The Australian Government has approved the purchase of a modern helicopter training system for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
Scheduled to be based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, Australia, the helicopter aircrew training system (HATS) will be designed to better prepare Australian Army and Navy aircrew as they switch to the ADF's current combat helicopter fleet.
Australian Defence Minister David Johnston said: "This will deliver a fully integrated modern training environment with both in-flight and virtual environments on contemporary twin-engine helicopters and flight simulators.
"These will prepare both [the] navy and army for the new generation of advanced combat helicopters such as the Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter, MRH-90 Taipan, MH 60R Seahawk Romeo and our new CH-47F Chinook Foxtrots."
Boeing Defence Australia has been named as the preferred partner for HATS, which will include a purpose-designed syllabi based on 15 Airbus EC-135 'glass cockpit' training helicopters, three full-motion Thales EC 135 flight simulators and a flight deck from the Albatross.
The approval allocates more than $700m for HATS, including approximately $200m in new and refurbished facilities on the navy's new sea-going training vessel.
The joint service approach is expected to benefit the ADF by lowering the training burden on operational aircraft and enhancing navy and army operations for the new amphibious ships.
Johnston added: "Being based at Albatross will also bring the advantage of aircrew being able to train in realistic conditions at sea, including ship deck-landing and search and rescue skills."
The project, whose local component is valued at more than 65% of the acquisition and support contracts of the training system, is expected to generate 380 short-term and more than 80 long-term jobs in the Shoalhaven area.
The Australian Department of Defence is now set to conclude final contract negotiations with Boeing.
Initial operating capability is scheduled for late 2018. The systems will start receiving students before then, with a mature annual training capacity of up to 130 students covering pilots, aviation warfare officers, aircrew, sensor operators and qualified aircrew returning for instructor training.
Image: The new helicopter aircrew training system will prepare Australian Army and Navy aircrew. Photo: © Airbus Helicopters 2014.