The Australian military announced on Friday that it plans to replace its fleet of European-designed Taipan helicopters with American Black Hawks and Seahawks because the latter is more reliable.
The move comes less than three months after Australia backed out of a deal to buy French submarines in favour of building nuclear-powered submarines using American and British technology, infuriating France.
Australia has 47 Taipan helicopters, which were designed by Airbus and are supposed to last until 2037 but have been grounded due to maintenance issues. In a switch that will cost $7 billion Australian dollars ($4.8 billion), Australia will stop using them and replace them with 40 Lockheed Martin-designed helicopters.
Australia’s defence capabilities are improving, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and the country has developed strong partnerships, particularly with the United States.
“The Taipans were falling short of their goals. “It’s as simple as that,” Morrison explained. “And we want to make sure that our defence forces have the best equipment possible to defend this country, which the Black Hawks will provide.”
The Black Hawks are much cheaper to fly, according to Defense Minister Peter Dutton, and officials have been concerned about the Taipan programme for the past decade.
“I’m not going to put our people in that situation,” Dutton said. “It’s had nine instances where it’s been unsuitable to fly.”
He said the new helicopters would bring Australia’s fleet closer to that of the United States, which is important given the region’s instability.
China has previously expressed displeasure with Australia’s submarine switch, claiming that the US and UK were being irresponsible in exporting nuclear technology.
Opposition politicians claim the Australian government has squandered billions of dollars on bad defence contract decisions.
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