Airbus Helicopters EC135s Selected for Australian Joint Service Training

AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE Minister Senator David Johnston announced on October 22 that a modern helicopter training system for Australian Navy and Army personnel has been approved by the Australian Government.  He said the new training system would better prepare Navy and Army aircrew to transition to the Australian Defence Force’s current combat helicopter fleet, as well as the advanced helicopters entering service this decade.

The Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) will be based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, New South Wales. The preferred partner for HATS, Boeing Defence Australia, has proposed a training system that will include purpose designed syllabi using 15 twin-engined Airbus Helicopters EC-135 training helicopters with glass cockpits. It will also include three full-motion Thales EC 135 Flight Simulators and the addition of a flight deck to Royal Australian Navy’s new sea-going training vessel. Final contract negotiations with Boeing are expected to be concluded shortly.

A shortlist of three tenderers for the requirement had been announced on May 30, 2013. The three short-listed teams were led by Australian Aerospace Ltd, Boeing Defence Australia Ltd and Raytheon Australia Pty Ltd.  Following the second phase of the evaluation, which included the development and evaluation of final proposals, the Boeing team has now been selected as the preferred bidder.

The new HATS programme will prepare both Royal Australian Navy and Australian Army Aviation Corps crews for the new generation of advanced combat helicopters entering service, including the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, MRH-90 Taipan, MH 60R Seahawk and new CH-47F Chinooks. Senator Johnston said the joint service approach would benefit the ADF because of the reduced training burden on operational aircraft and enhanced Navy and Army operations from the new amphibious ships.

“Defence will also achieve a significant efficiency now that all Army and Navy aircrew will do their initial helicopter training in the one location. Being based at Albatross will also bring the advantage of aircrew being able to train in realistic conditions at sea including ship deck-landing and search and rescue skills,” said Johnson.

Senator Johnston said there were significant opportunities for the Australian defence industry, with the local component valued at more than 65 per cent of the acquisition and support contracts of the training system.  The approval allocates over $700 million to acquire the new training system which includes around $200 million in new and refurbished facilities at HMAS Albatross. Johnson also said that local defence industry should benefit with work valued at more than 65% of the acquisition and support contract costs.

Initial Operating Capability for HATS is expected to be achieved in late 2018, but the system will begin to receive students before then, with a mature training capacity of up to 130 students a year covering pilots, aviation warfare officers, aircrewmen, sensor operators and qualified aircrew returning for instructor training.  Alan Warnes