The U.S. State Department approved a possible $3.5 billion sale of AH-64E Apache helicopters to Australia on Thursday, as Canberra continues to invest in its century-plus defense alliance with Washington.
The acquisition is just the latest in a string of Australian defense purchases from U.S. manufacturers including 160 M1A1 tank structures and an additional four Boeing CH-47F cargo helicopters with related equipment, as Breitbart news reported.
According to the the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Australia’s government sought 29 Apaches and associated equipment — including spare parts, Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles, M230E1 + M139 AWS automatic gun — as well as training and logistical support.
The prime contractors in the latest program will be Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the DSCA said.
“The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to meet current and future threats, and will enhance interoperability with U.S. forces and other allied forces,” the DSCA’s announcement said, according to UPI. “Australia will use the enhanced capability to strengthen its homeland defense and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure.”
Australia’s defense ministry announced the request in January, saying the AH-64E Apache Guardian would replace its legacy Airbus Helicopters Tiger fleet as its next armed reconnaissance helicopter.
“The Apache Guardian is the most lethal, most survivable and lowest-risk option, meeting all of [the Department of] Defence’s capability, through-life support, security and certification requirements,” defense minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement at the time.
The announcement comes one month after Canberra announced it will invest $580 million to upgrade four northern military bases and expand “war gaming” exercises with the United States, as Breitbart News reported, partnering Australia’s ambitious plans to continue engaging with regional allies and build its defense capabilities accordingly.
Australia will join Japan in a regional defense pact designed to bolster their standing against Beijing’s growing military power and assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. https://t.co/ZYhlX6LwSA
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) November 10, 2020
“Our focus is on pursuing peace, stability, and a free and open Indo-Pacific, with a world order that favors freedom,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australia’s Daily Telegraph newspaper when revealing the enhanced cooperation with U.S. forces.
“Working with the United States, our allies, and Indo-Pacific neighbors, we will continue to advance Australia’s interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force, particularly across Northern Australia,” Morrison said.
Australia joins 17 countries — including India,the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Britain — in flying Apaches.
UPI contributed to this story