US State Department has cleared Australia’s request to buy additional Sikorsky-built multirole naval helicopters along with related equipment and support services under a potential US$985 million foreign military sales agreement. Australia intends to buy a dozen MH-60R Seahawk units as part of the country’s homeland defence and regional deterrence efforts, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said. The possible transaction will include aircraft components such as T-700-GE-401C engines, Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems – Joint Tactical Radio Systems and Airborne Low Frequency Sonars.

DSCA said Lockheed Martin’s rotary and mission systems business in Owego, New York, will act as the primary contractor for the proposed FMS deal. US government and contractor representatives would travel to Australia if the two countries implement the agreement to perform technical support work.

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. The navy said the MH-60R serves as the branch’s platform for submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare missions.

The Royal Australian Navy is set to dump its troubled fleet of European-made MRH 90 Taipan helicopters because of the deal, according to media reports. 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.


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