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4 crew identified in Taipan crash as search continues

written by Adam Thorn | July 31, 2023

RAN sailors from HMAS Brisbane prepare to board an inflatable boat to search for the missing Taipan crew. (Defence, LSEW Hannah Linsley)

The four men onboard the Taipan that crashed on Friday night have been identified as the search for them continues into a third day.

It comes as the Head of Army defended the use of the troubled aircraft and urged people not to jump to conclusions about the cause of the accident.

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

However, the incident has raised questions surrounding the use of the Taipan, which has been involved in multiple groundings and is set to exit the ADF next year.

On Sunday, the four men were named as Capt Daniel Lyon, Lt Maxwell Nugent, WO Class Two Joseph Laycock and Cpl Alexander Naggs.


The servicemen are in the 6th Aviation Regiment based at the Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney.

At one point, the search involved upwards of 800 people, including those from the US, Australian and Canadian militaries and both federal and Queensland emergency services.

As of Monday morning, the men have yet to be found though parts of the aircraft’s wreckage have been recovered.

Simon Stuart, Head of Army, hailed the foursome as being part of a “highly professional, highly skilled aviation unit” and said he “couldn’t be more proud of them”.

He said the Taipan wouldn’t be flown again “until we think it is safe to do so” but added Army still plans to continue to use the aircraft until it is retired from service next year.

“The aim is still 2024. What happens between now and then, from what we learn from this incident, is yet to be determined. We just need a bit of time,” he said.

The views were echoed by Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, who told ABC’s RN Breakfast that “extensive risk analysis” took place after its last crash in March.

“The army doesn’t take unnecessary risks. The army mitigated those risks and declared the helicopter safe to fly,” he said.

The Taipan fleet was 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.

Meanwhile, Talisman Sabre’s biggest-ever iteration 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 are attending as observers.

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