Australian Aerospace CEO Jens Goennemann has said he “welcomes” the announcement by Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare that the delayed MRH 90 helicopter program will undergo a ‘gate’ review.
Goennemann, who stressed that the MRH program had not been placed on the Projects of Concern list, told media in Canberra on February 8, “let me make it very clear from the outset – Australian Aerospace welcomes the review.”
Continued the forthright head of the prime contractor for the program to deliver 46 MRH 90s to replace Army Black Hawk and Navy Sea King helicopters, “Why do we welcome it? Well, Australian Aerospace believes this is a good opportunity to dismiss the misunderstandings and misinterpretations which have surrounded and typically does surround a defence project of this volume and complexity.”
“The good news is that, unlike some other military projects, we know our challenges and we know how to fix them – or at least we are in advanced stages of finding solutions. And we are working them through together with our customer.”
Significantly, Goennemann said a fix had been found to the issue that had led to the inflight failure of an RTM322 engine on an ADF MRH last year, which subsequently saw the Australian MRH fleet grounded for three months and then resume limited flying with a strict cool down period and boroscopic inscpection regime.
“Now, a straightforward solution has been developed,” Goennemann said. “It involves a two minute cool-down procedure known as venting. This means continuing to run the engine for two minutes at the end of a flight, without injecting fuel.”
Smith and Clare announced a gate review for the program, which is running up to 18 months late, on February 1, while the Chief of Army ordered a pause on MRH deliveries late last year while issues with the helicopter – principally engine and logistical support problems – late last year.
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