The Austrian government has ring-fenced over EUR300 million ($343 million) under a special budget intended for the purchase of up to 15 new helicopters. The helicopters being procured will include 12 light armed multirole helicopters, plus three additional Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawks to supplement the Austrian Air Force’s existing stock of nine Black Hawks (UH-60Ls) received in 2001‑2002.
The latter types may be acquired by 2020 if negotiations run smoothly. A government-to-government Foreign Military Aales (FMS) request for three new or secondhand Black Hawks was made by Vienna to the U.S. nearly six years ago, with the proposed deal announced to Congress by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on December 5, 2013, at the then-estimated cost of $137 million. Progress on this potential acquisition remained hung up over funding pressure and political transition issues.
The other – and more crucial – project involves the aforementioned procurement of 12 twin-engine light armed multirole helicopters. The project, part of a bundle of procurement plans outlined by former Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil on June 1, 2016, is intended to provide a replacement for the aging SA-316 Alouette III transport helicopters.
NEWS Austrian Air Force Aérospatiale SA-316B Alouette III (3E-KT) helicopter crashed in Wolayersee, Austria after it was hit by a tailwind. All 4 on board escaped the burning aircraft. (29-JUN-2018). pic.twitter.com/hOGnhBeZcO— Air Disasters (@AirCrashMayday) July 1, 2018
A Request for Information (RFI) was sent to manufacturers on August 21, 2017. Among the vendors issued the RFI were Leonardo (for its AW109), Bell-Textron (Bell 429) and Airbus Helicopters for either its H135M or H145M.
Following general elections in October 2017, a new coalition government under Chancellor Sebastian Kurz entered office and decided in principle to continue with the planned technical modernization of the Austrian Bundesheer. This meant that the planned multirole helicopter acquisition could move forward, with Kurz defending the procurement as a necessity for domestic emergency service and disaster-relief missions.
While no timetable for the acquisition has been laid out by the government, previous reports indicated that Austria seeks to take delivery of its new helicopters in time for the Alouette fleet to be retired in 2023.
Photo via Elisabeth Klimesch