The United States has pledged to accelerate its delivery UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to Australia’s armed forces after a fatal crash forced the grounding of the ADF’s Taipan fleet.
Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed the delivery of the helicopters will be sped up after he met US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in Washington on Tuesday.
The 40 Black Hawks are replacing Australia’s MRH-90 Taipan helicopters on a faster-than-normal timeline, following the crash of an MRH-90 off Queensland in July.
All four crew were killed and the tragedy led to the grounding of all the Defence force’s Taipan helicopters.
Marles said the Black Hawks would be delivered to Australia sooner than expected, but refused to give details about the timeline.
They are estimated to cost the federal government $2.8 billion.
Not going into specifics, but the number and timing has been sped up,” he said.
He said the agreement aimed to close capability gaps for the ADF created by the grounding of the Taipans.
“This will make a difference in ensuring that we move to the new capability as quickly as possible, and that we minimise capability gaps,” he said.
Before the deadly crash off North Queensland, the Taipans were scheduled to be retired from service by December 2024.
Investigations into the incident are continuing.
“We’ve been completely clear that it is a capability challenge that we’ve grounded the fleet and made clear that we won’t be flying [the MRH-90] again,” Marles said.
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