Australia to retire Taipan helicopter fleet and replace it with Black Hawk

On Friday, Australia announced that it would be retiring its Taipan helicopter fleet earlier than anticipated following a crash in July during a joint military exercise with the U.S. that resulted in the death of four Australian aircrews. Defense Minister Richard Marles stated that the Taipan fleet would not resume flying operations before its originally scheduled withdrawal date in December 2024. He emphasized that this decision does not imply or suggest the outcome of the ongoing investigations into the tragic incident.


Earlier this year, Australia announced plans to purchase 40 Black Hawk military helicopters from Lockheed Martin for an estimated A$2.8 billion ($1.80 billion). These helicopters are intended to replace the problematic Taipan fleet, which has been plagued by maintenance issues for years. Since their induction, Australia has deployed 47 Taipans.


"The first of the 40 Black Hawks that will replace the (Taipan) MRH-90 have arrived and are already flying in Australia. We are focused on seeing their introduction to service as quickly as possible," Marles added. The Taipan helicopters are manufactured by NHIndustries, a France-based company jointly controlled by Airbus and Italy's Leonardo. Both companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Following the July crash off Queensland's coast, Australia grounded its Taipan fleet and stated that it would remain grounded until a detailed investigation was completed. Marles acknowledged that there would be "capability challenges" without an operational Taipan fleet and as defense waits for the delivery of more Black Hawks. The first three Black Hawks have arrived in Australia and started flying this month. To help mitigate further impacts on defense, Marles said Australia had been exploring options to accelerate the delivery of Black Hawks and for aircrew training with allies, including the United States.

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