MELBOURNE - Australia will buy 24 MH-60R "Romeo" naval combat helicopters from the U.S. in a deal worth $3 billion Australian ($3.16 billion).
The helicopters will be delivered from 2014 for initial test and evaluation, with operations commencing in 2015.
Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare made the joint announcement June 15 on the Department of Defence website.
Officials with the U.S. Navy's Naval Air Systems Command will hold a press conference at 5 p.m. June 16 in Washington to announce the negotiation and signing of a foreign military sales agreement.
In Australian service, the MH-60Rs will replace S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopters operating from the Navy's Anzac- and upgraded Adelaide-class vessels. They will also fly from the planned Air Warfare Destroyers.
The deal is the conclusion of a 15-month competition between the Team Romeo consortium led by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky and Australian Aerospace, a Eurocopter subsidiary, which offered the NH90 Naval Frigate Helicopter.
"The Australian Government has chosen the 'Romeo' helicopter because it represents the best value for taxpayers and was the lowest risk option" the ministers said in their announcement. "The 2009 Defence White Paper committed the Government to equipping naval warships with a new combat helicopter capable of conducting a range of maritime missions with advanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities and the ability to fire air-to-surface missiles."
The Australian government says it will also work with local small-to-medium-size enterprises to identify opportunities in the "Romeo" global supply chain.