Fatal Crash: Australia puts Taipan Helicopter fleet into early retirement

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Fatal crash of Taipan helicopters prompts Australia to end early use, with Black Hawks as replacement

Taipans on the ground until 2024

Australia announced Friday that it would retire its fleet of Taipan helicopters earlier than planned after an accident on its east coast in July during a joint military exercise with the United States, which claimed the lives of four Australian crew members. Defense Minister Richard Marles clarified that the Taipan fleet would not resume flight operations before the planned withdrawal date in December 2024. He added: “This announcement today is in no way prejudging the result of investigations into this tragic incident.”

Black Hawks to replace the Taipan

In January, Australia announced the purchase of 40 Black Hawk military helicopters, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, for an estimated amount of 2.8 billion Australian dollars (1.80 billion US dollars). The Black Hawks are intended to replace the Australian military’s fleet of Taipan helicopters, which had suffered from maintenance problems for years. Australia had deployed 47 Taipans since their integration. Richard Marles emphasized: “The first of 40 Black Hawks that will replace the MRH-90 (Taipan) have arrived and are already flying in Australia. We are focused on getting them into service as quickly as possible.”

Taipans under French and Italian control

The Taipans are manufactured by NHIndustries, based in France and jointly controlled by Airbus and Leonardo of Italy. Airbus and Leonardo did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Last year, Norway announced it would return NH90 military helicopters it had ordered from NHIndustries due to unreliability or delivery delays, a decision the manufacturer called “legally unfounded.”

Capacity challenges to be met

Following the July crash, Australia grounded its Taipan fleet and announced the helicopters would not fly again until the findings of a detailed investigation were released. Richard Marles told ABC television: “What is now clear is that these investigations, of which there are four, will take time, with one having already announced that it will take a year.” He acknowledged there would be “capability challenges” in the absence of an operational Taipan fleet, pending delivery of more Black Hawks. The first three Black Hawks arrived in Australia this month. To further mitigate defense impacts, Richard Marles said Australia was exploring options to accelerate the delivery of Black Hawks and for crew training with allies including the United States.

Keywords: Australia, Taipan, helicopters, Black Hawk, crash, retirement, fleet, military aviation, national security, investigation, replacement, defense, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky Aircraft, Boeing, Apache, MRH-90

John Walker Avatar