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ADF Taipans permanently grounded

Australian Army MRH 90 Taipans from the 5th Aviation Regiment fly in formation deploying soldiers from the 3rd Brigade to Jungle Training Wing, Tully, Queensland during Exercise Kalimanta. Photo: BDR Guy Sadler

The Australian government has announced that MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will not return to the skies, after the fleet was grounded pending investigations into the latest aircraft accident.

The Australian government has announced that MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will not return to the skies, after the fleet was grounded pending investigations into the latest aircraft accident.

It’s been confirmed that the troubled Australian Defence Force military transport helicopters will not return to flying operations before their planned withdrawal date of December 2024.

They will instead be replaced by the introduction into service of the new fleet of UH‑60M Black Hawk helicopters. Three Black Hawk helicopters have already arrived in Australia and were scheduled to begin flying in September this year.

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The fleet has been stood down since July when an MRH-90 helicopter crashed south of Hamilton Island while participating in Exercise Talisman Sabre.

Earlier this year in March, the ADF also temporarily paused training activities and grounded the MRH-90 Taipan fleet after a Taipan multi-role helicopter ditched into NSW waters during a routine counterterrorism training exercise.

The latest incidents follow suspended flying operations in June 2021 after issues were found relating to the aircraft’s IT support system, as well as a tail rotor vibration problem identified at HMAS Albatross in 2019.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles said advice provided to government has outlined that ongoing investigations into the Taipan are likely to continue well into 2024 and Defence will not fly the platform until investigations are complete.

“The MRH-90 has been an important capability for our country and Defence Force, and I recognise the hard work of the hundreds of people who dedicated themselves to acquiring, operating, and sustaining the aircraft,” he said.

“The first of the 40 Black Hawks that will replace the MRH-90 have arrived and are already flying in Australia. We are focused on seeing their introduction to service as quickly as possible.

“The government’s highest priority is the safety and wellbeing of our people.

“We continue to support the families of the four soldiers who lost their lives earlier this year, and the broader Defence community.”

The government is understood to be exploring options to accelerate the delivery of Black Hawks to Australia and for aircrew training with our international partners.

From 2025, the new AH-64E Apache helicopters will also be introduced into service for the Australian Army.

“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.”

The Australian government also stated that today’s announcement does not presuppose or any way suggest the outcome of the investigations into the tragic incident on 28 July, when an MRH-90 Taipan impacted waters near Lindeman Island, Queensland, during Exercise Talisman Sabre.

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