The ADF’s entire MRH-90 Taipan fleet has been grounded after one of the helicopters ditched off the NSW South Coast overnight.
The incident at around 9 pm yesterday saw 10 ADF personnel on a routine counter-terrorism training exercise rescued from the water near Jervis Bay, with two sustaining minor injuries. The cause of the ditching is currently unknown.
All personnel were safely recovered and are being assessed at HMAS Creswell, south of Nowra.
“Tonight, quick responses from ADF personnel and emergency services and well-drilled teams prevented a potential tragedy,” said the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Simon Stuart AO DSC, in a statement.
“We will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident to determine the cause and ensure the platform remains safe to operate.”
Originally purchased for $3.7 billion in 2005-06 to replace ageing Black Hawk and Sea King fleets, the locally-assembled Taipan has proven a headache for Defence, with statistics showing just 46 per cent of MRH-90 aircraft allocated to flying units were available to fly in 2021.
The deal for 12 MH-60R Seahawk/Romeo helicopters alone is thought to be worth more than $2.5 billion and will take the total size of the fleet to 36.
Meanwhile, Defence confirmed in January it would purchase 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters following months of speculation.
Australia initially received approval from the US State Department for a US$1.95 billion purchase of the systems in August 2022.
However, new federal Defence Minister Richard Marles initially raised doubts about the deal and told the media Australia had only made a “fuzzy commitment” that would be subject to a review process.
Months on, Head Land Capability Major General Jeremy King then confirmed the acquisition of the asset earlier this year, announcing that the systems will enable the Australian Army to meet their strategic objectives.
Delivery of the systems are scheduled to commence in 2023, with the Black Hawks operating from Oakey, Queensland and Holsworthy, NSW.
They are expected to be maintained by a blended workforce, which includes local industry contractors operating across logistics, warehousing, training and development services.
“The Black Hawk capability will be a crucial element for us to protect Australia’s sovereignty, and deliver foreign policy objectives, including providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” MAJGEN King said.
“This acquisition will mean we can continue to defend Australia and respond in times of need in a safe and effective way for years to come.”