The US State Department has approved a possible sale of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to Australia for an estimated $1.95 billion.
The approval comes after Australia decided in December last year to retire its fleet of troubled MRH90 Taipan helicopters a decade early and replace them with US UH-60 Black Hawks.
Australia said back then it would request to buy up to 40 Black Hawks. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) statement on Thursday included the helicopters, counter missile warning systems, navigation systems, SATCOM radios, and other related equipment.
Australia already operates a fleet of Black Hawk helicopters, which it had expected to retire and start selling by December 2022 before deciding to retire the Taipans early. It is unclear what the fate of the current Australian Black Hawks will be under the new plan.
“The proposed sale will replace Australia’s current multi-role helicopter fleet with a more reliable and proven system that will allow Australia to maintain the appropriate level of readiness to conduct combined operations,” DSCA said in a statement.
“The UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter will improve the Australian Army’s ability to deploy combat power to share Australia’s strategic environment, deter actions against its interests, and, when required, respond with credible force. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.”
Australia decided to go for the Black Hawk after the Airbus-built Taipan fleet did not met contracted availability requirements nor the expected cost of ownership ahead of its planned withdrawal from service in 2037.
The UH60 Black Hawk that Australia is now looking to buy is the most widely used utility helicopter variant in the world. The UH60M is the latest fielded version and has been in service with the US Army and other nations for over a decade. The US Army is currently receiving the UH-60V variant, which will introduce an upgraded digital glass cockpit, certified GPS RNAV database and advanced flight planning and mission capability.