CANBERRA, Australia: Defense Minister Richard Marles told Nine Network television on September 29 that after a crash in July that killed four soldiers, the Australian Army would stop flying its fleet of 40 MRH-90 Taipan helicopters.
The European-designed Taipans were grounded on July 28 after one crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a night training operation in the Whitsunday Islands off the northeast Australian coast.
Regarding the U.S.-built Black Hawks helicopters that will replace the Airbus-produced Taipans, Marles said, "Permanently ending Taipan flying operations was the only decision that makes sense. We are making this decision today. In many ways it was inevitable, but it is an important step to take so that we can get our Black Hawks in the air as quickly as possible."
In January, the Australian government announced plans to replace the Taipans with 40 UH-60M Black Hawks some 13 years earlier than initially planned.
Since the announcement, the Taipan fleet was grounded in March after a helicopter ditched off the southeast Australian coast during a night counterterrorism training exercise. All 10 passengers and crew members were rescued.
The first three Sikorsky Aircraft-manufactured Black Hawks were delivered this month.
"There are going to be challenges around a capability gap here, and that is why we are working with our international partners, particularly the U.S., particularly to get more time for aircrew to train so that they can be certified on the Black Hawks as quickly as possible," Marles said in conclusion.