For some time now, the Australian military has been searching for new helicopters for its Special Operations Forces (SOF). The American company Bell is considered a favorite to win the contract. More specifically, Bell, in partnership with Hawker-Pacific, is proposing the Bell 407 or Bell 429 helicopters.
In October, Australia’s Defense Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), issued a Request For Information (RFI) indicating the need for special operations-capable helicopters. In the RFI, CASG declared the need for a number of helicopters that would be divided into four detachments. One detachment would be stationed at the Holsworthy Barracks, where a considerable portion of the Australian SOF are based, along with one independent detachment, and two deployable detachments. The RFI didn’t specify the exact number of choppers needed but it described the detachments as comprised of four helicopters each. So, CASG is probably aiming at around 20 helicopters. That’s four for each detachment plus a few extra to maintain 100% operational readiness. The helicopters must be delivered by 2022 and be declared operational soon thereafter.
The RFI, moreover, specified the choppers must be capable of conducting air assault, transport, general utility, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. The choppers must also be able to be armed in case the Australian SOF wish for a weapons platform in the future.
“The project is considering a wide range of procurement options based around a light helicopter as the major system,” said the RFI statement. “The acquisition strategy is developmental and is subject to government approval.”