In Focus

Black Hawk and Seahawk: How do they stack up to Taipan?

As the Australian Defence Force prepares to welcome a fleet of up to 40 US-built Sikorsky Black Hawk and Seahawk helicopters, learn how the ADF’s new utility rotor capabilities compare with the embattled Taipan.

In an ironic twist of fate, the Black Hawk will replace the ADF’s troubled fleet of MRH-90 Taipans, which were introduced to replace Defence’s older, original Black Hawk fleet. On 10 December, 2021, Defence announced – on the same day that it officially retired its ageing Black Hawks – that it would soon abandon and replace its entire fleet of 47 MRH-90 Taipan helicopters 16 years ahead of schedule, after spending nearly its entire $3.7 billion acquisition cost. At the time, the Government tipped that Black Hawk and Seahawk aircraft would be chosen instead – however, no formal order has been made to date.

While they don’t have quite the same strength and capabilities, with a slightly lower top-speed and smaller cabin – which carries fewer troops – the Black Hawk fleet will not only be far more reliable than the Taipan, but also significantly cheaper to run. As Senior Analyst for defence economics and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Marcus Hellyer, puts it: “While on paper the MRH-90 has more capacity than the Black Hawk, in real life that’s irrelevant if the helicopter isn’t flying”.

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