The Tiger Option

By Robbin Laird

Airbus wasted no time to respond to the RUSI Australia report.

They did so by asserting that there was no evidence that the Australian Department of Defence had decided to move on from Tiger.

That was a bit of a stretch, but their response to RUSI Australia, dated march 20, 2020 focused on their core message: Tiger is and can be upgraded sufficiently to adapt to changing circumstances.

The original build of Tiger in Australia provided a significant opportunity for the Commonwealth in terms of standing up local industrial capability and that it would behoove the Commonwealth to leverage this investment.

Of course, one could simply ask, why such an argument needs to be made if indeed there was no real evidence of the desire by the ADF to move on from Tiger.

In any case, in this effort to suggest the RUSI assessment was somehow biased against them, Airbus highlighted the combat experience of Tiger, and cited the experience of French Army Aviation in this regard.

Airbus notes that the ADF has a “preference to use Chinook in its overseas operations”, but the ALAT of the French Army has used its Tigers extensively since 2009.

Certainly true, but the experience of the Australian army with Tiger and the Navy with NH-90 have been mixed which is why we are having this conversation in the first place.

The Tiger does face challenges of integratability with regard to the overall ADF, and has experienced sustainability issues as well, certainly seen in Europe.

This raises the question that if the Australian Army is focused on support to a regionally expeditionary ADF working air-naval integration, is the Tiger the best choice going forward?

Or put another way, is the Tiger the best fit for the ADF going forward as it shapes its regional power projection force in the Indo-Pacific?

The Airbus letter written by Andrew Mathewson, Managing Director, Airbus Australia Pacific, highlights that there are “profound issues that need to be examined prior to embarking on one course or another.”

That point certainly makes sense, and I intend to do so in this series.

Mathewson cautions: “Does it make sense to spend in excess of four billion dollars on replacing the ARH Tiger fleet with a like-for-like conventional helicopter….”

To be clear, the assessment by Scott Lovell precisely raised the question of whether indeed these were like-for-like options.

The Airbus response to the RUSI Australia report can be read here:

Or in e-book form below: