By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of military helicopters and related equipment to Australia for an estimated cost of $1.95 billion, the Pentagon said, as Australia seeks to boost its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia had requested to buy 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters and the principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
Australia has been boosting its defense spending over the past few years as China looks to step up its presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Last year, Australia entered into a deal to buy nuclear submarines from the United States and Britain.
The sale also comes as governments around the world are watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and grow more willing to invest in weapons systems.
In May, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of mobile rocket launchers to Australia, along with several weapons sales worth as much as $3.1 billion to allies.
Approval by the State Department at this point virtually ensures the sales will go through.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Thursday.
Separately, on Thursday, the State Department also approved the potential sale of joint tactical radio systems to Morocco in a deal valued at up to $141.1 million.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Nick Zieminski)