The US State Department has greenlit a request for sustainment items and services to support Australia’s Seahawk fleet.
It comes after the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) placed a second order in September for 12 MH-60R Seahawk/Romeo helicopters in a deal tipped to be worth over $2.5 billion. The new aircraft will build on the 24 acquired between 2013–2016 and would take the total size of the fleet to 36.
Last week, the US’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has approved the possible foreign military sale (FMS) of additional non-MDE MH-60R Seahawk/Romeo sustainment items and services for approximately US$162 million (AU$258.6 million).
This is expected to build on an initial FMS for the provision of sustainment services, valued at $89.8 million (AU$143.4 million).
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” the DSCA noted in a statement.
“Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region.
“It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defence capability.”
This latest approval from the US State Department comes less than a month after the 40th periodic deeper maintenance interval (PMI) on the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of MH-60R Seahawk/Romeo helicopters was completed at Sikorsky Australia facilities in Nowra, NSW.
The periodic maintenance interval is a two-part maintenance program involving a series of intensive activities over a seven-year cycle.
The first part of the cycle, undertaken after three-and-a-half years, involves the assessment of condition, identification of wear and tear, corrosion and fatigue and repair to baseline condition.
The second part, conducted after seven years, involves completing exterior paint strip and repaint.
Alongside the purchase of 12 new Seahawks, the federal government is also mulling a purchase of 40 Black Hawks to help replace its troubled fleet of 47 Taipans.
The deal for Blackhawks, however, is still unconfirmed, with new Defence Minister Richard Marles arguing the commitment from the previous federal government was “pretty fuzzy”.
“A process is underway that is evaluating that capability in terms of what we have now and what we need in the future. I’m not going to pre-empt it now,” he said, referencing the new federal government’s upcoming Defence Strategic Review.
Last year, the former Morrison government went as far as to send a letter of request to the United States so Australia could purchase UH-60M Black Hawks for AU$2.79 billion.