This startling conclusion is the culmination of several years of effort to find out why Australia has had disproportionate problems keeping our 22 Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARH) and 47 Taipan Multi-Role Helicopters (MRH) flying. Other countries have nowhere near the same level of difficulty as has been experienced here.
Just about all the blame has been heaped on the manufacturer Airbus Helicopters and both classes are being retired and replaced about 20 years ahead of schedule. All the helicopters have plenty of structural life remaining. Instead, we will spend an extra $10 billion dollars on 29 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters and 40 UH-60M Blackhawks. Added to this is mix are 12 MH-60R Seahawks to replace the RAN’s six MHRs at a cost of $1.4 billion.
To put it more bluntly, all this might be based on an incorrect premise – namely that the ARH and MRH fleets are chronically unreliable because of spare parts shortages, and they therefore must be retired in the national interest. This is not correct, with the major culprit being the Defence / CASG support process – a major element of which is a software package called CAMM2. It looks as if this is at the heart of the problem and not the helicopters themselves.
Many readers will be surprised because of the repeated vitriol directed at the MRH and ARH for more than a decade – some of it seemingly orchestrated – that has created the false impression that the helicopters are unreliable. Everyone has piled on – politicians of all backgrounds; large sections of the media; think tanks; and Defence itself. Airbus has not publicly defended itself – and wanted nothing to do with this article – which might be a combination of management fatigue battling the Australian system and having bigger fish to fry in the shape of bids such as JP 9102 for communications satellites.
This article should have been written five years ago when it might have made a difference to the series of decisions leading to the recent Apache and Blackhawk purchases. However, getting detailed information from Defence has been impossible and events such as Senate Estimates have only provided fragments of disconnected data.
Some retired Army staff who know what has been going on remain loyal to their former service and while confirming facts about CAMM2 will not go on the record. Additionally, few people are interested in the detail of Defence logistics when it is much easier to blame the French in general and Airbus Helicopters in particular.
Today, both the ARH and MRH fleets have an availability rate of about 70%. This is likely to be better than most – if not all – RAAF platforms and for the future Apache and Blackhawk fleets. The 30% of time when they are unavailable is not necessarily because of a problem but instead they are offline for routine, preventative maintenance. This is standard on complex machines such as military aircraft – and it takes up an unavoidable chunk of time.
However, getting to this 70% figure has involved a struggle going back at least a decade, much of which has involved discussions between the manufacturer and CASG about streamlining support processes. The reality is that there have always been plenty of spare parts available. What has stopped them getting from the warehouse to multiple workshops has been burdensome bureaucracy caused mainly by outdated Defence software.
Consider the case of New Zealand. Their air force operates eight MRHs almost identical to Australia’s – and they could not be happier, flying a reliable modern helicopter with one of the highest usage rates of the global fleet. The contrast with Australia is stark and worth examining. How can one customer have no problems with maintenance – yet the other is retiring its fleet 20 years early?
New Zealand has all their helicopters at one facility; Australia’s are scattered across five bases. They have a streamlined approach to logistics with a single point of contact and modern, interconnected data bases. The difference with Australia was illustrated during Talisman Sabre in 2019 when the Australian MRH fleet was grounded because of a tail rotor issue – but the New Zealanders were able to keep flying theirs because they had already installed the fix according to the OEM’s recommendations well in advance of the exercise.
Instead, the Australian CAMM-2 (Computer Aided Maintenance Management) system was fielded in 2005 to address deficiencies in CAMM-1, which was an earlier attempt to digitise logistics. Very few organisations continue to use a logistics software package from 20 years ago – certainly none in the commercial world – and CAMM-2 has been described as labour intensive and costly to maintain.
It was designed to support military aircraft – though it is not being universally applied, with exceptions including the RAAF C-17 fleet with software from the manufacturer, Boeing, via the USAF. The F-35s come with their own separate Automatic Logistics Information System (ALIS) supplied by Lockheed Martin that supports the global fleet of aircraft.
CAMM-2 was meant to integrate seamlessly with several other databases such as Army’s separate, orphan, Weapons System Data Base (WSDB) but that has not proven to be the case. Apart from being old, CAMM-2 has several limits, for example not doing inventory management. There is a veritable alphabet soup of other unconnected logistic packages such as MRI, LSAR, MILIS, ADAASS and WFD that are all part of the Australian military support structure – in additional to local uncontrolled databases and spreadsheets.
This means that for one of the simplest tasks that frequently occurs – a part number change on an engineer-approved basis from the OEM – must be manually entered into about eight different systems, potentially by eight different people. This lack of integration and a labour-intensive approach to updating documentation is why the Australian system is such a mess. That is neither the fault of the helicopters nor the company making them.
Another issue in play is the figure being used by Army that retiring the MRH early rather than in 2037 will result in a $2.7 billion saving. The problem is that this improbably large number of $200 million per year can only be achieved if things are included that have no factual basis – such as equipment that isn’t needed or upgrades that don’t exist. It feels like someone has been given the job of finding a scary number and they have worked backwards to come up with the desired result. Defence has not responded to a request for a breakdown of the figure.
As part of the process of demonising both Tiger and Taipan, the Canberra bubble has been awash with commentary that neither aircraft was wanted by Army in the first place, and they were imposed from above by politicians. These claims are incorrect.
The situation with Tiger is clear: it was preferred by Defence (Army) because it met all the key performance requirements, was the most modern of the helicopters offered, the price was attractive – and it had a high level of Australian content. In procurement terms it was a slam dunk. Apache was fourth on the list after the Mangusta and the Cobra. After these came the Rooivalk from South Africa.
The situation with the MRH is more complex. Both it and the Blackhawk met performance requirements and since Defence could live with either, it was finally selected for a range of reasons. These included a high level of local content and that it was a better fit with the overall AIR 9000 objective of rationalising the ADF helicopter fleet.
This masterplan was based in part on the assumption that the naval version of the MRH – the NFH90 – would be mature enough to replace RAN Seahawks around 2016. However, that fell apart with the cancellation of the Seasprite project in 2008 – Defence did not cover itself in glory after spending $1.5 billion on that failed undertaking – and that led to the subsequent selection of the MH-60R.
A further claim is that other MRH customers are also unhappy, and the prime example is Norway. Indeed, Norway is threatening to scrap their helicopter fleet. The only problem is that the Norwegians purchased the ASW version of the helicopter – the NFH90 referred to above, not the MRH – and then decided to fit their own dipping sonar and indigenous lightweight torpedo, guaranteeing that it would be a program manager’s nightmare.
This has no relevance to Australia. Nor does the Swedish case of their MEDEVAC helicopters. The cabin size of the MRH is one of its attractive features – being more spacious than a Blackhawk – but for reasons known only to themselves the Swedes insisted on raising the cabin height by 20cm. Despite the resultant delays they remain an important part of the program.
If the fundamentals of APDR’s research are correct – that there’s basically nothing wrong with the helicopters – something has gone badly awry with Defence’s processes. The result is that people from Ministers all the way through to the media have been misinformed for years.
External agencies such as the ANAO that have been critical of Tiger and Taipan – but have relied on information supplied to them by Defence. An independent review of the Tiger program conducted in 2016 was quickly classified as SECRET and consequently has never seen the light of day.
All this needs to be checked out – urgently.
There has already been far too much selective use of information to support a particular pre-determined outcome, and someone needs to objectively evaluate and report on the situation – preferably publicly. Australians are entitled to know where their money is going.
It looks too late to stop the purchase of Apache and Blackhawk – which are fine helicopters of an older design – but it might be possible to achieve billions of dollars of savings by slowing down the delivery schedule and keeping Tiger and Taipan in service for longer.
The problem is that a lot of powerful people – on both sides of politics and at high levels in Defence – run the risk of looking like fools for not doing their homework. All the matters detailed in this article are not the result of espionage, they are the product of asking a lot of questions and not being fobbed off with simple explanations.
For anyone who remains unconvinced: how else is it possible to explain the vast difference between the Australian and New Zealand experiences with the MRH?
Unfortunately, this might all be swept under the carpet because the embarrassment caused by revealing the facts will be too great – which should never be a factor when taking decisions in the security interests of Australia.
Finally an article that points the finger of blame in the right direction. The Acquisition and logistics systems used by Defence. CAMM 2 is just the tip of the iceberg, the entire system needs to be re invented.
I fully agree.
Are you spruiking for NH industries now? Many countries have had trouble with the MRH90, Sweden and Norway are getting rid of the aircraft as they are unhappy with its performance. Then there is cost, $44,000 per flying hour. More than an F35, crazy. It was a bad decision to buy the European helicopters.
Have you actually read the article? I have explained that Norway purchased the ASW NFH90. I also explained the Swedish situation. The cost per flying hour is a totally fictions number. Please read what I have written.
Your argument is flawed, Norway and Sweden purchased a different variant of the NH90 than Australia. Than main reasons for the early retirement of the NH90 Australia purchased is availability of serviceable Aircraft. The Pilots of both the European Helios the ADF operate are very pleased with their performance, it is ONLY the availability that is questionable. A problem caused by an obsolete Supply System Management and Bureaucracy.
Rubbish. Availability problems are world wide. I love how whenever pro-MRH people continually blame someone or something else.
For you, it’s Supply System Management and Bureaucracy.
So, how does that SAME system perform so well on Chinook? performed so well on the Black Hawk? performs so well on other RAAF (Airbus even!) platforms that are far more complex?
I haven’t had a chance to investigate Chinook. I pointed out in the article that for at least 2 other platforms – C-17 and F-35 – have their own separate support arrangements.
But if your having a shot at CAMM2, C-17 and JSF having different support systems is irrelevant though, isn’t it?
What IS relevant, however, is the fact no other platform has this many issues with CAMM2. Including, as I say, other more complex Airbus systems (well, not that we hear of anyway).
Please read the article. I did my best to explain that the problem is not just CAMM2 but that CASG/Army have numerous data bases that do not connect. I tried to use simple language.
So ~10% of ADF aircraft are having troubles with CAMM2, and another ~10% don’t use CAMM2.
You’ve sold me on “CAMM2 is the logistical problem of the MRH and ARH”.
Sorry? I don’t understand your point. In the article I did my best to explain that it’s not just CAMM2, it’s the fact that CASG/Army has a number of unconnected data bases.
My point is that you specifically point out “CAMM-2” multiple times through the article as being the problem, and only list out the “unconnected logistics packages” once. That one time is to point out that CAMM-2 does not integrate with them. If that is not you pointing the finger at CAMM-2 as being the ARH / MRH Achilles heel of Australian operability, I don’t know what is.
One could say that MILIS arrived in Defence’s hot little hands after CAMM-2 was in service, and the new product didn’t integrate with what was already in use. But you don’t sit here pointing the finger at MILIS in your article.
CAMM-2 is not perfect. CAMM wasn’t perfect. Any Maintenance Database used around the world, military or civilian, has its perks and lurks. CAMM-2 helped to reduce the sheer amount of physical paperwork that goes with aircraft maintenance, as well as modernise (at the time) the interface (people didn’t have to remember silly coded terms to initiate or finalise work efforts in the system).
Overarchingly, if you want to blame CASG and their efforts, do that. If you want to blame the integration of disparate databasing systems from each other, then do that. You have gone about it the wrong way in your article, which can be seen easily throughout the comments where people have provided facts to you, and you have swept them under the carpet.
I’m obviously not going to blow my sources but I can assure you that the article is not based on my own ramblings but rather the end result of a fair bit of research. If there are any clear errors of fact I am happy to correct them. It seems that CAMM2 is a big part of the problem – but not all of it. I can’t say whether it’s 90% or 60% because I don’t believe that level of precision a) can be calculated; or b) is meaningful.
In 2018 I had a couple of very senior Army officers volunteering the assessment that with the benefit of hindsight Tiger and Taipan support should have been done by the RAAF.
Thanks for that amazing and honest article Kim.
You layed out what an honest, critically thinking person has worked out.
In most cases these things happen when a department has too much money so wastes it, however it could also just as equally be bad leadership as in the case of the UK which are cash strapped but still waste it.
Hope you article gets more mainstream attention.
Looking forward to more great articles of yours!
Thanks. It’s been very difficult to get to the bottom of what has been going on. I’m planning a future article about a number of groundings of the Australian MRH fleet for fictions reasons – for example on one occasion it was because someone noticed that some components contained cadmium. I’m not joking.
Interesting finger pointing exercise here. CAMM’s main deficiency was its inability to forecast maintenance evolutions beyond a certain date, thanks to the limitations of its coding, hence the introduction of CAMM2.
Taking from Accenture’s 2014 brochure of CAMM2, “the CAMM2 system has provided the ADF with an advanced and effective tool for managing maintenance in a way that meets aviation regulatory and maintenance policy and process requirements. The system gathers and stores essential usage and failure data, allowing improved analysis and significantly reducing the need for generation and storage of hardcopy maintenance records. Automated
support tools also allow a user with limited training to operate, maintain and upgrade the system while on deployment. Other key features include:
• Electronic certification
• Active configuration management
• Visual asset status management
• Electronic planned servicing schedules
• Menu driven navigation
• Automated workflow
• Fatigue coefficient lifting
• Independently operable positions.”
Interestingly, the brochure doesn’t seem to mention anything about logistics.
Topping off this disparate information from the developer and your article, how are the rest of the ADF aviation fleet fairing while also using CAMM2? Are we seeing all the inherent problems that the Army are experiencing with these two platforms on any other aircraft? How are the Army’s own Chinooks going with CAMM2 in use?
Food for thought, hey?
Longest Project of Concern in Defence’s History.
Yes, but in the article I attempt to explain why this is the case. I’m hoping to write a piece about the Australian helicopters being grounded – for example (as I wrote elsewhere) because someone in the Defence system discovered that a part had cadmium in it and grounded the entire fleet while safety issues were examined. That’s totally ridiculous because cadmium is used in a multitude of aircraft parts – military and commercial.
“cross the whole fleet – which encompasses 14 operators flying a mix of the naval NFH and TTH troop transport variants – availability rates average 40%, he says, with the manufacturer aiming to reach at least 50% by 2023, a level that “should be possible”, he says.” Christoph Zammert, (executive vice-president of customer support and services at the airframer, which is a partner in NHI alongside Leonardo Helicopters and Fokker.) May 2022.
You keep telling yourself conspiracy theories, here the first thing I opened when I searched world wide availability NH90.
As I tried to make clear in the article, this was about the MRH fleet, not the naval NFH90 fleet.
There is no such thing as an NFH90, let alone a Naval NFH90 (Automatic ATM hehe). It’s NH90, with wither either a NFH or TTH version. The combined world fleet data is above (including Australia’s MRH). It’s indisputable.
Thanks for the clarification on nomenclature, but it can get a bit fuzzy: https://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/nh90-nfh-asw/
I can only assume Airbus is a sponsor of this piece? Wrong on so many levels.
You have a shot at CAMM2, but there are other Airbus products – more complex – on this system and are operating perfectly fine. Oh, and the RAAF use it to on Airbus products without an issue. If only Airbus stopped blaming everyone and everything else.
And for reasonable thinking people, MTOW means nothing. Who cares if the MTOW of the MRH is higher? It’s the PAYLOAD it can take. You have listed the MTOW – now list the fully-fuelled weight in fighting form (guns, armour, ammo, crew). That is what matters.
And no, it’s not functioning well elsewhere. Perhaps ask your sponsors for worldwide data on availability rates perhaps?
I haven’t discussed anything about takeoff weights in the article. Numerous other users of the MRH – apart from NZ – are extremely happy with their aircraft, for example France.
I’m amazed at the the people Defending CAMM2. They obviously haven’t had to use it and as for other Airbus Products coping fine, please feel free to name one
This article is riddled with errors from start to finish. At no point has the Australian fleet or the worldwide fleet of NH90s achieved an availability rate greater than 50%. The author of this article would be well served to take note of the statements made in recent years by NHI executives, on the record, admitting to availability rates of approximately 40% across the fleet. The Australian fleet is no different in this regard, and the availability rate over multiple years, has nothing to do with the maintenance software used. Australia along with every other operator of the fleet have experienced the inadequate availability rates due to the inherent unreliability of the aircraft coupled with insufficient spares across the world. NHI have only begun to admit publicly to the problem in recent years, after countries such as Australia began to make plans to retire their fleets.
How do you explain the fact that New Zealand has had minimal problems with their fleet?
I don’t have any involvement in the New Zealand fleet, so I won’t be drawn to comment on what I can’t substantiate with data. What I will say is that New Zealand only operates a fleet of 8 aircraft out of approximately 500 aircraft delivered to date (1.6% of the fleet). They also operate the aircraft in a different configuration, role and environment, under a different airworthiness construct. Therefore direct comparison of their experience to another operator is not possible. Australia has had an equivalent experience operating the aircraft to the rest of the world, bar New Zealand. Perhaps you should refocus your efforts on looking at what New Zealand is doing differently to every other major operator of the aircraft and accept that the ADF has done everything it can with the budget and personnel it has available. The facts are, that for the great majority, the aircraft has never delivered on what was promised and given the current strategic imperative to field serviceable platforms, within the fiscal and manning constraints imposed by the Government of the day, the type has no place in the ADF inventory. It stands to reason that given that four operators and counting of the aircraft have now publically announced plans to withdraw it early, that it is indeed the aircraft that is the problem and not Defence Logistics.
As I did my best to explain, Norway have had a multitude of problems mainly because they wanted their own dipping sonar and lightweight torpedo. I don’t think there’s any relevance to Australia. Which other two countries are you referring to? Belgium and Sweden have both been complaining – but as far as I am aware are still with the program. The French appear delighted with their helicopters.
“They also operate the aircraft in a different configuration, role and environment, under a different airworthiness construct”.
– This is the first thing I thought of when you mentioned the comparative success of the Kiwis’ operational history with the platform, Kym. Australian defence platforms seem sometimes pushed to comparatively higher limits. Larger fleets, greater operating distances and hotter conditions are three that come to mind for Taipan. Perhaps these factors should be given more weight in evaluating?
“Perhaps you should refocus your efforts on looking at what New Zealand is doing differently to every other major operator of the aircraft”
– I think this is a great point Kym and could make for a really interesting follow-up article. What is the secret sauce that makes the NZ experience such an apparent success?
Indeed there will be a follow up article soon.
Two other points:
1) I did read (albeit on Wikipedia) about complaints in NZ Parliament over the p/hr costs of their ‘90s being higher than the Iroquois they replaced. Perhaps not an entirely clean sheet down there across the Tasman?
2) Aren’t the French getting quite a big discount on each airframe? 10-12%? That‘d cheer me up.
The Iroquois was a very basic, single engine helicopter and I’m not surprised it was cheaper to operate than a twin-engine NH90 that also has a lot of complex electronics and subsystems – which makes it far more capable.
Regarding the discount for the French, I haven’t heard that and could only assume that it would be because of normal commercial economies of scale – the more of something you order, the lower the unit price tends to become.
Thank you for comedic interlude. I found this article hilarious and it has provided a lot of enjoyment for all of us in the office.
Best piece of satire I have read in a long time!
Glad that you and all of your colleagues were entertained.
Once again, Defence not giving value to Australians, chronic lack of requirement detail and then blaming the “tools”.All the nagging issues are not really ongoing issues in Spain, France, Germany and NZ. Defence component procurement software is still the biggest ongoing drama that never gets replaced, how ironic?.
If your statements are correct, then why does the RAN have nothing like the same readiness issues with the Romeo fleet, or with the Chinook fleet?
And how do you square your statements with the statements of other European nations who are also retiring their TTH / NH-90 fleets, because of failure to achieve operational rates due to abysmal spares and technical support. Is it all their logistic system’s faults too?
This reads rather like a last ditch attempt to protect Airbus’ reputation.
We actually don’t know that much about the availability rates of other platforms. As I have tried to explain many, many times other nations – apart from Norway – are not retiring their helicopters.
“In June 2020, The Strategic Defence Review (STAR) of Belgium planned to phase out the 4 TTH helicopters by 2024 due to their high operating costs and low availability. They are planned to be replaced, along with the last Agusta 109, by 15 Airbus H145M helicopters.”
“Sweden announced on 1 November 2022 that its NH90s will be replaced with S-70 (H-60) variants and an undetermined aircraft.”
Then Norway as well, perhaps the operators know something you, and your major advertiser, would prefer to avoid.
Thanks. I’m obviously not as up to date as I should be regarding international customers. I have no dialogue with any advertisers – that’s not how we work.
It’s not touched on in the article at all, however there is a massive difference in serviceability between units within the MRH fleet. Units where aircraft are maintained by industry have a serviceability higher than most other platforms (i.e. 6AVN and Oakey training center). The serviceability at Army maintained unit (5AVN) is poor.
Might be time to put a spotlight on how Army maintains their toys compared to fulltime Aerospace operators like OEMs and the RAAF.
That sounds like an excellent idea.
Now we’re getting closer to the point…
Since the late 1990’s Defence has been attempting to implement a “Joint Logistics System”. Some progress has been made with Logistics Systems, but not the Joint part.
A key contributor to this situation is ADO culture. A Joint Logistics System design must take a holistic view across the entire ADO to be successful yet, the inherent structure of defence forces is “siloed”. For systems project success a change is required from the present – to one whereby the system design is based on the understanding and adoption of a world class product by business, with the main IT input being the provision of service.
Ensuring project staff are experienced with SAP implementations and have the requisite domain knowledge is invaluable to the success of these projects. The fact that the latest attempt at a Joint Logistics System (ERP) is scheduled for 8 years (!!) and already late reminds me of Einstiens witicism of insanity.
Although the Australian experience with ARH and MRH has made headlines for all the wrong reasons, is this a unique occurrence or, is there other instances hidden somewhere?
“Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics”.
Time to hasten a professional implementation of a modern Joint Logistics system – before we really need it!
Thanks – that’s useful further background. I haven’t tried a country-by-country breakdown re MRH but I might be able to get comparative data from a couple of counties, including France. However, I’m mindful of the fact that Airbus are disillusioned about all of this I don’t think they will help.
Funny story about logistics – when Linfox won a supply contract called DIDS it quickly emerged as a disaster because their driver would turn up at a base with a delivery for Corporal XYZ only to be told that Corporal XYZ was away on a course and no one had been authorised to sign on their behalf – so the truck would turn around and go back to the warehouse. This was happening all across the country. Linfox were then hit with huge penalties for late delivery and then Defence started slandering the company as being hopeless and unable to adhere to the terms of their contract. Sound familiar?
I think Linfox threatened to just walk away from the whole thing leaving Defence with a huge mess and so they reluctantly renegotiated the thing.
Two minutes of searching say the French and Germans aren’t happy with their there NH90 or Tigers either
I would have thought a true balanced article would have at least invested 2 minutes in researching what others reported experiencing was rather than making favourable generalisations supporting Airbus
Thanks for the additional links. I’m happy of course happy to continue the discussion. It looks like the French overall are fairly comfortable with where they are if I have read the article correctly. If the Germans ditched Tiger that would be a huge shock.
We can only generate 5 serviceable aircraft out of total fleet of 8 (our 9th was purchased for spare parts).
We are still waiting on a gearbox being returned to us from Europe! It was sent in 2018! 2018…
If you think the we are happy with NH90 think again, NZ government too broke to do anything about it.
Expect a quiet quitting of the NH90 by the end of this decade.
Thanks for that additional information that – obviously – is contrary to what I had been told by several sources. I’ll see if I can track down that missing gearbox for you…..
Are you serious? Neither aircraft are fit for purpose. The MRH may be well suited to civilian use but I doubt it will get any takers due to the exorbitant running costs. It is not a battlefield helicopter. The Tiger is underpowered for its role and once again reliability and suitability are questionable. I used to be able to access a link to an ANAO office report on the MRH where in one of the Appendices there was a list of costings for some common spares. It is astronomical. I find it interesting that we dont have the same supply chain issues with US sourced aircraft like the CH47 Chinook.
Hi Carl – indeed I am very serious. I’ll update the main article with some extra information. In 2013 I spent a couple of weeks in Afghanistan with the French helicopter battalion flying four Tigers – and while ours were sitting on the ground because of “unreliability” issues, theirs were flying high intensity combat missions without missing a beat. One of them had to be on 20 minute standby 24/7. If the US knew a Tiger was in the area they would prefer it to an Apache because until the Block III upgrade the Tiger 30mm gun was far more accurate. Even today it still has a better night vision system than Apache.
I’ve also caught up with French air crew deployed for the Libyan campaign and after that Mali. The Tigers have been exceptionally effective – and I’ve seen plenty of gun camera / night vision footage to confirm that, as well as speaking personally with the pilots and commanders. They don’t have a bad word to say about Apache – they are professionals after all – but describe it (accurately I believe) as an older design optimised for a different type of mission.
The problem with the ANAO reports is that they only use the numbers supplied by Defence. I believe that Defence has been inflating the cost per flying hour of both ARH and MRH for several years.
The Italian Army is one of the first and largest NH90 operators, with 31,096 flight hours logged in Italy and abroad to date. The UH-90As have played a critical role for years delivering outstanding operational capabilities, both in-country and abroad in demanding conditions with impressive availability rates and mission effectiveness. Read more at https://helihub.com/2022/12/06/italian-army-receives-last-nh90-tth/
Thanks Mike – interesting additional detail via the link.
No worries Kym, just another evidence based retort for the growing number of US military industrial complex fan boys sniping at your articles these days. Vitriolic trolls are indicative of truth hitting raw nerves, keep it up 😉
Thanks. Yes, some people seem to be remarkably touchy on the topic. I’m going to update the article with some input from a senior Army Aviation figure at the Avalon air show and you might be surprised to know that: 1) the $2.7 billion “saving” was calculated by CASG and I should ask them (I already have); 2) Army is not waiting for the US FVL program because this has been a decision of Government (somehow expecting us to believe that this has occurred independently from Army); and 3) regarding the NZ situation and why they have been successfully operating their MRHs, our Army has no idea whatsoever about that.
The Italian Army acrued over 5,000 flight hours with its NH-90 fleet in Afghanistan. Operating in Afghanistan since August 2012, it began deploying the helicopter across the border just four years after the system entered service, marking an extraordinary success for Italy. Italy became the first of the member states of the NH Industries international consortium to deploy the new helicopter in an operating theater.
Great article Kim,
Some other items that are not widely known. Defence CASG constructed such a punitive contract that it was impossible for Airbus to actually succeed. The mandate for the maintenance requirement was constructed by Defence translating good maintenance practices to Defence (army) required practices which caused the convoluted integration. Logistics was always an issue which was highlighted to The senior ARA personnel very early in the program yet they didn’t want to invest in additional spares. Ironically under FMS purchase this would be required irrespective of the Army willingness to pay, if they wanted to keep the aircraft serviceable they would find the additional funds. Other points not known is the difference in serviceability at army bases with ARA maintenance personnel compared to contractor support maintenance environments. The difference could range from 30% at Defence managed sites compared to 80% at contractor managed sites. Airbus even offered to provide personnel at these sites because it was better than incurring the contract penalty costs, however this was rejected. History is a funny thing at the early stages of transferring aviation assets from the Airforce to the ARA the Blackhawks were very often completely grounded because of in correct maintenance staggers, bad maintenance practices etc. Fast forward and the draconian contract management with an organisation that is not dissimilar from those early days and hence similar problems exist. The fundamental issue is not either of the helicopters, it is much deeper and the subterfuge to orchestrate the acquisition of the much older technology is a travesty for the tax payers.
Thanks Ray – I really appreciate all of that additional data. I have mentioned this previously but it’s worth repeating: in about 2007 OCCAR offered Australia membership for Tiger so that we would have access to their pool of spares as well as those of Airbus. The last time I checked a few months ago, Defence – bizarrely – had STILL not joined OCCAR. Every time I ask why not, I am stonewalled. It’s almost as if Defence wants Tiger to fail….
The message to get rid of both helicopters was pretty much led from the top, CDF. Of course the rest of the group have to stay in line or they don’t get promoted. CDF advised the Minister for Defence and about the only person that challenged the decisions was Jim Molan who unfortunately has passed. The years of biased miss information has taken the final turn and the only party that will suffer is the tax payer. The 7 billion that will go to the US would be much more sensibly spent on the new initiatives outlined in the Strategic review.
Thank you for at least trying to shed some light onto more of the problems that exist.
Airbus and Army are both to blame unfortunately.
Your right CAMM2 has caused many problems for the MRH90. This is however also caused by the people loading the data into CAMM2 itself.
It is a complex aircraft that should be run on its own program.
Army to my knowledge has never requested full engineering rights, gaining IP from Airbus, and the many other OEM’s. However the New Zealand package does include many rights that allow them to come up with their own solutions.
The parts problems are so complicated that I’d be typing all day.
Many countries visited Australia, to find out how we were doing so well maintaining the aircraft.
It is a complex aircraft that requires a lot of time to learn, 5 to 10 years. Army posting cycles and retention rates do not allow for this for enlisted members.
I need to add that Army Techo’s, need to be commended for working under such circumstances.
The aircraft maintenance manual is written in the European style that assumes you are a technician with a high level of knowledge and skill, most seasoned aircraft technicians are.
However it is limited by the many Intellectual property rights of the 21st century.
Blackhawk maintenance manuals (Paperbased) of the past, at the end of its life were very refined, which required an enormous about of work.
They also included such in depth knowledge of a more basic system that made fixing the aircraft much easier.
A new Blackhawk with new parts, OEM’s, and a rumoured electronic publication may share some of the same problems MRH90 currently has, making it more difficult than its predecessor the S-70A.
I’ll end by saying, the Blackhawk will not be recovering people from roofs, like happened in Lismore during torrential rain. Many more lives would have been lost without the advanced MRH90.
The Blackhawk will make a fine battlefield helicopter that may never see a war. (Fingers crossed for our serviceman and women)
What it can do for the greater Australian public is far more limited, and I hope some sense prevails and a few MRH90’s are retained for humanitarian reasons.
Thank you – that is an excellent contribution to the debate.
“Your right CAMM2 has caused many problems for the MRH90. This is however also caused by the people loading the data into CAMM2 itself.”
CAMM2 is a “BS in/BS out” system, and didn’t get the opportunity to utilize its full potential (that’s another story..).
Which remains “people loading the data into CAMM2 itself.”. This IS the truest statement I’ve read so far.
Fun Fact: C-17 does use CAMM2 (C2), since late last year or I wouldn’t be employed…
I’ve been involved throughout its pilot induction, C2 support inc training & roll-out (inc Army and Airbus etc.), ARH induction and now C-17. Likely to see the end of it also.
I’ve known the Good/Bad and Ugly side of C2.
Is it Good? It was in its day, in fact better than any known system with the highest encryption known (above the Yank’s version, another story). Yes it inc all sorts of “bells n whistles” that Anderson Consultants (prior to Accenture, another story) advertised could be possible if wished (and some i used, now no longer supported), I know its demised turning point (and why, another story), so no It’s not as good as other systems I’ve used, but it does do the job being so unsupported these days…
* “CAMM-2 system was fielded in 2005 to address deficiencies in CAMM-1” – wrong: C2 was first piloted in 1995 as a version not as you see it today. Today’s GUI version was intro in 1998. Also previously it was just called CAMM, not CAMM-1.
* “CAMM-2 was meant to integrate seamlessly with several other databases such as Army’s separate, orphan, Weapons System Data Base (WSDB)” – wrong: it was its own WSDB, but could (and still can) upload from current WSDB’s.
* “..several limits, for example not doing inventory management.” – not entirely true: it does do inventory, but not in a financial way.
* “..unconnected logistic packages such as MRI, LSAR, MILIS, ADAASS and WFD..” – unconnected? Yes cause it not needed to. C2 does manage managed these; LSAR is not a system, its a function of ConfigMgt which it does, ADAASS only controlled what Auth to fit, funny enough, so does C2, MILIS (previously SDSS) did (but with early issues) integrate with C2, WFD (work for dole..?, sorry) if personnel Mgt, then yes but not the extent imagined today, MRI (apologies, unfamiliar with this..).
In short, the ADF gets what it pays for and their willingness to support, irrespective on what it buys, period.
Sorry to also add “This means that for one of the simplest tasks that frequently occurs – a part number change on an engineer-approved basis from the OEM – must be manually entered into about eight different systems, potentially by eight different people. This lack of integration and a labour-intensive approach to updating documentation is why the Australian system is such a mess. That is neither the fault of the helicopters nor the company making them…” – this is also somewhat true (altho 8 peps?), from OEM engineer’d auth to MILIS & WSDB then to C2. Yes there’s other DBs to maintain but no diff than any other [non ADF] business.
There is “Single” all encompassing systems out there, ERP (by SAP), cMRO (by Oracle) and even Asset Mgt (by IFS) which inc everything, you name it and i mean everything..!
Again, thank you for the additional information. Do you by any chance have any insight into how NZ does things?
Thanks. That’s a great deal of additional data. I hardly understand any of it, but I’m very grateful for your input.
I must have been misinformed about the C-17 situation.
It’s like the false excuses for the French submarine contract, I hope that the futur SSN-AUKUS will be on time and at the right cost, like the Type 26 frigates !
A nuclear version of the Shortfin Barracuda “Attack” class (with American wepaons system) would be a cheapier solution !!!
Good luck Aussies !!
The track record of the British is not inspiring.
The Germans have decided that they will likely dump their Tigers, in part due to spares and support issues.
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Defence Ministry wants to buy 82 Airbus H-145M civilian helicopters and convert some of them into combat helicopters to replace its Tiger combat fleet, Business Insider reported, citing military internal documents.
Berlin, which has been reluctant to buy into an upgrade of Airbus’s Tiger attack helicopter due to operational problems, wants to buy the 82 aircraft for 3.05 billion euros ($3.3 billion) and arm 24 of them with anti-tank missiles, the German news outlet said.
Germany seems to have made its thoughts about Tiger clear, its a dog.
In addition, Breaking Defence reported that the French are looking to downscale their plans to update their Tiger force.
The French government, military and industry plan to reassess the capabilities they want in an upgrade to the Tiger attack helicopter, including a key analysis of drone compatibility, potentially putting in question the planned, full MkIII upgrade.
The statement comes after Force Operations Blog (FOB), a specialist French Army website, reported earlier this month that an unnamed military source said the Tiger MkIII mid-life upgrade will be cancelled and replaced with a less comprehensive 2+ plan. Integration of new MBDA MHT (High Tier Missile) air-to-ground and Mistral 3 air-to-air weapons will be abandoned under the reworked initiative with the in-production Brimstone air-to-ground missile to be favored instead, according to FOB.
Seems even the French have significant reservations about the capabilities and availability of the Tiger., sorry Kym.
Yes, I’ve seen all of those reports. There’s nothing there that says that Tiger is a dog, just that it’s very expensive to maintain. I don’t doubt that for a moment when you compare it with a commercial helicopter. If Australia wanted to replace ours with mix of H-145Ms and drones you wouldn’t get a complaint from me – it’s the decision to spend $6 billion (and counting) on older generation Apaches that I believe is wrong.
With the French, it’s as if we are reading two different articles. If the unnamed source is correct, one upgrade is being replaced by another less costly upgrade. So what? Nothing wrong with moving to Brimstone – by all accounts an excellent missile.
It’s also worth considering that Japan is retiring their +60 Apaches because they consider them too vulnerable and will replace them with drones.
The German decision on the Tiger appears to be very much budget driven.
The Army is apparently not at all happy.
Was interesting to note though that Airbus this week acknowledged that the performance of the NH90 and variants has not met their or users expectations (See article in Janes)
You are correct about the budget. I’ve spoken with the Bundeswehr – admittedly just before Covid – and it wasn’t so much that they were unhappy with but just that their requirements have evolved over time and that missions previously reserved for Tiger could be performed by the less expensive H145M, which itself comes in a number of configurations. Airbus makes both Tiger and H145M, so they aren’t complaining. Lessons from the Russian invasion of Ukraine are still being digested, but the news for all battlefield helicopters doesn’t seem very positive given the losses on both sides.
How well is this article ageing? Probably as well as that helicopter floating In Jarvis bay.
Sure. If a Blackhawk had ditched with 10 people on board would you like to make a guess about how many of them would have survived?
Australia’s loss could well be New Zealand’s gain and at bargain price like the Seasprite.
If NZ were to buy 12 MRH from Australia they could increase their fleet to 14 flying and have 6 to use for spare parts.
NZ could also benefit from Norway walking away from their 14 NFH-90’s as they want to replace their Seasprite towards end of this decade, having fleet commonality would be a big advantage for small nation with limited Defence budget.
CAMM2 introduced 2005, don’t think so.
I have used the system (including initial testing and validation) since its existence and you really need to do your research before such drivel!
OK – when was it introduced since you appear to be an expert? The prime contractor is Accenture and they announced in October 2005 of the successful implementation of CAMM2: https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/australian-defence-force-and-accenture-deploy-new-aircraft-maintenance-and-management-system-1.htm
But I guess you know better than them about when they introduced their own system. Talk about drivel.
Come on Kym, you can do better than this:
“New Zealand has all their helicopters at one facility; Australia’s are scattered across five bases”
Have you seen the size of Australia?
Do you understand the “eggs in one basket” concept when it comes to defence maintenance?
The Australian MRH fleet is stationed across five bases; the incoming Blackhawks will be concentrated at two bases. I think even Army/CASG have realised that they have mismanaged support arrangements. I guess for Blackhawks they must be pursuing all the eggs in two baskets philosophy. Hint: there’s a bit more to come out on all of this in the next few weeks. Watch this space.
We are having problems with the NH90 in New Zealand though. And i bet if our defence ministers could turn back the clock they would not have gone for it. One of the main reasons we went with the NH90 is performance compatibility with our allies. And as our allies are dipping out in droves its making it even worse for us. The simple truth is we are stuck with them now. We are a small nation with a very small defense budget. We cannot afford to replace them and the maintenance cost of retaining them is a massive blow out. This has been an exercise in newer doesn’t always mean better. In military operations there is alot to be said about proven reliability. The NH90 is a huge leap forward in terms of capability and technology for us but its no good if they cost too much to maintain and are not as available. They cannot be transported by air currently nor in the foreseeable future which for an island nation is no good. In short its been a disaster. Yes we have better systems in place to manage them. Simply because we have no other choice now. This has been a massive defense spending nightmare that will take along time for us to recover from. Personally i think we should be demanding a refund like Norway. It has not meet the basic requirements it was procured under and to say was a massive investment is an understatement. The proof is in the pudding. Our Navy is under going evaluations of its rotary wing replacement and if there where no significant problems with the NHI product then getting the Marine variant of the NH90 would be a no brainer with parts, maintenance and training interchangeability. Considering they are not immediately going with this option should show you how much of a nightmare this purchase has been for us. And the fact it is not isolated to just us but defence forces around the world should indicate that the problems with the NH90 are significant.
Thanks Adam – I appreciate the input. Have you had a chance to read the article by Tim Fish in the current edition that looks at what has been happening in NZ in great detail? I recommend it to everyone because he comes to a different conclusion.
As I have tried to detail across several articles this stuff about NH90 users somehow deserting the program is a myth. Norway wants to hand theirs back – but that’s only because they wanted to fit their own dipping sonar and their own lightweight torpedo – an integration problem of their own making. Yes, there have been availability problems, no doubt about that, but the 500th helicopter has been delivered and the majority of nations (14 countries have purchased them) seem very happy with theirs. I can only repeat my own conclusion that as far as Australia is concerned the Army is about to waste $4 billion on a replacement that will be going backwards from a technology viewpoint. The Blackhawks won’t be cheaper to maintain because they are coming via FMS and we will simply be billed for a vast quantity of spares, whether we need them or not.