CANBERRA - The first helicopters in Australia’s new fleet of US-designed Black Hawks will arrive by the end of the year, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said, further strengthening security ties between Canberra and Washington.
The purchase of 40 Black Hawk helicopters for about A$3 billion (S$2.77 billion) was confirmed by Australia’s Department of Defence on Wednesday.
Mr Marles, who is also the Defence Minister, said the new aircraft would replace Australia’s Taipan choppers, which have seen repeated maintenance issues in recent years.
“We’ve struggled in terms of getting the hours out of the Taipans that we would want, both with maintenance and having spare parts available,” Mr Marles told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Washington approved the sale in August 2022, with the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency saying at the time that the Australian purchase would support “the foreign policy and national security objectives of the US”.
Australia and the US have been bolstering their defence relationship in recent years, amid rising concerns in both countries over the Chinese government’s rapid military expansion.
In September 2021, Australia joined the US and the UK in a trilateral security partnership known as Aukus, which could see Canberra fielding a fleet of nuclear submarines by 2040.
An announcement on the final cost and design plans for Australia’s Aukus fleet is expected in early 2023.
The US is planning to deploy up to six B-52 bombers to northern Australia, and build facilities at the Tindal air base in the Northern Territory to house them, the ABC reported in October last year.
China often complains about the expanding cooperation between the nations, warning of a potential arms race in the region.
When asked about the Black Hawk deal at a regular press briefing Wednesday in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said defence cooperation “should not target any third party or harm its interests”. BLOOMBERG