The Ministry of Defence has confirmed the sale of five surplus Airbus H135 helicopters to the Commonwealth of Australia, as disclosed by Minister of State for Defence James Cartlidge MP.

After initially leasing five H135 helicopters to Australia for pilot training, the UK has now completed their sale.

The leasing agreement, established in February 2024, aimed to enhance training capabilities at Oakey, Queensland, supporting the integration of new Lockheed Martin UH-60M Black Hawks into the Australian fleet. These helicopters, part of a batch originally stored for potential use in Northern Ireland under Project Matcha, have now been permanently transferred to Australia.

Cartlidge stated:

“I can confirm that the Defence Equipment Sales Authority has completed a sale to the Commonwealth of Australia and their leasing partners of five surplus H135 helicopters.”

John Healey, Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne and Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, inquired about the operational history of the helicopters acquired under Project MATCHA. In his response, Cartlidge clarified, “These aircraft have not been flown operationally by the UK Armed Forces.”

Further probing into the intended use of the helicopters came from Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham. The government, however, chose to withhold specific details about the original procurement purpose. Alex Chalk, Conservative MP for Cheltenham, explained, “This information is being withheld as disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness, or security of the Armed Forces.”

The Airbus H135 is a light-utility helicopter that seats up to seven, including two crew members. It features a maximum take-off weight of 2,970 kg, can carry a payload of 1,350 kg, and offers a top speed of 140 knots. With a range of 340 nautical miles and an endurance of 3 hours and 35 minutes, the H135 is well-suited for a variety of tasks, from training to emergency services.

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Lisa has a degree in Media & Communication from Glasgow Caledonian University and works with industry news, sifting through press releases in addition to moderating website comments.
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John Hartley
John Hartley (@guest_817438)
7 days ago

Back in 2007, the UK had over 500 helicopters & we were still short. Now the UK has 250-300. So why sell new helicopters we already have, when we are short of vertical lift?

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker (@guest_817441)
7 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Why buy them, store them, then probably sell them at a loss? Those who know are keeping quiet under operational security

Andrew
Andrew (@guest_817507)
7 days ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Because requirements change over time. Better to have a capability and find it not needed then not have it and be found needing

Steve
Steve (@guest_817628)
6 days ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Under the excuse of it you mean, clearly there is no risk in giving the background on an item no longer owned. Someone messed up and its being covered up.

Oscar Zulu
Oscar Zulu (@guest_817444)
7 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Can’t speak for the rationale of the UK MOD, but the five airframes will add to the 15 of the same type already employed by the ADF under the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) and be a useful addition to capacity for rotary wing training as the ADFs Blackhawks and Apache fleets come into service.

HATS can currently train 144 new pilots annually so this should result in around a 30% increase.

Pete
Pete (@guest_817506)
7 days ago
Reply to  Oscar Zulu

These choppers fly regularly over my house at Jervis Bay. On one side they say Australian Army, the other side identify as Royal Australian Navy. I think they’ll feature in an upcoming “Yes Minister” episode as a true force multiplier. Because 5 helicopters are an army asset and 5 can be a RAN asset, so this will equal 10 helicopters.

G.A.MACKINLAY
G.A.MACKINLAY (@guest_818318)
4 days ago
Reply to  Pete

Quickly, send ASIO operatives to this man’s location. He has discovered The Labor Governments Cunning Plan.

Its all done with mirrors you know.

Peter
Peter (@guest_817519)
7 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Drones have changed most tactical and some strategic speculation.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_817683)
6 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

They were bought for security operations supporting PSNI. That role has changed.

John Hartley
John Hartley (@guest_819246)
1 day ago

True, but the AAC still needs runarounds. Even the USA with all their Chinooks, Stallions & Blackhawks, still have “little birds” for getting in/out of tight spots.

Andrew D
Andrew D (@guest_817729)
6 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Because that’s what were good at getting rid 🙄

Coll
Coll (@guest_817442)
7 days ago

Does anybody know why the 5 surplus H135 didn’t go to Brunei and Cyprus? Or is it just purely because the H145 can carry 2 extra people in the main cabin?

FOSTERSMAN
FOSTERSMAN (@guest_817451)
7 days ago

Another reason why this government need to go, yet more examples of criminal waste in the armed forces.

Basically using the cover of operational secrecy in procurement processes to no doubt hide the corruption in this purchase. No wonder the military pay over the odds and get little in exchange.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_817486)
7 days ago
Reply to  FOSTERSMAN

I would put money on the debacle being due to cock-up, rather than corruption.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_817578)
6 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Yep that’s logical. To be corrupt and get away with it requires a high level of intelligence and competence. So incompetence, lack of vision, out of the box thinking or Political interference (take your pick). So we bought them to replace the Gazelles in NI and didn’t need them, so put them in store. That at the time made sense as the situation could have changed. But this type is used widely by U.K. police forces, so could have been repurposed or even have been used as light Government transport. It can carry 5 passengers so we could have ditched… Read more »

Peter
Peter (@guest_817458)
7 days ago

I wonder how much it costs to transport a helicopter all the way to Australia?

rattman
rattman (@guest_817465)
7 days ago
Reply to  Peter

not that expensive in the overal scheme. They used a RAAF C-17 to fly the 2 stripped AW-64’s that AUS bought as training aides. Also pretty regularly C-17’s flying AUS to europe bringing in stuff for ukraine and flying home empty

Mark P
Mark P (@guest_818337)
4 days ago
Reply to  Peter

Don’t ask me why but I seem to remember reading somewhere that they were shipped to Belgium and then flown to Australia from there?

Jacko
Jacko (@guest_817512)
7 days ago

Can’t win can they?outrage that these helicopters are sitting in storage not being used and then outrage because they were sold!
they were intended to replace gazelles here in NI but apparently as the security risk nowadays has changed s they were surplus to requirements.to be fair I haven’t seen a heli come into Portadown PSNI for yonks.

Steve
Steve (@guest_817631)
6 days ago
Reply to  Jacko

There was a serious lack of helicopters during the afgan/iraq conflict and we now have even less. Would have made sense to keep them. Even if can’t be deployed to the front line they could have freed up others that could be.

Steve
Steve (@guest_817635)
6 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Would have made more sense not to buy in the first place if not needed but once brought I can’t imagine some extra helicopters couldn’t be useful

Luke Allison
Luke Allison (@guest_817572)
6 days ago

This will in all probability just plug holes in the MOD budget rather than allowing the purchase of ASW naval helicopters, which we badly need for otherwise helpless type 31, type 45 as well as thee dedicated anti sub frigates

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_817655)
6 days ago

If anyone wants to know why we have a lack of Money for Defence in UK then just ponder on this bit of stupidity. We have sold 5 assets that could have been used to help save money. These 5 Lightweight Utility Helicopters are brand new, already in service so easy to maintain and designed to move up to 5 passengers from A to B. Last year BW had to reverse a decision to not renew a £40 million contract with Sloane Helicopters to provide VIP helicopter facilities for important folks like Rishi Sunak. They use a 7 seater AW109… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_817689)
6 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Really interesting, them using a Dauphin.
Agree seems ridiculous.
We have no light utility types left these types are used at Shawbury for training. Assume they used what was available at that time.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_817707)
6 days ago

When you take a look on Flight Trackers when a U.K VIP makes a visit to Defence sites it is really interesting to see what they use. Merlins, Chinooks, Pumas and yep Dauphins but also commercial VIP jobs.
As for the 2 Generals it looked like they had a huge entourage as well.
So we just sold 5 that could have been used for ferrying bods about.

Mark P
Mark P (@guest_818338)
4 days ago

I did think that when it was revealed that these helicopters were sitting in storage, I did think they could be used on the River B2’s with a temporary hanger as they could actually be stored sideways on the flight deck (folding rotors would be needed ideally) but operating a drone would obviously be a lot more cost affective and practical.

Quill
Quill (@guest_818773)
2 days ago
Reply to  Mark P

Sometimes it just helps to have eyes on and a greater lift, never mind the fact that these helicopters could be used for rescue ops from the B2s in environments where they have to head inland, think providing quick transport from a Caribbean Island for example.