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Australian army to get 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

| 2023

Following months of speculation, Head Land Capability Major General Jeremy King confirmed the acquisition of 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the Australian Army, Liam Garman reports in Defence Connect.

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Australian army to get 40 UH 60M Black Hawk helicopters   U.S. Army UH-60M from 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion lands in Baturaja, Indonesia, on July 31, 2022 as part of Exercise Super Garuda Shield (Picture source: U.S. Army/Spc. Christopher Wilkins, 7th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Australia initially received approval from the US State Department for a US$1.95 billion purchase of the systems in August 2022, Liam Garman reminds. Head Land Capability Major General Jeremy King has confirmed the acquisition of the 40 UH-60M helicopters whose delivery is scheduled to commence this year, with the Black Hawks operating from Oakey, QLD and Holsworthy, NSW.

The selection of the Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk for the Australian Army under LAND 4507-1 was welcomed by Lockheed Martin Australia chief executive Warren McDonald: “The UH-60M Black Hawk is a tough, reliable and proven utility helicopter. Australia’s acquisition of the Black Hawk reinforces our nation’s enduring military interoperability with the US and allied nations. The Black Hawk will enhance future joint operations and the ongoing protection of Australia and the Indo-Pacific region,” McDonald said.

The development of the UH-60M as an upgraded version of the UH-60L was approved in 2001, to extend the service life of the UH-60 design into the 2020s. The UH-60M incorporates upgraded T700-GE-701D engines, improved rotor blades, and state of the art electronic instrumentation, flight controls and aircraft navigation control. After the U.S. DoD approved low-rate initial production of the new variant, manufacturing began in 2006, with the first of 22 new UH-60Ms delivered in July 2006. After an initial operational evaluation, the Army approved full-rate production and a five-year contract for 1,227 helicopters in December 2007.

History of UH-60M order

Australia ordered 14 S-70A-9 Black Hawks in 1986 and an additional 25 Black Hawks in 1987. The first Black Hawk was delivered in 1987 to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). de Havilland Australia produced 38 Black Hawks under license from Sikorsky in Australia, delivering the first in 1988 and the last in 1991. In 1989, the RAAF's fleet of Black Hawks was transferred to the Australian Army. The Black Hawks saw operational service in Cambodia(with UN/UNTAC), Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor and Pakistan. In April 2009, the then-defence chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, told the government not to deploy Black Hawks to Afghanistan as at the time they “lacked armor and self-defense systems”, and despite an upgrade to address this underway, it was more practical to use allies’ helicopters.

In 2004, the government selected the Multi-Role Helicopter (MRH-90) Taipan, a variant of the NHIndustries NH90, to replace the Black Hawk even though the Department of Defence had recommended the S‐70M Black Hawk. In January 2014, the Army commenced retiring the fleet of 34 Black Hawks from service (5 had been lost in accidents) and had planned for this to be completed by June 2018. The Chief of the Army delayed the retirement of 20 Black Hawks until 2021 to enable the Army to develop a special operations capable MRH-90. On 10 December 2021, the S-70A-9 Black Hawks were retired from service. On the same day, amid issues with the performance of the MRH-90s, the government announced that they would be replaced by up to 40 UH-60M Black Hawks. The decision has now become official.

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