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Seahawk and Taipan helicopters aid NSW flood victims

written by Adam Thorn | July 7, 2022

MH-60R helicopter from HMAS Warramunga performs deck landing manoeuvres on board HMAS Canberra. (Defence, POIS Christopher Szumlanski)

Defence has announced three ADF helicopters, including a Seahawk and Taipan, remain on “heightened readiness” to fly night time search and rescue missions in NSW.

The state’s emergency services have already received 1,200 calls for help and conducted 65 rescues in the last 24 hours alone due to torrential rain and strong winds.

Parts of the Hunter region are also seeing flood levels not seen in 70 years.

On Thursday, Defence said it is supporting the Wiseman’s Ferry, Penrith, and Camden areas with 250 personnel to support the clean-up operation.

“On 4 July, a Navy MH-60R helicopter evacuated three people from a residence isolated by floodwaters in Upper Kangaroo Valley, while an Army helicopter was on hand to support an SES boat crew which successfully rescued a person trapped in their car by floodwaters at Luddenham,” said Defence.

“On 5 July, an Army MRH90 helicopter made multiple attempts to find a group of people in distress near Wiseman’s Ferry. Poor weather prevented a full area search and the helicopter returned to base with no further support requested.

“The ADF deployment is in response to state government requirements, coordinated and prioritised through state Emergency Operations Centres.”

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The further use of the Taipan comes despite the federal government announcing in December the entire fleet of 16 would be scrapped 16 years ahead of schedule, in favour of a new fleet of US Blackhawks and Seahawks.

The acquisition and sustainment of up to 40 Blackhawks for Army and 12 Seahawks for Navy, both manufactured by Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky, is expected to cost $7 billion.

However, the move could see Defence save up to $2.5 billion by 2037 — the initial planned retirement date of the Taipan fleet — given the costly maintenance required on the Taipans.

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Meanwhile, the Blackhawk fleet is expected to remain in operation into the 2040s.

These savings are anticipated despite Taipans being assembled in Australia, while the US-manufactured Sikorsky helicopters will be off-the-shelf, acquired under the US Foreign Military Sales program.

Australian Aviation reported at the weekend how once-in-a-generation rains were heaping more disruption on airports as travellers began flying for the school holidays.

Travellers took to social media to show photos of snaking queues. However, most flights at Sydney airport, the worst affected, departed on time or with a short delay.

Sydney Airport previously warned it would welcome 2.1 million passengers across the holiday period — significantly higher than the 1.8 million seen during the equivalent Easter break.

Internationally, more than 560,000 passengers are forecast, compared to 376,000 during the three-week break period in April.

The situation appears to be comparing favourably to the previous disruption. A later report revealed domestic flight delays in April were the worst since records began, with almost 40 per cent of arrivals and departures disrupted due to operational chaos during the busy Easter period.

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