Taipan coiling to strike! Providing next-generation airlift under AIR 9000

Despite initial teething problems the joint-Army/Navy MRH-90 Taipan program under AIR 9000 is progressing (Source Dept of Defence)

The Multi-Role Helicopter (MRH) Program is a key component of the Australian Defence Force Helicopter Strategic Master Plan that seeks to rationalise the number of helicopter types in ADF service. The MRH Program consists of three phases of AIR 9000, and this will provide a brief update on the state of the program

Despite challenges with delivery and initial teething problems, the MRH-90 Taipan will: acquire an additional squadron of troop lift aircraft for the Australian Army under AIR 9000 Phase 2 (12 helicopters); replace Army’s Black Hawk helicopters in the Air Mobile and Special Operations roles under Phase 4 (28 helicopters); and replace Royal Australian Navy Sea King helicopters in the Maritime Support Helicopter role under Phase 6 (six helicopters).


The Commonwealth of Australia ordered 46 MRH-90s from Australian Aerospace under Air 9000 Phases 2, 4 and 6 in a bid to rationalise the ADF’s helicopter platforms, resulting in reduced training and maintenance costs resulting from a uniform platform. 

All three phases of the MRH procurement are grouped under the AIR 9000 MRH Program, with the key phases and dates outlined:


The MRH-90 Taipan is an advanced medium-lift, twin-engine, multi-role helicopter manufactured by Australian Aerospace, a unit of Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters).

The Taipan features an all-composite construction and incorporates crash-worthy capabilities based on MIL-STD-1290A. The structure offers protection up to a speed of 10m/s when landing gear is extended and up to 7m/s with retracted landing gear.

The helicopter is 16.13 metres long and 5.23 metres high, and has an empty weight of 6,400 kilograms and a maximum take-off weight of 10,600 kilograms. It is capable of conducting missions under difficult weather conditions.

It incorporates a large and spacious cabin at the centre fuselage, facilitating 20 troop seats or up to 12 stretchers. The crash-worthy seats accommodate a pilot, a co-pilot, two loadmasters and 18 combat troops. A sliding door is fitted on both sides of the cabin and a ramp is placed at the rear.

Being a true multi-role machine, the MRH90 can undertake troop transport, search and rescue, special operations and counter-terrorism missions.

As part of the Capability Assurance Program (CAP), the MRH-90 Program will ensure: 

    • 47 MRH-90 aircraft for Navy and Army;
    • The MRH Software Support Centre;
    • A ground mission management system;
    • An electronic warfare self-protection support system;
    • The MRH instrumentation system;
    • Other training devices such as aircraft maintenance trainers, aircraft systems trainers, part task trainers; and
    • Data, spares, support and test equipment.

When complete, the project will have delivered two airmobile squadrons, one special operations support squadron, one maritime support helicopter squadron and a training capability able to provide airmobile and maritime support to the ADF from land bases as well as key Navy surface ships. 

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Taipan coiling to strike! Providing next-generation airlift under AIR 9000
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