Australia to replace NH90 Taipan helicopters with new Black Hawks from US

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Photo c/o Lockheed Martin.

The Australian Department of Defence (DOD) is expected to announce on 10 December 2021 of plans by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to proceed with the early retirement of its fleet of NH Industries MRH90 Taipan medium helicopters.

The MRH90 Taipan are Australian variants of the NH90 medium helicopter made by NH Industries, which is a collaboration between European aircraft manufacturers Airbus, Leonardo, and Fokker.

The MRH90 were ordered by the Australian Government starting 2005, and operated since 2007. Majority of the helicopters were assembled locally by Australian Aerospace, a subsidiary of Airbus based in Brisbane, Queensland.

The helicopters are operated by both the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under its 808 Squadron since 2013, and the Australian Army’s (AA) 6th Aviation Regiment since 2007, with both services using the helicopter for multiple roles including troop and cargo transport, as well as maritime operations.

The decision comes as the MRH90 Taipan continues to be plagued by fleet-wide groundings and poor availability, as well as design issues including a small side door opening to allow machine guns to be fired while troops are exiting the aircraft.

The ADF originally planned to operate its 47 units of MRH90 Taipan until 2037, which will now be cut short to around the late 2020s, or almost 10 years shorter than planned.

The DOD is expected to announce the acquisition of its replacement, the Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk helicopter, with the RAN already announcing previously of its intentions to acquire another 12 MH-60R Seahawk naval helicopters to replace the MRH90 Taipan in naval service.

It is expected that the Australian Army will acquire around 40 new, off-the-shelf UH-60 Black Hawk multi-role helicopters from American aviation company Sikorsky Helicopters.

Being off-the-shelf allows the Australian Army to receive the helicopters faster, with modifications according to Australian requirements potentially only implemented afterwards.

Ironically, the MRH90 Taipan were introduced to the Australian Army to replace its older variants of the S-70A Black Hawk which it has been operating since the 1980s, with the MRH90 expected to be significantly better and more capable than the older Black Hawk variant.

It is believed that the Australian DOD has already discussed the plan with France’s Airbus, just months after cancelling the A$90 billion acquisition of French-designed Shortfin Barracuda diesel-electric attack submarines that were suppose to be called the Attack-class submarine in Australian service.

Australia to replace NH90 Taipan helicopters with new Black Hawks from US Australia to replace NH90 Taipan helicopters with new Black Hawks from US Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on December 10, 2021 Rating: 5

No comments