Defence's MRH-90 Taipan helicopter fleet has 'major risks': report – The Canberra Times

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Defence’s billion-dollar Taipan helicopter fleet is plagued with “major risks and issues” affecting its reliability and capability, a parliamentary report has found.
The 47-strong fleet of MRH-90 helicopters, also known as Taipans, was designed to replace the military’s aging Black Hawk and Sea King fleet but several performance issues have forced significant delays and raised questions over its suitability.

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The parliamentary committee report published on Monday highlighted the fleet faced technical and reliability issues, noting its production had also been suspended between 2011 and 2012.

Among the major issues affecting the fleet’s suitability was an immature aircraft system, technical and design issues and a possible shortfall in industry expertise.

It was first listed as a Project of Concern in 2011 by the Department of Defence and its status has remained for the past nine years. The department explained this was due to the “considerable amount of support needed to achieve the required flying rates”.

The report recommended an independent external review be undertaken into the $3.77 billion program to identify issues and prevent them from happening with future procurements.

“The committee is of the view that Defence would benefit from a review being undertaken on their helicopter acquisitions, especially as navy and army acquire new helicopters as part of their fleet,” the report read.
Shadow assistant defence minister Pat Conroy said more urgent action was needed to ensure troops were safe in the meantime.
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“The Department of Defence and this government has stuffed up many, many helicopter acquisition projects,” Mr Conroy said.
“It’s remarkable that a government-dominated committee has found that.

“We need urgent action on Defence to make sure our troops get the equipment they need when they need it.”

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In a Senate estimates appearance during October, senior military personnel confirmed the fleet faced a major design flaw rendering the helicopters’ capability limited.

The helicopter’s design meant it was not possible for troops to simultaneously exit the craft while offering suppressive fire. Workarounds, such as having a second helicopter to provide support while troops exited, were used but it meant the operational limitations remained.

Several attempts to fix the door and gun mount had been undertaken but it was later admitted by a department official the doors just weren’t wide enough for it to be resolved.
Chief of Defence General Angus Campbell defended the fleet’s “extraordinarily advanced” capability, admitting no helicopter was perfect.
“The MRH 90 is an extraordinarily advanced helicopter and it does do things that no other helicopter on the planet can do,” General Campbell said during his estimates appearance.
“There is no perfect helicopter, there’s no perfect machine or person and it is a matter of understanding how to fly that helicopter.
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“You’re quite right, there is an issue with the door guns. We know it. We’re working on it.”
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I'm a federal politics and public sector reporter with an interest in national security, integrity and regulation. Contact me with general tips and thoughts at sarah.basfordcanales@canberratimes.com.au or confidential tips to sbasfordcanales@protonmail.com.
I'm a federal politics and public sector reporter with an interest in national security, integrity and regulation. Contact me with general tips and thoughts at sarah.basfordcanales@canberratimes.com.au or confidential tips to sbasfordcanales@protonmail.com.
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