Three aircrew have been rescued to safety following an emergency landing of an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter.
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A Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopter has been ditched in the Philippine Sea after three of its aircrew were forced to make an emergency landing overnight in response to an undisclosed flight incident.
The helicopter was operating from Hobart Class destroyer HMAS Brisbane as part of a Regional Presence Deployment with Anzac Class frigate HMAS Warramunga.
The crew were rescued by sea boats deployed by HMAS Brisbane approximately 20 minutes after the incident, and have received first aid for minor injuries.
As a result of the incident, Defence has temporarily suspended flying operations of the MH-60R Seahawk fleet while it conducts an investigation into the cause of the incident.
HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Warramunga are searching the area for any debris to support the investigation.
“With the aircrew safe, investigating the circumstances that led to the helicopter ditching is the priority at the moment,” Commander of the Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond said.
Defence is also reviewing the impact of the incident on the Regional Presence Deployment.
RADM Hammond lauded the efforts of the emergency response team.
“The successful rescue is credit to the devotion to duty and skill of the officers and sailors of HMAS Brisbane,” he said.
“Their immediate actions ensured the survival of the aircrew, validating the significant training undertaken in the event an emergency of this nature occurs.”
The grounding of the MH-60R Seahawk fleet comes just days after the US State Department greenlit the Commonwealth government’s request to purchase an additional 12 Seahawks from Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky for approximately US$985 million ($1.3 billion).
The deal, which will take the total size of the fleet to 36, was reportedly a response to technical issues associated with the Airbus-built MRH-90 Taipan helicopters, deployed by both Navy and Army.
In June, Defence suspended flying operations of its 47 Taipan aircraft as a “safety precaution” after an issue relating to the “application of the helicopter’s maintenance policy” in the aircraft’s IT support system was identified.
This was the latest in a series of technical incidents associated with the Taipan’s operation in recent years.
[Related: RAN to bolster Seahawk helicopter fleet]