Australia to Replace European Military Helicopters With US Black Hawks
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Australia will replace European MRH-90 Taipan military helicopters with multi-role American Black Hawks, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said on Friday.
"For the interoperability with the US and Australia which is increasingly important for us given the instability in our region, the Black Hawk made perfect sense. They are much cheaper to fly than what the Taipans were," the minister told Australia's Nine News.
According to the minister, the 41 Taipan helicopters were unreliable and did not live up to the expectations. In their stead, Australia will purchase up to 40 Black Hawk helicopters from the United States.
Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said that the Taipans "weren't doing their job". The purchase of American helicopters, he said, complies with obligations under the AUKUS partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom.
According to Nine News, replacement of the helicopters will cost taxpayers 7 billion Australian dollars ($5 billion).
The Australian government's decision drew criticism from the opposition. Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles said the country's military programs raised questions amid the recent refusal of the Australian authorities to honor the $90 billion submarine contract with France in favor of the US nuclear submarines.
"We are seeing a whole lot of defence programs being scrapped. When we see defence programs being turned over like this, it is billions of dollars wasted," Marles said, as quoted by Nine News.
Labour frontbencher Bill Shorten Bill Shorten, on the contrary, urged the Australian government to take hard decision to replace the helicopter fleet.
In January, Australia banned the use of 30 out of the 33 Black Hawk helicopters already purchased due to technical problems. Three helicopters continued to be used only because they were operating outside Australia, in East Timor.
The Black Hawk helicopters are designed and built by the US Sikorsky Aircraft manufacturer. Taipan aircraft are produced by the European NHIndustries consortium.
According to the Australian Defence Magazine, Taipan helicopters are used in Australia by aviation regiments in the suburbs of Townsville and Holsworthy. They were put into service in 2007 to replace the outdated S-70A-9 Black Hawks helicopters.
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