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A pair of U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters hover above a base in Warsaw, Poland, on Feb. 14, 2022.

A pair of U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters hover above a base in Warsaw, Poland, on Feb. 14, 2022. (Maciej Goclon/Fotonews/Newspix/Zuma Press/TNS)

CANBERRA, Australia (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of 40 Black Hawk helicopters to Australia for an estimated $1.95 billion, the latest move toward strengthening military ties between Canberra and Washington.

The Australian government requested the U.S.-designed aircraft in December 2021 after announcing they would be scrapping their fleet of MRH90 Taipan helicopters more than 15 years ahead of schedule because of ongoing performance concerns.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the sale to Australia would support "the foreign policy and national security objectives of the U.S."

"It is vital to the US to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability," the agency said in a statement Thursday.

Australia and the U.S. have maintained a close diplomatic and security relationship for more than 70 years. Recent announcements show a further strengthening of their military ties.

In September 2021, Australia said it had formed an agreement with the U.S. and the U.K. to share military technology which could see Canberra fielding a fleet of nuclear submarines by 2040.

The Australian government has requested to buy the Black Hawk helicopters and other related equipment including engines, radio and encryption devices. The new aircraft will replace Australia's Taipan fleet that were supposed to serve the country until 2037. However in December, then-Defense Minister Peter Dutton said the helicopters had not performed adequately.

Dutton said at the time that Australia had made "significant effort at great expense" to try to fix the problems, and would search for alternatives to better support its military.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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