The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has completed its review of the Australian Army’s Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter. It concludes that the Tiger fleet has not yet delivered the original capability expected by the Australian Government, and continues to experience higher than expected sustainment costs and lower than expected aircraft availability.
Australia ordered 22 Tiger helicopters in 2001 from Eurocopter International Pacific (now Airbus Group Australia Pacific). Government approval for the acquisition, the ANAO notes, was on the basis that it was a low-risk off-the-shelf platform. However, a performance audit of the Tiger acquisition in 2005–06 concluded that Tiger was more developmental than off-the-shelf and this heightened exposure to schedule, cost and capability risks, both for the acquisition of the aircraft and its sustainment.
Final Operational Capability for the Tiger was declared on 14th April 2016, seven years later than planned, and was accompanied by nine operational caveats. The audit states that, as at April 2016, the Tiger also had 76 capability deficiencies relating to Army’s current and future operational requirements, 60 of which were deemed by Defence to be critical.
The audit notes that Defence’s internal lessons learned review of the Tiger programme concluded that the ‘rushed’ nature of the initial Through-Life Support contract negotiations resulted in a flawed outcome for the fleet’s sustainment, and that Defence was ineffective in enforcing its contractual rights under the contract. These factors weakened Defence’s position in managing the fleet’s sustainment arrangements.
The audit recommends that Defence assesses the value-for-money in investing further in the Tiger aircraft fleet for only a short period of improved performance, against other alternatives.
In response, Airbus Group acknowledged the delays experienced in achieving key Project milestones and agreed that this was largely caused by the maturity of the Tiger during the acquisition phase.
However, Airbus Group contends that the audit does not provide a balanced view of the Tiger ARH programme “as it does not appreciate the significant improvements which have been made in the past two years nor the positive trend of all support key performance indicators”.