Prime Minister Scott Morrison has detailed the government’s plans to deliver 12 additional MH-60R Romeo maritime helicopters and 29 AH-64E Apache armed reconnaissance helicopters, with deliveries expected from 2025.
The contract for the Romeos, which are scheduled to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of Taipans, is valued at over $2.5 billion, with an additional $360 million earmarked for base upgrades at HMAS Albatross for the fleet.
Along with the 12 MH-60R Romeos, also known as the Seahawk, it is expected that Defence will also acquire an additional unit to substitute the helicopter that was lost in 2021.
The Commonwealth has also confirmed that it has finalised plans to acquire 29 AH-64E Apaches, to replace the Australian Army’s fleet of Tigers, at a cost of over $5.5 billion.
Similar base upgrades are expected for the Australian Army, with $500 million earmarked for upgrades to house the fleet.
Deliveries of the units are scheduled from 2025.
The investment is vital for guaranteeing Australian safety amid rising global uncertainty, the Prime Minister explained.
“Our world and our region are changing but we’re investing a record $270 billion in the defence and security of Australia over the decade to 2030,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“Australia and our region is now in the midst of the most consequential and challenging strategic realignment since the Second World War.
“But these investments don’t just support the Australian Defence Force, they support local jobs and skills right here.
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“The more than $8 billion we’re investing in helicopters and facilities means 290 new jobs on the ground for electricians, mechanics and engineers to support their maintenance, along with hundreds more jobs in the small business supply chain that supports these fleets.
“A safe and secure Australia also means a strong economy and a stronger future for defence industry jobs.”
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton continued, noting that both systems were proven and will help Australia overcome threats.
“We’re expanding the size and capability of our helicopters to meet the threats Australia faces,” Minister Dutton said.
“We’re following the 2020 Force Structure Plan that outlined the need to expand our naval operations in particular and the Romeo fits that role as a next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter and can also assist with search and rescue and transport like they have during recent bushfires and floods.
“The Apache is a proven and reliable attack helicopter which is already in use by the United States government and United Kingdom, and has improved sensors, communications and networking systems, attack capabilities and survivability.”
Chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia Warren McDonald welcomed the announcement.
“This additional growth further enhances the Royal Australian Navy’s rotary-wing capability and increases operational flexibility to transition from anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare to maritime utility and support missions using the multi-role capability of the MH-60R Seahawk.”
“The expanded MH-60R Seahawk fleet provides strong economic opportunities for Australian industry that will generate more employment, supply chain spending, and partnerships with small to medium enterprises in the Shoalhaven region.
“Our Sikorsky Australia team has an exceptional track record as a trusted partner to the Royal Australian Navy in sustaining this critical capability with excellence.
“We welcome the opportunity to expand on this mission to protect Australia’s national interests,” Mr. McDonald said.
The Prime Minister’s plan comes nearly a year after the US State Department approved the sale of 29 Apaches to the Australian government alongside spare parts, training and operational equipment.
The deal consisted of 29 AH-64E Apache Helicopters with a number of spare parts for ongoing maintenance and sustainment of the aircraft. Additional sale items include 64 T700-GE 701D engines, of which six will be held as spare by the ADF, 29 pilot night vision sensors and radar frequency interferometers, 16 fire control radars, 70 GPS units, 35 missile warning systems and 85 Hellfire missiles. The US State Department has confirmed that there will be numerous other training aids and operational tools included in the deal.
According to the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the sale of the Apache to the Australian government will support strengthened interoperability between the US and Australia.