Australia retires MRH90 Taipan transport helicopters fleet early

The Australian government is permanently withdrawing its NHIndustries MRH90 ‘Taipan’ fleet from flight operations.

The “MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will not return to flying operations before their planned withdrawal date of December 2024”, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) said on 29 September.

The decision to withdraw the MRH90 fleet is being attributed to the amount of time required to close four separate investigations of the 28 July crash of an MRH90 near Lindeman Island during Exercise ‘Talisman Sabre’, according to the DoD and Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles.

“As the government made clear at the time, [the army] would not fly this platform until investigations into that incident were complete,” the DoD said. “The advice provided to [the] government has outlined [that] these ongoing investigations are likely to continue well into 2024.”

The DoD added that the “announcement does not presuppose or [in] any way suggest the outcome of the investigations into the … incident on 28 July”.

The withdrawal of the 39 strong MRH90 fleet reduces the numerical strength of the Australian Army’s rotary-wing forces by over a third, by 39.3%, Janes assesses. In the interim, “the Australian Defence Force [ADF] will continue to operate its [Boeing] CH-47F Chinooks, [Eurocopter] Tigers, and [Sikorsky] MH‑60R Seahawks”, the DoD said in a statement, adding that these helicopters are expected to “provide a robust and ready aviation capability”.

Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed on Friday morning the Taipans will not return to flying operations before their planned withdrawal date of December 2024.

“The MRH-90 has been an important capability for our country and Defence Force, and I recognise the hard work of the hundreds of people who dedicated themselves to acquiring, operating and sustaining the aircraft,” Mr Marles said. 

“Given we were due to retire the aircraft at the end of next year anyway, there is now no world in which we would be flying the Taipans again.

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