Australia retires MRH-90 Taipan fleet early

Two Australian Army MRH-90 Taipan helicopters in flight.
Photo Credit: Australian Defence Forces

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has announced that the Airbus MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will not resume flying operations before their scheduled withdrawal date in December 2024.

The decision to withdraw the MRH90 fleet from service early is in part attributed to the amount of time required to close investigations of the crash of an MRH90 near Lindeman Island during Exercise ‘Talisman Sabre’ earlier this year.

Defence Minister Richard Marles stated that the Australian government is now directing its efforts toward the introduction of the new fleet of Sikorsky UH 60M Black Hawks.

This transition is part of a broader plan to enhance the ADF’s helicopter fleet and ensure the safety and readiness of its aviation personnel.

Arrival of Sikorsky UH 60M Black Hawks

The initial steps of this transition have already been taken with the arrival of the first three Black Hawks in Australia.

These helicopters commenced flying operations in September, setting the stage for the comprehensive replacement of the MRH-90 fleet.

The remainder of the Black Hawks are expected to be delivered in the near future, solidifying this transformation.


The Significance of the MRH-90

The MRH-90 Taipan has played a crucial role in the ADF’s aviation capabilities, and Minister Marles acknowledged its importance.

He commended the dedication of the hundreds of individuals who were involved in the acquisition, operation, and maintenance of these helicopters over the years.

While the MRH-90 has been a reliable asset, the decision to retire it in favor of the Black Hawks is motivated by the need for a more modern and advanced fleet.

Prioritizing Safety and Wellbeing

Minister Marles emphasized that the safety and wellbeing of ADF personnel are paramount. The government’s highest priority is ensuring that the transition to the Black Hawk fleet occurs smoothly and swiftly.

Additionally, the government continues to provide support to the families of the four soldiers who tragically lost their lives earlier in the year in an MRH-90 Taipan crash during Exercise Talisman Sabre near Lindeman Island, Queensland.

The investigation into this incident remains ongoing, and the ADF will not operate this platform until the investigation is completed and any necessary actions are taken.

Maintaining Aviation Capability

While the transition to the Black Hawk fleet is underway, the ADF will continue to operate its existing Boeing CH-47F Chinooks, Airbus Tigers, and Sikorsky MH 60R Seahawks to ensure a ready aviation capability.

These helicopters play a vital role in the ADF’s operations and will continue to do so until the full integration of the Black Hawks.

The Future with Boeing AH-64E Apache Helicopters

Looking ahead, from 2025, the ADF will introduce the new Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters into service for the Army.

This further diversification of the helicopter fleet underscores the ADF’s commitment to maintaining a modern and versatile aviation force.

To mitigate potential disruptions to the Army’s operations and training due to the MRH-90 retirement, the government is exploring options to expedite the delivery of Black Hawks and aircrew training.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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