A fleet of European-designed helicopters used by the Australian Army and Navy has been suspended from flying due to safety and maintenance concerns.
The ABC has learnt the Australian Defence Force’s 47 multi-role Taipans have been grounded for weeks, in a move the military describes as a “precaution”.
“Defence has temporarily suspended flying operations of the MRH-90 helicopter fleet,” a department spokesperson confirmed to the ABC.
“The fleet was suspended as a safety precaution. The issue relates to the application of the helicopter’s maintenance policy in the helicopter’s IT support system.”
It is not the first time Defence has grounded the $3.8 billion fleet, and confirmation of the move comes just days before the multinational Talisman Sabre military exercises begin in Queensland.
Members of the Townsville-based 5 Aviation Regiment were also expected to be flying the MRH-90 aircraft during this week’s Exercise Sea Explorer.
Defence says it is “currently working collaboratively” with manufacturer Airbus Australia Pacific to “remediate this issue”.
“Work continues to end this suspension as soon as possible,” a defence spokesperson said.
“Army and Navy aviation will continue to support their exercise and operational commitments with Tiger, Chinook, Black Hawk and Sea Hawk helicopters.”
Last year, Parliament was told the door on the MRH-90 was too narrow to allow its gun to fire while troops were descending, and that a third round of remedial work was being carried out on the fleet.
In 2019, the ADF grounded the entire Taipan fleet after one of the helicopters made a precautionary landing due to a tail rotor vibration.
That year a freedom of information request by the ABC confirmed the Taipan remained on the Defence Department’s “projects of concern” list.
The MRH-90 began entering service in 2007 to complement and then eventually replace the Australian Army’s Black Hawks, and the Royal Australian Navy’s Sea Kings.