The 12 aircraft are being acquired for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under Project Sea 9100 Phase 1 (Embarked Logistics Support Helicopter Capability) to replace the RAN’s six MRH-90 Taipans which are being phased out due to the cost of maintenance.
According to the then Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price, the rationalization of the maritime helicopter fleet will deliver operational efficiencies for the Royal Australian Navy.
“Navy already operates Romeo helicopters and using a single type of helicopter for all maritime roles offers value-for-money and significant efficiencies through the use of common maintenance, training, and other sustainment services.”
The additional aircraft will also help the RAN Fleet Air Arm (FAA) generate more operational flights for shipboard deployment as the Navy’s number of surface combatants expands in the coming years.
HMAS Albatross, home of the RANs aviation forces, will also be expanded to accommodate the enlarged fleet. $250 million (A$360 million) has been set aside to finance the upgrade work.
A Replacement Romeo?
The previous Australian Government announced plans in May to procure a 13th Romeo, which would replace one lost last year during a regional presence deployment. Notably, this contract award does not cover the acquisition of a replacement helicopter.
It’s not clear if the new Labor government has decided not to replace the lost helicopter on a one-to-one basis or if the lack of a contract is simply due to the monolithic nature of the U.S Defence Export process.
The Australian Department of Defence has previously stated that deliveries will commence in 2025.