In this episode we do some more digging into the extraordinary story of the destruction of the Taipan helicopter fleet when Ukraine desperately needs them. Why is the government so completely tone deaf? What do they hope to gain by turning down the request from Kyiv? Also visual evidence shows that many of them remain in good condition despite the government’s hints to the contrary.

Defence’s own portfolio budget statements (PBS) for the current financial year say that a facility exists at Townsville airport for the storage of Taipans. Why isn’t it being used? Who keeps on making these ridiculous decisions, backed up with untruthful statements? We also have a few words about the use of FPV drones in combat and Australia’s lack of interest in them. And for more poor quality decision making, why have the two Canberra class LHDs been modified so that F-35B STOVL jets can never be operated from them.

To listen to the podcast, click here.


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Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.


  1. Hi Kym,

    I’m interested in better understanding what details you have learned about about Navy’s “sabotage” of our Canberra class LHD’s. I have read up quite a bit on the debate to buy F-35B’s for use on our LHD’s but most of the correspondence I’ve read seems to suggest the Canberra class, with the exception of the Australian built super structure is a carbon copy of the Juan Carlos 1st right down to the retention of the Ski Jump from the original design. The decision to keep the ramp was explained by their being no benefit in paying extra to redesign the bow of the ship to support the ramps removal (it apparently included some structural support.) In any case the Juan Carlos and by extension the Canberra class was designed to support the Sea Harrier and not the F-35B. A fully loaded F-35B is over twice as heavy as the Sea Harrier and with larger overall dimensions. Because of this larger size and weight it is my understanding the only the rear elevator can be used ferry the F-35B between the hanger and flight deck and you might be able to fit 4-5 of them on the side of the runway. This would crate massive bottlenecks in refuelling, rearming and maintenance resulting in poor overall sortie rates insufficient to provide proper AEW, CAP or CAS.

    I am 100% in favour of Australia regaining in lost naval aviation capabilty but the LHD’s are not the answer in my opinion. It would be much better to build something fit for purpose and their are many realistic options to choose from such as the modified Izumo class or future Trieste class. A reasonable step in the path could be to utilise the Ski Jump to launch STOL drones such as General Atomic’s Predator family or even Baykar’s TB3. The TB3 specifically has be designed to be compatible with the Turkish Navy’s Juan Carlos derived Anadolu class and we could pursue the possibility of a partnership with Turkey on the development of this capability.

    • For some reason I can’t cut and paste, but if you go to the November edition of APDR – all back issues are on our website – and turn to page 35 you will see my Q&A with VADM Hammond. When I checked, the features that he mentioned can all be found on the parent Juan Carlos.

      Also he talks about heavy fighters landing at speed. That’s not how an F-35B works – it’s a STOVL aircraft.

  2. A very interesting (again) Podcast, keep them coming Please. There are all sorts of Conspiracy theories doing the rounds about the Taipan, some make sense, some are credible and some are nonsensical. The fact remains the DoD and Government are not telling the truth, if there is a plausible reason for the decision, announced it and be done with it. Your comments on the Canberra Class can be answered quite simply. Navy thinking at the Top End is, A. Any ship acquired by the R.A.N. Can not be used for any other role than that which it is Classed as . E.G. An Amphibious Transport can only be used to Transport, an OPV is a Patrol vessel and can not be armed like a Corvette ( even if the design is similar to that of a corvette) . B. Under no circumstances is it is allowed to be used for anything else other than what it is designated. C.Any design features that enable a vessel to be used for any other purposes than what Navy decides is to be removed or downgraded to render said use inoperable forever. D. The word Multi use is to be avoided at all costs when speaking of an Acquisition for Navy. I hope that clears up the misconceptions about the LHDs

    • Thanks for the feedback – and the additional information. It has long been a puzzle for me why the Navy stripped the original OPV design of all meaningful weaponry, insisting the ship would never be sent in harm’s way and therefore doesn’t need to be able to protect itself, let alone take offensive action. When I have pointed out that harm might come looking for the ship – or it might happen to be the only one still available in a particular area because everything else has been sunk – I just receive blank looks.

      I’ve also long been puzzled by the doctrine that the RAN flagship is the biggest one in the fleet. That was fine for 18th and 19th century galleons but today means the flagship quite often is a huge floating target in the form of a relatively slow moving supply ship.


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