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.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Special-Mission: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Equipped to search, track, and engage enemy underwater elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and weapons.
Equipped to search, track, and engage enemy surface elements through visual acquisition, radar support, and onboard weaponry.
✓Special-Mission: MEDical EVACuation (MEDEVAC)
Extraction of wounded combat or civilian elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and available internal volume or external carrying capability.
✓Special-Mission: Search & Rescue (SAR)
Ability to locate and extract personnel from areas of potential harm or peril (i.e. downed airmen in the sea).
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
Serving Special Forces / Special Operations elements and missions.
53.0 ft (16.15 m)
53.5 ft (16.30 m)
17.2 ft (5.25 m)
14,110 lb (6,400 kg)
23,369 lb (10,600 kg)
+9,259 lb (+4,200 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Airbus Helicopters MRH90 Taipan production variant)
2 x Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01/9 turboshaft engines developing 2,230 horsepower each and driving a four-bladed main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor.
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