The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has approved the sale of 40 UH-60M Black Hawk battlefield mobility helicopters to Australia for $2.79 billion.
In December last year, then-Minister for Defence Peter Dutton announced that the government was negotiating to buy up to 40 Sikorsky Black Hawks to replace the Army’s troubled fleet of NH Industries MRH 90 Taipan helicopters.
Dutton said at the time that the government was “formally requesting advice” from the US Government on the acquisition and noted the MRH 90 fleet had not met contracted availability requirements or cost of ownership.
The Taipan is operated in the battlefield mobility role by Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment (5 AVN) at Townsville and in the Special Operations support helicopter role by 6 AVN at Holsworthy.
To address the Taipan's availability issues, Army leased two Leonardo AW139 medium helicopters from Toll Helicopters. The helicopters were acquired under the Army Interim Commercial Helicopter (AICH) contract, also known as Plan Corella, following a limited Request For Tender (RFT) released to industry in October 2020.
Toll signed the AICH contract in February 2021 and the two AW139s became fully operational in October last year.
"The proposed sale will replace Australia’s current multi-role helicopter fleet with a more reliable and proven system that will allow Australia to maintain the appropriate level of readiness to conduct combined operations," the DSCA said. "The UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter will improve the Australian Army’s ability to deploy combat power to share Australia’s strategic environment, deter actions against its interests, and, when required, respond with credible force."