The United States is preparing to potentially sell a dozen maritime helicopters worth more than $1.34 billion to Australia.
The US State Department released a statement on Friday (US time) saying Australia had requested the Lockheed Martin MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and related defence services and equipment.
The statement said the proposed sale would improve Australia’s capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions.
It also said it would improve Australia’s ability to perform secondary missions, including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay.
“Australia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces,” the statement said.
The US State Department also said the proposed sale would support its foreign policy and national security objectives.
“Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region,” the statement said.
“It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability.”
This notice of the potential sale was required by law in the United States and estimates the dollar value to be around $1.34 billion AUD.
“Actual dollar value will be lower depending on final requirements, budget authority, and signed sales agreement(s), if and when concluded,” the statement said.
A spokeswoman for Australia’s Defence Department said work was under way to expand the number of helicopters used by the navy in support roles.
Bust she said the department was in the process of preparing options, which the government was then yet to choose from.
“The 2020 Defence Strategic Update outlined the government’s commitment to ensuring the Australian Defence Force is equipped to meet our growing regional challenges in the Indo-Pacific, and to achieve our goals of regional stability, peace and security,” Defence’s spokeswoman said.
“Consistent with that commitment, the 2020 Force Structure Plan outlined an intent to expand and rationalise the support and logistics helicopter fleet operated by navy, in anticipation of expected larger future naval operations.
“Project SEA 9100 Phase 1 Improved Embarked Logistics Support Helicopter Capability has been established to deliver the required capability. The Project will expand the number of helicopters utilised by Navy in the support role, improving support to the growing fleet.”