficult introduction into service, but importantly, the message people miss is that in the past two to three years, we’ve really turned a corner with the ARH. The ARH is ready today; the pilots are trained today to go and to support our troops in operation. And we can do that by day, night, all weather conditions, quite effectively.”
-Major Matt Subbs, senior instructor ARH wing, School of Army Aviation