Australia has received its first two UH-60M Black Hawks just six months after the federal government confirmed it would purchase 40 in a US$2 billion deal.
On Sunday, Defence revealed the helicopters were transported by a US C-17 to RAAF Base Richmond in Sydney on 30 July.
The new aircraft are expected to replace Australia’s fleet of 47 Airbus-built MRH-90 Taipans, alongside an order for 12 MH-60R Seahawk/Romeo helicopters.
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 news of the delivery significantly comes with the Taipans still grounded after one crashed into the sea last month, killing four crew onboard.
Defence Minister Richard Marles called the crash a “catastrophic incident” but added that defence exercises such as Talisman Sabre were vital.
“These exercises have played a critical part in providing for the collective security and peace of the region in which we live. And so the loss of these four men is a significant and meaningful as the loss of anyone who has worn our nation’s uniform,” he said.
“If it is, as we imagine it to be, they died on Friday night, making a difference.
“The people who [are] most in pain in this moment [are the] families of these four men. They have lost loved ones. People most cherished… To them, we are so deeply sorry and so grateful.
“They have every right to feel an intense sense of pride. Amidst the inadequacy of these words that, I wanted to know they stand in the warm embrace of the entire nation.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families, and to the friends, to the regiments.”
The incident has raised yet more questions surrounding the use of the Taipan, which has been involved in multiple groundings and is set to exit the ADF next year.
The Taipan fleet was grounded in 2019, 2021 and earlier this year after an aircraft ditched off the NSW South Coast.
Initially purchased for $3.7 billion in 2005–2006 to replace ageing Black Hawk and Sea King fleets, the locally-assembled Taipan has proven a headache for Defence, with statistics showing just 46 per cent of MRH-90 aircraft allocated to flying units were available to fly in 2021.
The incident in March saw 10 ADF personnel on a routine counter-terrorism training exercise rescued from the water near Jervis Bay, with two sustaining minor injuries.