australian aviation logo

800 join search for crew of crashed Taipan

written by Adam Thorn | July 30, 2023

MRH 90 Taipans from the 5th Aviation Regiment fly in formation deploying soldiers to Jungle Training Wing, Tully, Queensland. (Defence, BDR Guy Sadler)

More than 800 defence and emergency services personnel are now involved in the search for four crew members of the Taipan that ditched into the sea on Friday night.

The aircraft crashed south of Hamilton Island while participating in Exercise Talisman Sabre, an enormous ‘war game’ involving 30,000 participants.

While the cause of the incident is unknown, it will raise yet more questions of the troubled Taipan, which has been involved in multiple groundings and is set to exit the ADF next year.

The search for the missing crew is now likely one of the largest in Australian history, with the US, Australian and Canadian militaries involved, alongside both federal and Queensland emergency services.

“We have located several items of debris that would appear to be from the missing helicopter,” Queensland Police Service Acting Assistant Commissioner Douglas McDonald said.


“We have a barge working up there, we also have police working around those islands, patrolling beaches.

“If any members of the community are on those beaches and come across anything they might think is debris related to this particular incident, [please] contact police immediately and don’t touch the items.”

Talisman Sabre exercise director Brigadier Damian Hill said on Saturday evening that HMAS Brisbane had arrived to help, with HMAS Adelaide set to follow soon after and HMAS Huon expected on Sunday.

“HMAS Huon has some of our more experienced divers should we need to look under the water for wreckage as the search and rescue continues,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, Defence Chief Angus Campbell called the crash a “terrible moment” and said the focus was now on finding the crew and supporting the families of those involved.

“I really deeply appreciate the assistance that has been provided by a variety of civil agencies — the Queensland Police, the Australian Maritime Safety Agency, and the public as well as our US allies.”

The incident is the latest in a series of controversies to plague the Taipan, which has seen the fleet grounded in 2019, 2021 and earlier this year after an aircraft ditched off the NSW South Coast.

Initially 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 latest incident in March saw 10 ADF personnel on a routine counter-terrorism training exercise rescued from the water near Jervis Bay, with two sustaining minor injuries.

Its problems led to Defence deciding to replace the fleet with MH-60R Seahawks and UH-60M Black Hawks.

The biggest-ever iteration of Talisman Sabre, meanwhile, began last week, featuring 30,000 personnel from 13 nations.

The 10th edition of the 14-day’ war game’ is primarily intended to improve interoperability between the Australian and US militaries, and this year is being held in Queensland.

Participating partner nations include Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany. The Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand will attend as observers.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.