Australia to replace French helicopters with US Black Hawk choppers

Australia to spend $3billion on US Black Hawk helicopters to replace choppers built in France after Scott Morrison was accused of lying to the French over huge submarine contract

  • Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed new helicopters this week
  • The 40 Black Hawks will replace a fleet of French-built MRH90 Taipans
  • In 2021, a cancelled submarine contract caused a major diplomatic rift

Black Hawk helicopters will be purchased by the Australian government for $3 billion from the United States to replace the current French-built helicopter fleet.

The 40 new UH-60M Black Hawks to be delivered later this year will be based at Oakey, near Toowoomba in Queensland and at Holsworthy in Sydney.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said Labor had learned lessons from the former coalition government and given France full transparency around the announcement.

Australia will buy 40 Black Hawk helicopters (pictured) from the United States to replace French-built choppers already in use

Australia will buy 40 Black Hawk helicopters (pictured) from the United States to replace French-built choppers already in use

Anthony Albanese's (pictured) Labor government said it has been in close talks with France in an effort to avoid a repeat of the $90billion submarine contract fiasco

Anthony Albanese’s (pictured) Labor government said it has been in close talks with France in an effort to avoid a repeat of the $90billion submarine contract fiasco

The switch could prove another testing moment for Australia-France relations after the Morrison government reneged on an agreement to buy French submarines in 2021 to instead pursue the AUKUS security pact and nuclear-power submarines. 

French President Emmanuel Macron claimed he was blindsided by the cancellation of the $90billion submarine contract and accused Scott Morrison of lying to him. 

Mr Marles said his government has been in talks with Paris for weeks about replacing the Airbus MRH90 Taipans in use by the Australian military.

Airbus is part-owned by the French government. 

‘It’s definitely not a surprise… they’ve appreciated the upfront way in which we’ve gone about making this decision,’ he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

‘We’ve worked closely with them in relation to it.’

The defence minister said the Taipan helicopters were presenting maintenance problems, requiring the technological upgrade.

‘We’re confident the Black Hawks are a platform we’re familiar with,’ he said.

‘We have a really good proven track record in terms of their reliability and getting hours out of them and so we think it will be a platform which provides this capability in the way we need for the Australian Army.’

A MRH90 Taipan helicopter (pictured) built by the part French government-owned Airbus deployed to the Kimberley region in WA this month to assist with floods

A MRH90 Taipan helicopter (pictured) built by the part French government-owned Airbus deployed to the Kimberley region in WA this month to assist with floods

Anthony Albanese is greeted by Emmanuel Macron along with their partners Jodie Haydon and Brigitte Macron after a trip to Paris in 2022 in an effort to repair diplomatic ties following the submarine contract fiasco

Anthony Albanese is greeted by Emmanuel Macron along with their partners Jodie Haydon and Brigitte Macron after a trip to Paris in 2022 in an effort to repair diplomatic ties following the submarine contract fiasco

Head Land Capability Major General Jeremy King said the Black Hawks were crucial to protecting Australian sovereignty.

‘They will support the deployment of our troops and their equipment where they are needed… the Black Hawk is a reliable, proven and mature platform supported by a robust global supply chain,’ he said.

‘This acquisition will mean we can continue to defend Australia and respond in times of need in a safe and effective way for years to come.’

The Taipans has been on the Defence Departments Projects of Concern list for about a decade after repeated maintenance issues and difficulty obtaining spare parts.

There is also an issue with the door not being wide enough for soldiers to repel out of under certain conditions. 

The US government approved the sale of the 40 Lockheed-Martin made Black Hawks in August. 

WHAT IS A BLACK HAWK HELICOPTER 

Workhorse of the Army

The massive Black Hawk has been the workhorse of the US Army since 1978 and is widely used by air forces throughout the world, including Argentina, Australia, Korea, China, Jordan, Spain and Thailand.

They are primarily used to ferry troops to and from the battlefields, and support aircraft, but adapted models carry out medical evacuations with state-of-the-art equipment, search-and-rescue, armed escort and warfare missions.

Low-flying

It flies low to the ground to avoid detection and can withstand hits from 23mm shells.

Its twin-turbine engine can deliver a maximum speed of 250 kilometres (155 miles) an hour, with a range exceeding 580 kilometres (360 miles).

The Black Hawk can hold 16 Hellfire missiles inside or a 10,000lb payload of rockets and cannons and door-mounted machine guns.

It can also carry a crew of two pilots, one crew chief, one door gunner, and can carry 12 troops into assault.

Although it is built to resist small arms fire and missiles, the rotor and gearbox are susceptible to missile rounds and rocket propelled grenades.

Black Hawks have been successfully used in Grenada, Panama, Columbia and Kuwait.

 

 

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