December 15, 2006 Australia’s new military helicopter is currently being checked out by France's Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (DGA) in Australia and part of the process took place last week at the Woomera Testing Range in South Australia. The French brought their own pilot to try out a combination of the Tiger and Lockheed Martin’s combat-proven HELLFIRE II air-to-ground missile. All went well, as the first-time French gunner, using a lock-on-before-launch technique, scored a direct hit with the HELLFIRE II missile on a target six kilometers away. On top of the HELLFIRE's seven-for-seven performance in earlier test flights from the ARH, the combination of the Tiger and HELLFIRE together make a formidable weapon system. A total of 22 new ‘Tiger’ helicopters will be bought by the Australian Defence Force, with the majority being built by Australian Aerospace in Brisbane at a cost of US$1.0 billion.
“The missile's performance in engaging, launching and impacting targets offers the Tiger a capability it has not had before and that no other weapon system can offer,” said Andy Marshall, international program manager for Air-to-Ground Missile Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
“This firing and the successful target engagement demonstrated the ease of training a HELLFIRE gunner, and further demonstrated the reliability and mission success of the HELLFIRE missile and its M299 ‘smart' launcher,” continued Marshall.
HELLFIRE II is fielded to the U.S. Armed forces and those of 13 other countries by HELLFIRE Systems, Limited Liability Company (HSLLC). Lockheed Martin performs all of the work scope on behalf of HSLLC.
The evaluation was accomplished under the auspices of Australia's Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and the Australian Army.
The precision-strike HELLFIRE II family includes three warhead variations, each with a semi-active laser (SAL) seeker to home in on the target: (1) the high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) missile, which defeats all known and projected armored threats; (2) the blast fragmentation (blast frag) missile, which defeats “soft” targets such as boats, buildings, bunkers and light-armored vehicles; and (3) the metal augmented charge (MAC) missile, which defeats enclosures, caves and enemy personnel housed therein, with minimal collateral damage.
In addition to the SAL HELLFIRE II, the HELLFIRE family includes Longbow HELLFIRE—with a millimeter wave (MMW) radar seeker for true fire-and-forget and adverse-weather capability. The Longbow HELLFIRE has the HEAT warhead.
All members of the HELLFIRE II family are employed in several countries throughout the world. To date, more than 1,000 missiles have been successfully launched from a wide array of platforms, including the Apache, Cobra and Tiger attack helicopters; the Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter; and the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
With more than 21,000 rounds delivered, HELLFIRE II is approved for international sales, via government to government or direct commercial sales.
The Australian ARH version of the Tiger is derived from the Franco-German Tiger variant. It is armed with 70 mm rockets and Hellfire II air-ground missiles on its four hardpoints, as well as an Australian specific communications and data transmission system.
Australia chose the Eurocopter Tiger in August 2001 following an invitation to bid that involved stiff competition from Bell's Cobra, Boeing's Apache, and Agusta's Mangusta helicopter. Following exclusive negotiations, the Commonwealth of Australia and Eurocopter signed two major contracts in December 2001