MRH 90 Taipan Multi-Role Helicopters sidelined by Australian Defence Force

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Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal is the founder editor of Bhraman (a Digital Travelogue). As an independent journalist, he is passionate for investigating and reporting on complex subjects. He has an extensive background in both print and digital media, with a focus on Travel and Defence reporting. *Views are personal

In order to replace the Australian Defence Force’s fleet of NH Industry MRH 90 Taipan Multi-Role Helicopters, Canberra is seeking to buy up to 40 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk battlefield helicopters, as said by the Australian Defence Minister on Friday.

An earlier decision to replace the Australian Army’s European Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters with U.S.-made Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters was made by the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison while today’s move tends to follow the former.

All about the Sikorsky UH-60M

Manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft, the helicopter is a medium-lift utility helicopter with twin-engine and four-blades while, a wide array of missions, including aeromedical evacuation, electronic warfare and tactical transport of troops can be performed by the Black Hawk helicopter series. 

In order to carry fuel tanks or various other armaments, the UH-60 can be equipped with stub wings at the top of the fuselage. The called External Stores Support System (ESSS) is capable of carrying around 4,500 kg of armaments such as gun pods, rockets and missiles. 

Replacing the older tanks with up to four total 200 US gal (760 L) crashworthy tanks along with self-sealing fuel lines, the ESSS of the United States UH-60s have been modified into the crashworthy external fuel system (CEFS) configuration.


The UH-60 comes in many variants which may have different capabilities and equipment to fulfil different roles. These variants include YUH-60A, UH-60A Black Hawk, UH-60C Black Hawk, CH-60E, UH-60L Black Hawk, UH-60V Black Hawk, UH-60M Black Hawk, UH-60M Upgrade Black Hawk. 

The variants for special purposes include EH-60A Black Hawk, YEH-60B Black Hawk, EH-60C Black Hawk, EUH-60L, EH-60L Black Hawk and many others.

The MRH 90

Unlike the Sikorsky UH-60M, the MRH 90 is a multi-role, medium-sized, twin-engine military helicopter that has been developed in response to NATO requirements for a battlefield that would prove to be capable of being operated in naval environments.

The Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) for Army use and the naval NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) are the two main variants of the helicopter. 

Out of Scope 

Presently, the Royal Australian Navy operates the MRH 90 in the embarked logistics helicopter role along with the Australian Army in battlefield mobility and counter-terrorism support roles. With an intention to replace a number of helicopter types then in service including the Bell UH-1H Iroquois, S-70A-9 Black Hawk, and Westland Sea King Mk.50A/B, the first of 47 MRH 90s entered service in December 2007.

Following delays to modifications required for the MRH 90 to meet the needs of Special Forces, Ironically, the Australian Army’s older Black Hawks are only being retired in the current week.

Due to suffering from poor availability and high ownership costs, it has affected the existence of the Taipan in service which was expected to hold its position until at least 2037 while on the other hand, it has been on the government’s projects of concern watchlist since November 2011.

No alternate of the best

The MRH 90 fleet had failed to meet contracted availability and cost of ownership ahead of its planned withdrawal date despite the remediation efforts by Defence and industry as said by the Defence Minister. 

The official says that comparatively, on a per-hour basis, the Black Hawk is much cheaper to run than the existing Taipan while along with spending a lot of money on maintenance, Taipan is unreliable as a lot of downtime of their pilots have been caused while they should have been flying these helicopters. 

The State Department had approved the potential sale of an additional 12 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawks (without anti-submarine warfare equipment) to Australia, as advised by the United States Defence Security Cooperation Agency in October and later it was confirmed by the Australian Department of Defence that the helicopters are being considered to replace the MRH 90 in the maritime support role under Project Sea 9100.


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