Australia buys 20 Hercules military planes as US ties strengthen

Sydney, Australia, Jul 24 (EFE).- Australia announced Monday the purchase of 20 US-made C-130J Hercules aircraft, days before the arrival of senior United States representatives for a ministerial summit in the country.

The purchase, which will replace and expand the old fleet of 12 Hercules, is valued at AUD9.8 billion ($6.5 billion), Defense Minister Richard Marles said.

The new planes will be used for the deployment of humanitarian personnel, equipment and supplies for both search and rescue tasks, relief during natural disasters, as well as for medical evacuations, according to a statement from Marles’ office.

The aircraft manufactured by American company Lockheed Martin will be deployed in future defense and peacekeeping operations in the region and globally, as has happened in recent decades in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other conflicts.

The announcement of the purchase of these planes, which will begin to be delivered at the end of 2027, comes a few days before the visit to Australia of the US State Secretary Antony Blinken, and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for an annual ministerial meeting on Saturday and Sunday in the northeastern city of Brisbane.

It also coincides with the biannual “Talisman Saber” military exercises between the US and Australia, which began Saturday and ends Aug. 4, in various parts of Australian territory and with the participation of more than 30,000 soldiers and 11 other countries, such as Germany, France or Japan, as guests.

The Defense Secretary will take advantage of his visit to the country to witness, along with Marles, one of these combat simulation exercises in northern Australia, where a Chinese spy ship was detected last week, according to a photograph from an Australian patrol plane published Monday by public network ABC.

The exercises come at a time when several Western countries are coming together to show unity in the face of China’s more assertive expansion in the strategic Indo-Pacific region, traditionally linked to the US and Australia.

In September 2021, Australia and the US, together with the United Kingdom, formed the AUKUS security pact, which includes the development of nuclear submarines for Canberra, interpreted as an attempt to counter China’s advances. EFE


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