MRH-90 helicopter fleet permanently grounded

Minister for Defence Richard Marles today announced that the Army’s MRH-90 Taipan helicopter fleet will not return to flying operations before their planned withdrawal from service.

FILE PHOTO: An Army MRH-90 Taipan lands in Fitzroy Crossing, in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, where flooding from Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie has isolated communities. Story by Lieutenant Geoff Long. Photo by Leading Seaman Jarrod Mulvihill.

Mr Marles said the government remained 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,” Mr Marles said.

“The Australian Defence Force will continue to operate its CH-47F Chinooks, Tigers and MH‑60R Seahawks, [which] together, 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, we have 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.

Mr Marles said today’s announcement did not presuppose or in any way suggest the outcome of investigations into the MRH-90 Taipan crash on 28 July that killed four crew.

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

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said the Australian government recognised the unique and highly valued contributions of skilled defence industry workers and was actively working with industry partners to transition workers supporting MRH-90s to the Black Hawk program and Army’s other helicopters.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Does this announcement come as a surprise to anyone? Well, actually, while the fact that the Taipan fleet won’t fly again is no surprise, the fact that Defence Minister Marles actually called it publicly – and so soon after the crash – probably is. Also, does anyone buy the line “today’s announcement did not presuppose or in any way suggest the outcome of investigations”. I don’t.


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Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

15 thoughts on “MRH-90 helicopter fleet permanently grounded

  • 02/11/2023 at 2:30 pm
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    As of the 2nd November 2023, I believe 3 new Blackhawks have been delivered for the ARMY and the Defence Minister and Deputy PM Richard Marles, has apparently asked the USA to speed up the delivery of the remaining 37 new helicopters. I bet the ARMY pilots are cheering.
    The question remains however, what will the government do with the grounded MRH 90’s? Will they be sold/given to some other unsuspecting nation or sold back to Airbus for reconfiguration for civvy use?
    My only close up viewing of an MRH90 was at Point Cook years ago and my thought was that it has a very high profile when on the ground, making it a big target, unlike the old Huey or the Blackhawk.

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  • 09/10/2023 at 6:53 pm
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    It appears to me that the ARMY is incapable of operating/maintaining a high technology platform and that why they are regressing to lower technology platforms (Blackhawk and Apache). The question that should be answered by those in charge was training adequately provided or were the platforms inadequate/faulty. My thoughts are that training and understanding of the aircraft were poor and it is always very easy to blame the tools supplied. I have first hand experience of ARMY aircraft maintenance practices (Blackhawk and Chinook) and they have fallen a long way short of mechanical understanding and ability to correct poor maintenance procedures.

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  • 08/10/2023 at 1:31 pm
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    New Zealand has them. Very successful here. Aussie’s couldn’t operate the Seasprites going very well in New Zealand. A trend

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    • 09/10/2023 at 6:56 pm
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      I agree Peter I believe that the blame is being directed in the wrong place.

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  • 30/09/2023 at 10:38 am
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    I understand part of the decision to buy the MRH90’s was that Airbus would allow erection/build issues in Australia but the manufacturers of the Blackhawk would not. I guess the bean counters get involved too.

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  • 29/09/2023 at 3:24 pm
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    Two helicopters should’ve been bought, the AW101 for Naval operations of the LHD’s and the Blackhawk for the army. Both of been proven to be effective platforms in peace time and in wall time. The liberal government bought this helicopter before one was even built now. Not only Australia is getting rid of The MRH taipan, but so are the other countries out of bought, apart from France. Says a lot about the helicopter.

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  • 29/09/2023 at 1:24 pm
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    Bring back the HUEYS !!!!!!!!!! Proven units !!!!!!!!!!!

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    • 29/09/2023 at 6:45 pm
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      USMC MAGTF use the updated AH-1 and UH models on their LHDs, perhaps we should do the same thing, leave Blackhawks for the Army land based forces

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  • 29/09/2023 at 12:23 pm
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    I think there is more to the MRH90 story than we are being told or likely to be ever told. Regardless of which government originally made the procurement decision, I feel like both sides have held back on being fully transparent.
    Removing any issues with the platform itself outside of Australia, was it managed correctly within defence given that many did not favour it from the beginning? Were all recommended updates, maintenance routines, spares deals with the manufacturer followed by the ADF? I.e. the software update story/rumour that surrounded the aircraft that ditched in Jervis Bay.
    I don’t think the full blame can be laid on the platform itself.
    Unless government and defence already know things from the current investigation into the latest incident, then I think it’s too soon to draw conclusions whether the platform should be retired ahead of the Dec 24 date. It sounds as if it’s more of a reputational decision, regardless of the cause. For all we know, hypothetically speaking, the latest two incidents could have been caused by decisions made within defence as opposed to the platform itself. The unfortunate lack of full transparency will limit what a lot of us will ever know.

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  • 29/09/2023 at 12:06 pm
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    I spoke with maintenance folk and pilots a few years ago about the MRH-90. I couldn’t find a single one that were impressed with this aircraft. The maintenance folk said they were too difficult to service and the pilots said they didn’t trust them. Seems they were right then and now. Before putting ALL the blame on the public servants, senior defence mandarins need to have a look at their actions and interference in the sourcing and buying process. Too often manufacturers are stuffed no matter what the do.

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  • 29/09/2023 at 11:48 am
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    The big question out of this mess is, what will happen to the now grounded helicopters? Will they be sold to some unsuspecting country or perhaps back to the manufacturers for a rebuild and flogged off to civil groups?
    The same question arises in regard to the Tiger attack jobs. Who will want to buy them?

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  • 29/09/2023 at 11:05 am
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    Another terrible ADF procurement disaster buying stuff from France when we should have stuck with tried and proven upgraded platforms we were used to and knew were reliable. Seems to be a common problem with useless EURO Tiger recon helicopters (not attack variants) also unreliable, and nuclear attack submarines from France backward designed to be diesels that were never going to be good. Let’s hope the Hunter Class frigates will not be a disaster. Cannot believe the idiots didn’t keep building more ships based on the AWD hulls to keep momentum going. Defence procurement people need to be left to make their decisions on rational thinking and not romancing Europe or pork barrelling marginal seats.

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  • 29/09/2023 at 10:49 am
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    Just goes to show what an absolute waste of taxpayers money that investment was. They weren’t in service all that long and how many incidents and defects were there with this inferior peice of rubbish. We should have invested in the more reliable upgraded blackhawks.

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    • 29/09/2023 at 6:42 pm
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      In my opinion, the biggest problem with our helicopter fleet (MRH-90s and the ARH Tiger) is that the adf not only wants to produce parts locally as well as configure them with US based weapons systems instead of the original manufacturer parts and munitions, which I think has caused more problems than anything else, a few other countries have used them without much issue, the German Armed forces have been using them and still do.

      Perhaps it’s that issue that is why the ADF has been having so many problems?

      Reply

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