Australia permanently grounds Taipan helos ahead of fleet withdrawal

The Australian Defence Force (ADF)’s troubled MRH-90 Taipan helicopter fleet has all but phased out of service, according to a 29 September announcement from the Australian government.

“The MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will not return to flying operations before their planned withdrawal date of December 2024,” it said. The type is a variant of the NH Industries NH-90 multirole helicopter and supplied by Airbus’ Australian subsidiary.

“The Government remains focused on the introduction into service of the new fleet of UH‑60M Black Hawk helicopters,” it added, noting that the first three Black Hawk helicopters have arrived in Australia and commenced flying in September with deliveries of more helicopters ongoing.

The latest announcement follows a deadly incident where an MRH-90 helicopter operated by the Australian Army’s 6th Aviation Regiment, crashed in the waters off Lindeman Island on 28 July, with the loss of its crew. The helicopter had been supporting training activities for Exercise Talisman Sabre.

“[The] announcement does not presuppose or any way suggest the outcome of the investigations into the tragic incident,” said the Australian government.

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) had previously received approval in 2021 to replace its own Taipan fleet with 12 Sikorsky MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters.

The Taipans have experienced reliability issues and have proven expensive to operate, according to independent reports. This included fleet groundings in 2019 and in 2021, with the subsequent decision made to retire the fleet well before their scheduled 2037 out-of-service date.

“The Australian Government recognises the unique and highly valued contributions of skilled defence industry workers,” said Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy.

“We are actively working with industry partners to transition the skilled workers supporting MRH-90s to the Black Hawk program and Army’s other helicopters,” added Conroy.

by Jr Ng