WASHINGTON ― The State Department this week approved a $1.95 billion sale to Australia of 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, which will replace the Australian Defence Force’s troubled MRH90 Taipan utility helicopters.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which made the announcement amid high U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, said the sale to an important ally would offer “a more reliable and proven system that will allow Australia to maintain the appropriate level of readiness to conduct combined operations.

“The UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter will improve the Australian Army’s ability to deploy combat power to share Australia’s strategic environment, deter actions against its interests, and, when required, respond with credible force. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces,” DSCA’s announcement added.

Calling Australia a contributor to regional peace and stability, DSCA said it’s “vital to the U.S. national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability.”

When Australia picked the Black Hawk last year, its defense officials said its 47 Taipans would be scrapped before their planned withdrawal from service in 2037 because they were too expensive and unreliable.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in March he plans to spend AU$28 billion (about U.S. $19 billion) to expand its defense personnel by 30% by 2040 ― continuing a trend of growing Australian military spending as China’s military grows.

The Black Hawk deal also included 88 T700-GE 701D engines made by General Electric, 44 AN/AAR-57 counter missile warning systems made by BAE Systems, along with other navigation and communication systems. The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin.

In June, the U.S. State Department also cleared deals with Australia for 80 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles-Extended Range worth $235 million and AGM-88E2 Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles worth $94 million.

Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.

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