Two of the three contenders for the Australian Army’s Project LAND 4503 program to replace the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter have been cleared for sale to the Philippines, with the United States approving the potential sale of the Bell AH-1Z Viper and Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to the Southeast Asian nation.

The U.S. Defense Security and Cooperation Agency announced the decision by the State Department this morning local time, with pre-approval for the Philippines to buy six of each type of attack helicopters pending its decision on the eventual choice of platforms..

The approval for the AH-1Z includes 14 T-700-GE-401C engines, electronic warfare and self protection systems, Honeywell GPS/INS navigation systems, sif AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles, and 26 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) guided rockets and other support for an estimated cost of US$450 million.

Meanwhile, the much larger and more expensive AH-64E package includes 18 T700-GE-701D engines, 15 Honeywell embedded GPS/INS, 200 Hellfires, 300 APKWS, Longbow fire control radars, Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) equipment and other support.

As the announcement noted, the approval does not mean that a sale has been concluded, with the State Department routinely pre-approving potential sales before a potential customer has made its decision, so as to speed up the process for the sale if any of the U.S. platforms are chosen.

The Philippines is seeking a new attack helicopter for its military, which has had to contend with a number of insurgencies throughout the archipelago, including against Islamist and separatist insurgencies in the south centred around the island of Mindanao as well as a long-running fight against communist rebels elsewhere.

The American contenders will face off against Turkey’s TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter. The Philippines has also recently taken delivery of two ex-Jordanian AH-1F HueyCobra helicopter gunships, which are the forerunner of the AH-1Z.

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Kym Bergmann
Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.


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