Defence has finally confirmed it will purchase 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters following months of speculation.
Australia initially received approval from the US State Department for a US$1.95 billion purchase of the systems in August 2022.
However, new federal Defence Minister Richard Marles raised doubts about the deal and told the media Australia had only made a “fuzzy commitment” that would be subject to a review process.
Months on, Head Land Capability Major General Jeremy King has confirmed the acquisition of the asset, announcing that the systems will enable the Australian Army to meet their strategic objectives.
Delivery of the systems are scheduled to commence this year, with the Black Hawks operating from Oakey, Queensland and Holsworthy, NSW.
They are expected to be maintained by a blended workforce, which includes local industry contractors operating across logistics, warehousing, training and development services.
“The Black Hawk capability will be a crucial element for us to protect Australia’s sovereignty, and deliver foreign policy objectives, including providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” MAJGEN King said.
“The Black Hawk will support the deployment of our troops and their equipment where they are needed in times of crisis. The Black Hawk is a reliable, proven and mature platform supported by a robust global supply chain.
“This acquisition will mean we can continue to defend Australia and respond in times of need in a safe and effective way for years to come.”
First introduced into the US Army in 1979, the UH-60 Black Hawk answers the US need for a robust utility helicopter system.
In the 43 years since, Black Hawks have accumulated over 9 million flight hours around the world and have been utilised by military powers on basically every continent, including countries such as China, Brazil, Israel and Poland.
The first Black Hawk was delivered to the RAAF in 1987 and was later transferred to Army.
The new aircraft are expected to replace Australia’s fleet of 47 Airbus-built MRH-90 Taipans.
It came amid ongoing concerns over Taipan’s performance, with the platform failing to meet contracted availability requirements in light of a series of technical shortcomings.
In 2019, for instance, a tail rotor vibration forced the MRH-90s based at HMAS Albatross to be grounded, while in 2021, the entire fleet was stopped from flying after an issue relating to the aircraft’s IT support system was identified.
The selection of the Sikorsky-made UH-60M Black Hawk for the Australian Army under LAND 4507-1 was welcomed by Lockheed Martin Australia chief executive Warren McDonald.
“The UH-60M Black Hawk is a tough, reliable and proven utility helicopter. Australia’s acquisition of the Black Hawk reinforces our nation’s enduring military interoperability with the US and allied nations. The Black Hawk will enhance future joint operations and the ongoing protection of Australia and the Indo-Pacific region,” McDonald said.