The Royal Australian Navy is ready to dump its troubled fleet of European-made MRH 90 Taipan helicopters and replace them with US-made Seahawks in a deal worth about $ 1.3 billion.
- US Defense Security Cooperation Agency approves sale of 12 Sikorsky Romeo Seahawk helicopters to Australia
- The helicopters are expected to eventually replace the fleet’s six Airbus-made MRH-90s
- Australia’s fleet of the MRH 90s was first acquired from 2006, but has suffered from poor availability since being taken into use
Earlier this year, the ADF grounded all 47 Taipan helicopters used by the Navy and Army for security and maintenance purposes.
Overnight, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency revealed that it had approved the sale of 12 Sikorsky Romeo Seahawk helicopters to Australia, which are expected to eventually replace the fleet’s six Airbus-made MRH-90s.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken a decision to approve a possible foreign military sale to the Australian Government of MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopters, associated defense services and associated equipment at an estimated cost of $ 986 million,” the statement said.
Australia’s fleet of the MRH’s 90s was first acquired from 2006 but has suffered from poor availability since entering service, forcing the Army to recently hire temporary helicopters for training and non-combat transport roles.
Last year, Parliament was told that the door to the MRH-90 was too narrow for its pistol to fire while troops fell, and that a third round of relief work was being carried out on the navy.
Last year’s Force Structure Plan, released in July, predicted the requirement to “expand and rationalize the support and logistics helicopter fleet in line with expectations for major fleet operations.”
An accompanying timeline chart showed a project for the logistics helicopter that ran from 2025 to 2031 and was valued at $ 1 billion to $ 1.5 billion, in line with the costs stated in the U.S. approval overnight.
Australia’s fleet already operates 24 MH-60R Seahawks based on the HMAS Albatross, near Nowra, and this next acquisition would mean a joint fleet of 36 aircraft.
Shadow Assistant Secretary of Defense Pat Conroy claims the latest sale highlights the government’s mistreatment of major military acquisitions.
“The Howard Government’s $ 3.7 billion decision to acquire MRH-90 and the current coalition government’s eight years of mismanagement of it looks like it has now cost taxpayers another $ 1.3 billion!” he said on social media.
“The party that delivered the billion-dollar Seasprite debate continues to mismanage the defense.”
Despite the U.S. announcement, the Department of Defense or Secretary of State Peter Dutton has not yet commented on the ongoing $ 1.3 billion purchase of Seahawk helicopters.