Australian Defence Force grounds MRH-90 Taipan helicopter fleet

By Defence Industry Europe

On September 29, the Australian Department of Defence announced that the MRH-90 Taipan helicopter fleet of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been permanently grounded and will not resume flights until they are formally retired in December 2024, marking an unofficial early retirement.


Prior to the recent announcement, the MRH-90 Taipan (a local designation for the European NH90 helicopter) fleet was under temporary suspension. This decision was made on July 31 following a helicopter crash during the Talisman Sabre exercise involving the Australian Army. The statement released on September 29 does not specify or imply the outcome of the investigation into the July 28 crash.

A total of 46 helicopters will be retired, with 39 belonging to the Australian Army, six to the Royal Australian Navy, and one in reserve. The retiring MRH-90 Taipans from the Royal Australian Navy will be replaced by 12 MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters, while those from the Australian Army will be succeeded by 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters. The first MH-60R helicopters are expected to arrive in Australia in 2025, and UH-60M deliveries have already commenced, with the first two delivered in late July this year. The Australian Army currently operates three Black Hawks, with flights commencing earlier this month.

The MRH-90 Taipan helicopters were procured in a total of 47 units (46 operational and 1 reserve) and were delivered between 2007 and 2017. Since entering service, they have faced numerous technical issues. Moreover, their operation has been characterized by high operating costs, low operational readiness, and limited availability of spare parts. Frequent breakdowns have led to the grounding of the MRH-90 Taipan fleet on multiple occasions.

The Australian Army had previously operated 36 S-70A-9 Black Hawk helicopters, introduced into service in 1987. However, these helicopters were heavily used and eventually had to be retired. In their place, the Australian government decided to acquire European MRH-90 helicopters, but their operation proved to be plagued by difficulties and disappointments. Now, Australia is returning to the trusted aviation platform, the UH-60M, representing the latest production standard.



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