MELBOURNE, Australia – Bell is positioning itself for Australia’s special operations helicopter requirement by showcasing its offerings and promoting local industry tie-ups at the Avalon Airshow.
Speaking to Defense News, Dan McQuestin, Bell’s business development director for Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, confirmed that the company responded to a request for information issued by the Australian Army, offering the Bell 407 or Bell 429 helicopters with local partner Hawker-Pacific.
The helicopters being offered for Australia’s Land 2097 Phase 4 requirement will be commercial off the shelf, with kits developed to meet the majority of mission requirements spelled out in the RFI. These include air assault, intelligence-gathering, and troop transport. There is also a potential requirement for the helicopter to be weaponized in the future.
McQuestin said that 60 weaponized Bell 407 are already operating with a customer in the Middle East, and existing customers have expressed interest in an armed configuration of the Bell 429. The company is preparing to offer a similar weapons kit tfitted to the 407 on the 429, with two, four or six weapons stations.
McQuestin also confirmed that four Bell 407s can fit inside a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III airlifter, adhering to one of the requirements set out in the RFI. He added that testing is ongoing with the Bell 429 to assess its compatibility on the C-17 with government customers elsewhere.
The company has its Bell 407 and 429 helicopters painted in camouflage on the static display at the show currently being held at Avalon Airport outside Geelong in Victoria, Australia.
Partner Hawker Pacific in Australia submitted the response to the RFI as the prime contractor.
Trevor Thomas, government relations adviser to Hawker Pacific in Australia added that the company, which is well-established in defense and performance-based sustainment contracts in Australia, is a “natural fit” with Bell. It also has local experience with special operations equipment, and is fulfilling a sustainment contract to support the Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of 49 Pilatus PC-21 trainer aircraft.
Defense News reported last year that Land 2097 Phase 4 is seeking at least 16 helicopters to fulfil the requirement, with major delivery of equipment to be delivered in 2022 and initial operating capability to follow soon after. A request for tender is expected at the end of this year.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.