The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency has announced that the State Department has approved the sale of 40 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks to Australia.
The approval comes after former Defence Minister Peter Dutton announced last December that the Commonwealth would phase out the Australian Army’s 41 Airbus/NHI MRH 90 Taipan helicopters a decade early in favour of the Black Hawk.
Despite being planned for withdrawal in the 2034 timeframe, Dutton said on 10 December 2021 that “the performance of the MRH 90 has been an ongoing and well-documented concern for Defence”, and that despite “a significant effort at great expense to try to remediate those issues,” the Taipan would be replaced with the Black Hawk in the 2024/25 timeframe.
The estimated US$1.95bn (A$2.8bn) sale of the new Black Hawks includes eight spare GE T700-GE-701D engines, AN/AAR-57 Counter Missile Warning Systems (CMWS), a comprehensive suite of communications and avionics systems common to the US Army’s current UH-60M configuration, flight simulators, and crew and maintenance training aids.
As with all US Foreign Military Sales (FMS), it also includes a comprehensive package of spares, training, support, technical publications, and US and contractor engineering and logistics support to help to establish the capability.
Importantly, the aircraft will also be equipped with a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES) and External Gun Mount Systems, both of which were reportedly unable to be successfully integrated with the 12 MRH 90s that are currently operated by the Army’s 6 Aviation Regiment (6Avn) in the anti-terror and special forces support role.