SingaporeThe Australian Defence Force’s MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will not return to flying operations before their planned withdrawal date of December 2024. The Government remains focused on the introduction into service of the new fleet of UH‑60M Black Hawk helicopters. The first three Black Hawks have arrived in Australia and commenced flying in September, with remaining Black Hawks continuing to be delivered.

The Australian Defence Force will continue to operate its CH-47F Chinooks, Tigers and MH‑60R Seahawks. Together, these helicopters will continue to provide a robust and ready aviation capability to the Australian people. From 2025, the new AH-64E Apache helicopters will also be introduced into service for the Australian Army.

To help mitigate further impacts on Army’s operations and training, the Government has been exploring options to accelerate the delivery of Black Hawks to Australia and for aircrew training with our international partners. The MRH-90 Taipan workforce is highly skilled and Defence is working with industry partners to ensure they are supported through the capability transitional period.

Today’s announcement does not presuppose or any way suggest the outcome of the investigations into the tragic incident on 28 July, where an MRH-90 Taipan impacted waters near Lindeman Island, Queensland during Exercise Talisman Sabre.

As the Government made clear at the time, Defence would not fly this platform until investigations into that incident were complete. The advice provided to Government has outlined these ongoing investigations are likely to continue well into 2024.

Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Richard Marles said: “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. 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.”

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy MP said: “The Australian Government recognises the unique and highly valued contributions of skilled defence industry workers. 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.”


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  1. What a disaster these helicopters have been to Australia. They never went close to being able to be placed in combat, never reached full operational capability and in the end, 4 Australians paid with their lives. Yet there will be no culpability, no one in Defence or the government will be held accountable and ultimately, the helicopters the Army wanted in the first place will be the ones sought.
    The manner in which Defence is used as a plaything by governments and Defence bureaucrats is nothing short of a national disgrace. It is almost as if poor material acquisitions and strategic decisions are done deliberately. Billions on underperforming aircraft, naval acquisitions made like afterthoughts (has anyone seen an Arafura OPV?) armoured vehicle purchases slashed and yet it goes on and on. Is there anyone that stands up for the men and women who defend our nation? Let alone the billions and billions that is wasted on dud equipment. In another time and place the people who made these awful and tragic decisions would be held accountable but somehow they just meander along, knowing full well that there are no consequences to their actions.

    • I certainly agree with the bulk of your comment about the billions wasted on very poorly managed projects. However, I disagree with your first comment about MRH and I have done my best in a series of articles to explain that the helicopters are actually quite sound – the problem has always been the way that Defence/CASG have managed support arrangements. Just like Tiger, other nations have used them for combat operations in places such as Afghanistan and Libya. As for the service people who lost their lives during Talisman Sabre, I am almost certain that Defence will never make the findings of the inquiry public because the crash had absolutely nothing to do with the helicopter. I’m limited in what I can say, but if people are really interested in the cause they need to examine: a) who authorised that particular mission in those weather conditions; and b) who is responsible for pilot training to ensure that sufficient night time flights are conducted to maintain skills.

  2. Heard Kym on ABC yesterday re Taipans. Why do I get the feeling the troubles are self inflicted. As Kym stated, the world fleet of these machines has a good record

    • Exactly. We are going back to previous generation helicopters as both Apache and Blackhawk use outdated mechanical flight control systems. The rest of the world – especially commercial aviation – moved to computer controlled fly-by-wire systems about 30 years ago that are safer and far less expensive to maintain. Having said that, other features of those helicopters such as their sensors have been progressively updated from when they first few in the 1970s and 1980s respectively.

  3. Was the original purchase more to do with an Western Australian politician trying to get a significant position in the UN and needed Frances backing… politics and purchases are a fatal mix

    • I don’t follow your comment. Taipan was selected in 2006 when, from memory, Robert Hill was the Defence Minister – a Senator from South Australia. I can’t see any connection with WA, or France, or a UN position – but feel free to elaborate.

    • Anything is possible I guess, though we would have to pay is anyone has some to spare. But why do that rather than simply use the 47 Taipans that could have remained operational until 2038?

  4. What, if any, contingency plans have been put in place to fill the gap left by grounding the entire Taipan fleet ?. One could suppose, given the Governments previous record, begging for scraps from the U.S. will the go. I’m sure they have several obsolete models gathering dust in a Warehouse somewhere that they can sell us.

  5. The NH-90 is so good that multiple user nations are phasing them out, and that despite claims from Airbus apologists that it is because of poor ADF support.
    Norway, Sweden and Belgium have all decided to cease NH-90 operations, citing exceptionally high operating costs, poor spares support and inability to undertake the roles they were acquired for; basically the same reasons stated by the ADF.
    Good riddance, lets get back to what we should have been using, Black Hawks.

  6. I’m a little surprised at the accolades being thrown at the BlackHawk Helikopter, it wasn’t that long ago they were being grounded because of mechanical faults, crashes and that was by the U.S.. Unfortunately some people see the U.S. Industrial Base as the Utopia of Defence Equipment, as a General rule the Blackhawk is a capable platform but it does have its limitations in certain roles, to think that they are the be all and end all of the ADFs requirements is short sighted to say the least but unfortunately there are to many people, both in Defence and in Civie street , that slavishly follow the belief that if it’s not made in the U.S.A. it’s sacrilege to have it.


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