The Australian Department of Defense has announced that it has completed the purchase of 40 Black Hawks helicopters from the US.
The 2.8 billion AUD contract (US$1.95 billion) aims to improve the military’s combat capabilities and emergency response capabilities, in the context of increasingly volatile and complex regional security. The announcement on January 18 said that the Australian Army would soon eliminate its fleet of European-made MRH-90 Taipan helicopters, which are now degraded and not capable of combat in the new situation.
The acquisition will be made as part of the Project LAND 4507-1 of the Australian Army, and would be done through US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) program. The deliveries of the Black Hawk helicopters are expected to start later this year. Australian Army Head of Land Capability Major General Jeremy King said that the UH-60M Black Hawk will meet Australia’s strategic needs, and is considered a more reliable and proven system supported by a robust supply chain.
The Australian Army currently operates around 41 MRH-90 Taipan helicopters. These helicopters have struggled with supply and maintenance problems for several years. With the arrival of the UH-60M Black Hawk, Taipan will retire a decade earlier than planned. It has been confirmed that the Australian Army will decommission Taipan in December 2024, 13 years earlier than planned.
The UH-60M is an upgraded variant of the famous UH-60 Black Hawk series, manufactured by Sikorsky. The UH-60M was developed in 2001, incorporating upgraded T700-GE-701D engines, improved rotor blades, and state of the art electronic instrumentation, flight controls and aircraft navigation control. The UH-60 Black Hawk, has been operational in the US Army since 1978, and variants of the Black Hawk are operational or have been ordered by 25 international customers.
As a multipurpose utility helicopter, the UH-60 can be armed to become an attack helicopter. The UH-60 can be fitted with two pintle mounts, capable of accepting a variety of weapons. The helicopter can equip up to 16 Hellfire missiles, as well as 2.75″ rocket pods, FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles, as well as aerial mine delivery systems, such as the volcano and the M56 mine delivery system.
The UH-60 is equipped with troop accommodations for eight, which can be removed to accommodate four full-sized medical litters. The Black Hawk can transport 11 fully equipped combat soldiers in an assault ready configuration, or 14 in a maximum capacity situation. Maximum troop carrying capacity is 20 lightly equipped personnel. The dedicated medevac variant of the Black Hawk can accommodate 6 litters.
The new UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters will be used for different combat and peacetime operations including protection of Australia’s sovereignty, deployment and support of troops and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. In another development, the removal of the Taipan helicopter will disappoint France. The French government has been lobbying for Australia to continue operating the MRH-90 Taipan helicopters, with Airbus announcing its commitment to fully support these helicopters.