THE Australian Defence Force has started accepting delivery of a $1.6 billion fleet of French-made helicopters despite warnings that they are not safe to fly at night or in bad weather.
The helicopters have also been revealed to be underpowered, requiring the replacement of engines at an additional cost of $110 million. The fiasco is detailed in a scathing Audit Office report on the purchase of 22 of the high-tech Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters, which were to be in service by 2004. The aircraft are designed to carry out battlefield reconnaissance, to provide air support for troops under attack and to escort troop-carrying Black Hawk helicopters. But the Audit Office said the first three aircraft delivered did not meet contracted specifications covering weight, weapons, navigation systems for low-visibility flying, crash resistance, flying over large bodies of water and availability of spare parts. A test crew sent to evaluate the first of the helicopters warned it had problems that would "directly affect safe and efficient operation of the aircraft, especially in the training environment". One helicopter would be out of action for nine months while improvements were made to bring it up to scratch. The ADF ordered 22 Tigers for $1.58 billion in a contract with Eurocopter International Pacific in December 2001. Opposition defence spokesman Robert McClelland said this was another example of mismanagement of a key military helicopter project. The Defence Materiel Organisation, which handled the purchase, did not specify the weight and type of missiles to be carried by the Tiger, the Audit Office said. The contractor assumed that Australia planned to use a lighter missile than was intended. As a consequence, the helicopter underperformed when the extra weight was added. The engines were also found to underperform in the hot conditions of northern Australia. On a checklist detailing the airworthiness of the fifth aircraft delivered, the Audit Office marked 14 out of 15 crucial areas of the helicopter's performance with an "X" for deficiency. The original plan was for Australia to buy an "off-the-shelf" aircraft that was already in operation elsewhere. Instead it wound up first in line and got aircraft off the start of the production line. The French military got their first helicopter four months after the ADF. Responding to the engine problems, the Defence Department said the manufacturer was obliged to deliver engines that could produce sufficient power at no additional cost to the ADF. The Audit Office said Defence had not produced a formal report on how it came to chose the Tiger over its rivals and recommended that in future such a report should be produced. Defence agreed to do that but insisted that its processes met accountability and transparency requirements. SUBMARINES Collins Class submarine project blows out by almost $1 billion and is delayed years because of problems with noise, periscopes and combat systems. Some problems persist. GUIDED MISSILE FRIGATES Upgrade to improve radar and weapons systems is several years behind schedule. HELICOPTERS More than $1 billion spent to refit fleet of 40-year-old Super Seasprite helicopters with new technology. Project years behind schedule. Cannot operate in poor light or undertake combat exercises. PATROL PLANES Multimillion-dollar upgrade of P3-Orion patrol planes running four years behind schedule.
Which is quite funny considering I was on the commissioning crew for 01 and we had to do our first of class flying trials with a Seaking because there wernt no Sea Sprites or SeaHawkes available. Also invited a brand new USMC AH-1 doing trials to park for a while but he declined and just buzzed us for 10minutes or so with his older model AH-1 buddy before doing high speed passes and then back to Twentynine Palms. Played rugby with them later and got to crawl all over those magnificient beasts. Wouldnt let us fly them tho... ...but we got a cricket score against them in rugby and beer drinking.
Careerism, as in "Would I like to go to Switzerland to check out PC9's or the Wamira at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne?"
Hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the Wamira was cancelled due to delays and cost overruns. Part of this was the desire to build 2 versions, the A.10 with side by side seating for the RAAF and the A.11 with tandem seating in the hope of picking up export orders to the UK and France amongst others.
I guess that's sort of technically true Obiwan, though I was told after seeing the prototype Wamira that the delays were as a result of the ADF continually moving the goalposts - something which I find highly likely to be the truth. The same thing still happens nowadays. Goalposts are moved, or in many cases, they are never installed properly in the first place.
What Sunfish wrote is both cynical and factual, unfortunately. BTW the Wamira was a beast up close!
Reference I have called it an A.11. Just did a Google and found references to A20.
Originally Posted by DutchRoll
I guess that's sort of technically true Obiwan, though I was told after seeing the prototype Wamira that the delays were as a result of the ADF continually moving the goalposts - something which I find highly likely to be the truth. The same thing still happens nowadays. Goalposts are moved, or in many cases, they are never installed properly in the first place. What Sunfish wrote is both cynical and factual, unfortunately. BTW the Wamira was a beast up close!
Shame it never flew. Heard it soaked up anywhere from $60 to $100 million before it was ditched in favour of the PC-9. Is the engineering mockup still at the RAAF Museum?