Airbus Helicopters MRH90 Taipan - Australia, 2016
Detailing the development and operational history of the Airbus Helicopters MRH90 Taipan Medium-Lift Utility Helicopter.
Entry last updated on 11/2/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
Australia is expected to take on forty-seven MRH-90 Taipan utility helicopters that will serve in both the Army and Navy services.
For decades the Australian military relied on the ubiquitous Bell UH-1 "Huey" helicopter line and thought (and funding) was finally given to adopt a more modern product - this became the MRH-90 "Taipan" (MRH = "Multi-Role Helicopter") based on the NHIndustries NH90 series. The NH90 serves in the medium-lift role and can undertake many mission types for military and civilian industries. Nearly 250 have been produced (2015) with service seen through the French, Italian and Finnish armies. The helicopter is an original product from NHIndustries (NHI), the helicopter arm of what was once Eurocopter - now falling under the Airbus Helicopters brand label.
For the Australian military the Taipan fulfills a utility role and will serve both its Army and Navy forces. An early-batch order in 2005 called for twelve helicopters to replace UH-1 models and a 2006 follow-on order totaled 34 systems to succeed outgoing Sikorsky UH-60 "Black Hawk" and Westland "Sea King" helicopters. The Australian military plans to procure no more than 47 MRH-90s in all with four to be produced in Europe and the remainder in Australia by Airbus Helicopters subsidiary Australian Aerospace of Brisbane. Forty units are set aside for Army use and six are to be used by the Navy. While the original order was for 46 total aircraft, a renegotiated contract of 2013 yielded the Australian government one extra airframe which will be set aside for training duty.
The MRH-90 has had a rocky development, forcing revisions as evaluations were being undertaken. Since 2010 the helicopter was repeatedly showing up on the Australian government's "shame list" for its many problems and delayed service entry. While first deliveries came in 2007, final examples will not be on hand until 2016 or 2017 - over ten years since the initial order was placed. For cost reasons, the Army will still be forced to use their Black Hawks until 2018. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was finally had in 2014 by the Army with the Navy following a year later.
The MRH-90 has experience issues with object ingestion in its turboshaft (Rolls-Royce) engines despite the fact that protective screens were in place (the screens were not suitable for the debris available in the Australian landscape). Additionally, windshield cracking was a constant which resulted in a special film being applied for added strength and a new installation procedure being drawn up. In 2010 a single engine failure occurred to an MRH-90 by Adelaide which caused a fleet grounding during the review process (shaft bowing was blamed). A stronger cabin floor was then ordered when it was found that the original lightweight design suffered under the stress of equipment-laden Australian infantry. Beyond other scheduled additions (rappelling equipment, door guns, etc...) it appears that the darkest days of the MRH-90 program are behind it.