MRH90 Taipan grounded at last

In an unexpected decision, Australia has chosen to prematurely retire its fleet of NH Industries MRH90 Taipan multi-role helicopters. Throughout its 14 years of service with both the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Navy, the MRH90 Taipan encountered consistent issues, including poor availability and recurring fleet-wide groundings.

In response to these challenges, the Australian Army has decided to acquire off-the-shelf UH-60 Black Hawk combat utility helicopters as replacements. Meanwhile, the Royal Australian Navy has opted for an addition of 12 MH-60R Romeo Seahawk naval helicopters to replace the MRH90s.

Interestingly, the MRH90 Taipan was originally procured to replace the Australian Army’s S-70A Black Hawks. However, due to the availability issues with the MRH90, the retirement of the S-70A Black Hawks had to be postponed on multiple occasions.

In a broader shift, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) seems to be moving away from European to American helicopters. This transition is further exemplified by the Australian Army’s decision to replace its fleet of Eurocopter/Airbus EC665 Tiger attack helicopters ahead of schedule with the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian. Following these changes, the Eurocopter EC135 will stand as the lone ADF-owned European helicopter. It’s worth noting that while the ADF does operate several Leonardo AW139 helicopters, these are on a lease basis and will be returned to the lenders after a short duration.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) also operates the NH90 helicopter. Intriguingly, they have not reported similar issues to those experienced by the ADF’s MRH90 Taipans.

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