The Royal Australian Navy is set to dump its troubled fleet of European-made MRH 90 Taipan helicopters, replacing them with US-made Seahawks in a deal worth around $1.3 billion.
- The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency has approved the sale of 12 Sikorsky Romeo Seahawk helicopters to Australia
- The helicopters are expected to eventually replace the navy’s six Airbus-made MRH-90s
- Australia’s fleet of MRH 90s were first acquired from 2006 but have suffered from poor availability since entering service
Earlier this year, the ADF grounded all 47 Taipan helicopters used by the navy and army due to safety and maintenance concerns.
Overnight, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency revealed it had approved the sale of 12 Sikorsky Romeo Seahawk helicopters to Australia, expected to eventually replace the navy’s six Airbus-made MRH-90s.
“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale to the government of Australia of MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopters, related defence services, and related equipment for an estimated cost of $986 million USD,” a statement said.
Australia’s fleet of MRH 90s were first acquired from 2006 but have suffered from poor availability since entering service, forcing the army to recently lease interim helicopters for training and non-combat transport roles.
Last year, parliament was told the door on the MRH-90 was too narrow to allow its gun to fire while troops were descending, and that a third round of remedial work was being carried out on the fleet.
Last year’s Force Structure Plan, published in July, forecast the requirement to “expand and rationalise the support and logistics helicopter fleet consistent with the expectations for larger naval operations.”
An accompanying timeline chart showed a project for the logistics helicopter running from 2025 to 2031 and was valued at $1 billion to $1.5 billion, in line with the costs cited in the overnight US approval.
Australia’s navy already operates 24 MH-60R Seahawks based at HMAS Albatross, near Nowra, and this next purchase would mean a common fleet of 36 aircraft.
Shadow Assistant Defence Minister Pat Conroy claims the latest sale highlights the government’s mismanagement of large military acquisitions.
“The Howard government’s $3.7 billion decision to acquire the 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 debacle continues to mismanage Defence.”
Despite the US announcement, the Defence Department or Minister Peter Dutton are yet to comment on the pending $1.3 billion purchase of Seahawk helicopters.