Australia to acquire AH-64Es and expand its MH-60R fleet

The Australian government announced on May 9 that it will proceed with the purchase of 29 BoeingAH-64E Apache Guardians and expand its fleet of Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk maritime helicopters by 13.

Aircraft from both manufacturers are expected to be delivered from 2025, and the joint investment of helicopters and facilities is valued at over A$8bn. Of this, A$2.5bn has been set aside for the purchase of an additional 13 MH-60Rs for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), which has a rationale to replace the MRH-90 Taipan fleet, currently slated for retirement in 2027.

A concept image of AH-64E Apaches displaying Australian Army colours. Boeing

The MH-60Rs will be based at HMAS Albatross in New South Wales, which will have A$360m invested into the base for it to host the expanded Seahawk (otherwise known as the 'Romeo') fleet. The order comprises 12 new-build aircraft and an additional attrition replacement for a RAN MH-60R lost in a crash in October 2021. LINK OF CRASH STORY

The 29 AH-64Es will replace the Australian Army Air Corps fleet of 22 Airbus Helicopter Tigers in a deal worth A$5.5bn. Another A$500m will be invested in training/logistics support and infrastructure relevant to the Apache fleet. The Australian Army aims to reach initial operational capability with the AH-64E in 2026.

Boeing and the Australian department of defence maintain a good business rapport, the nation operates the CH-47 Chinook, F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler amongst others. Scott Carpendale, the managing director of Boeing Defence Australia said: “Boeing will continue to expand its industry capability and supply chain in Australia by selecting Australian suppliers to support this critical programme.” In a statement, Boeing added that a contract will be offered to Australian industry to produce the crew doors for Australian Apache fleet.

A RAN MH-60R Seahawk ('Romeo') preparing to land on the USS Nimitz. US Navy

The Minister for Defence of Australia, Peter Dutton said: “We are following the 2020 Force Structure Plan that outlined the need to expand our naval operations and the 'Romeo' fits that role as a next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter and can also assist with search and rescue and transport like they have during recent bushfires and floods.

“The Apache is a proven and reliable attack helicopter which is already in use by the US and the UK, and has improved sensors, communications and networking systems, attack capabilities and survivability.”