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Australia aims to replace costly European Taipan choppers with US-made Black Hawks

This photo, provided by Lockheed Martin, shows an armed Black Hawk military helicopter featuring two external wings supporting four weapon stations carrying a combination of guns, rockets, and laser-guided missiles. In addition, machine-guns can be mounted to both sides of the cabin.

Australia plans to get US-designed Black Hawk helicopters to replace its trouble-prone European-made Taipans.

The first helicopters in Australia's new fleet of UH-60M Black Hawks will arrive by the end of the year, deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles announced on Wednesday.

Marles, who is also the defense minister, said the new aircraft would replace the Airbus-made MRH90 Taipan choppers, which have had repair and maintenance issues.

"We have been struggling with the Taipans for many years, in terms of maintenance issues, getting spare parts," he said.

"We just haven't got the flying hours out of the Taipan that we need. We are confident we can get that from the Black Hawks," Marles said.

In total, Australia plans to buy 40 of the American aircraft for about $2.1 billion (Aus$3 billion).

The Australian reported that it is hoped that six of them would be delivered in 2023, with the rest to be delivered by 2026.

The Black Hawks are made by US military contractor Lockheed Martin. Another Airbus product, the Tiger attack helicopter, is being replaced with Apache choppers made by another US military contractor, Boeing.

In a statement, Airbus said it "acknowledges" Canberra's decisions and that Australia remained a key market for the company. "We are committed to building on our significant presence in the country, together with our customers, partners and government stakeholders," an Airbus spokesman said.

In 2021, Australia cancelled a $62-billion (Aus$90-billion) contract to purchase French-made submarines.

Canberra scrapped the contract after secretly signing a deal to acquire US-made nuclear submarines.

At the height of the spat, French President Emmanuel Macron accused Australia's then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison of lying about the deal, and Paris recalled its ambassador from Canberra.

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