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Coalition calls for Black Hawk purchase clarity

written by Charbel Kadib | August 29, 2022

The federal Liberal opposition has urged the Albanese government to finalise the purchase of Black Hawk helicopters for the Australian Army amid fears it could be dropped.

It comes after Defence Minister Richard Marles on Friday cast doubt on the deal, arguing the “fuzzy commitment” made by his predecessor Peter Dutton would be subject to a review process.

Those remarks have now been criticised by the federal opposition, which has called on the Albanese government to proceed with the acquisition.

Shadow assistant minister for defence Phillip Thompson said he is concerned the recently launched Defence Strategic Review would be used as an “excuse” to stall the acquisition.


“We said the Defence Strategic Review must not result in cuts. This looks like exactly that,” he said.

The shadow minister claimed a decision to replace the Taipan fleet was “overdue”, given the fleet’s underperformance in recent years.

The Taipan fleet has failed to meet contracted availability requirements in light of a series of technical shortcomings.

The Australian National Audit Office continues to list the MRH program (AIR 9000 Phase 2, 4 and 6) as a “project of concern”.

The program has also exceeded operational cost expectations ahead of its planned withdrawal from service in 2037.

Initially, an annual sustainment cost of approximately $123 million (2021 AUD out-turned) was anticipated, however, this has now more than doubled to approximately $300 million.

Costs are also expected to increase with scheduled upgrade programs for the global fleet to address operational and obsolescence issues.

This would have taken the total cost of operating the fleet until 2037 to $9.5 billion when including a mid-life upgrade.

“Our soldiers need a reliable tactical troop transport helicopter now, that can be used for training, humanitarian missions as well as on combat operations. That helicopter is the Black Hawk,” shadow minister Thompson added.

He went on to laud the capability of the Black Hawk platform.

“I was casualty-evacuated from Afghanistan in a Black Hawk myself. It’s a proven and reliable capability. The decision has been backed by soldiers and officers alike since its announcement,” he said.

“…There’s no excuse to hide cuts to capability and delayed decision making behind a review. There’s no question the Black Hawk is needed for our national security.”

But Deputy Prime Minister Marles has sought to allay fears the review would derail the overall push to upgrade the ADF’s warfighting capability.

“What we’ve said with the Defence Strategic Review is that it is not about all the operations of the Defence Force being put on hold until the review is complete,” he said.

“…We are continuing to evolve our capabilities and that means that those immediate questions are still being worked through and considered and this is one of those processes which is underway, and the Black Hawks form a part of that.”

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Comments (2)

  • The Norwegians, the Swedes and a few others are contemplating dumping the naval version of the Taipan. They have never done what the manufacturer claimed they could do and the best thing we can do is sell them off to the Germans or French for spare parts. Buying European choppers (including the Tigers) has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster for Australia’s military. Get rid of them and buy the Hawks for Gods sake and stop delaying the inevitable and playing politics with Australia’s defence. We don’t have the time to play silly buggers anymore cause we all know what’s over the horizon.

    Brad Harrison

    • Gordon Mackinlay


      A bit of misinformation from Mr Harrison, the RNoAF NH-90 was a case of buying a aircraft to do two totally different taskings. In this case maritime warfare with the RNo Navy and the nations Coastguard, both the aircrew and the aircraft performed well in either case. The Swedes are very happy with their High Cabin variant, and no other air arm appears to be interested in getting rid of them. The RNZAF considers them to be highly successful aircraft, after initial teething problems the Dutch find them excellent for their needs. The Belgium Air Component had to get of their four, as they had to make massive savings with the high cost of maintenance with the F-35, the Ground Component lost a complete brigade. In French, German, Spanish, Italian and Oman service, highly successful on operations in war zones, currently in the appalling conditions of Chad, Mali and CAR. The UK is looking at it for the new tactical helo, because of the fact you can get in and out very fast using the rear ramp, and amongst others its crashworthiness is superb. The reason for the poor service in Australia is put firmly on the Army using the RAEME for aircraft maintenance, and their standards are very much lower than the RAAF and the FAA. With the previous Blackhawks and current Chinooks, maintenance and aviability has been (and is) a problem

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