Australia Army MRH90 credit Lance Broad 640Australian MRH90 Taipans retired with immediate effect

Another dent in the reputation of the NHIndustries NH90 twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter. Not long after the Norwegian Armed Forces decided to withdraw the NH90 from service with their Air Force and Coast Guard demanding a full refund from the manufacturer, the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) decided to retire their MRH90 Taipan with immediate effect.

This retirement is well ahead of the planned deactivation date of December 2024 which in itself was already fast forwarded with some ten years following a series of incidents. A fatal crash that cost the lives of four crewmembers on Whitsunday 28 July 2023 was the final blow.

The list of other incidents that occured since 2010 (shortly after the introduction of the type) shows the following:
- April 2010: 11 of the, then new, helicopters are grounded after one had suffered an engine failure near Adelaide.
- June 2019: a report lists the MRH90 as the worst performing acquisition in the fleet, limiting certain missions because the main engines could not be shut down.
- October 2020: during Senate hearings officials state that the helicopter's door is too narrow to allow gun fire while troops are descending. Also it appears that the cargo hook of the Navy's MRH90s has regular problems.
- June 2021: the fleet of 47 helicopters is grounded for weeks due to issues with applying maintenance policies in the IT support system.
- March 2023: during an exercise an MRH90 was forced into a controlled ditch into Jervis Bay, NSW whilst transporting 10 ADF personnel. Sparks at the top of the rotor blades and an explosion were seen by eyewitnesses before the helicopter came down.

In December 2021, the Australian Prime Minister announced that it was decided to pull the plug and to deactivate the entire fleet ten years ahead of schedule. The helicopters are to be replaced by forty Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks of which three have already been delivered at RAAF base Richmond by USAF C-17s since July this year.

The ADF is working on expedited deliveries of the Black Hawks and to accelerate the training of personnel. With the initial three deliveries the program seems to be well ahead of schedule given that the USD 2 billion deal was only finalised this year.

Credit photo: Lance Broad (via

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