The Australian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is still voicing concern about the capabilities and performance of its NH Industries MRH-90 Taipan helicopter fleet, nearly eight years after it received the first pair. But a senior official from Airbus Group Asia Pacific (AGAP) said that a series of remedies are pending, or already in effect. The developments were reported by Asia-Pacific Aerospace Report, an Australian newsletter.
Australia ordered a total of 46 MRH-90s between 2004 and 06, 40 to replace the army’s S-70A Blackhawks, and six to replace the navy’s Sea Kings. Most were to be assembled in Australia at a facility in Brisbane that is now part of AGAP. Delivery delays and initial technical issues led the MoD to place the MRH-90 on its “projects of concern” watch list in late 2011. At that time, a government minister said that many of the issues were shared with other customers for the NH-90.
The senior management of NHI has since acknowledged that the NH-90 was slow to reach maturity, and has reported a new effort to improve availability for all customers. But Rear Admiral Terry Dalton, the Australian MoD’s head of helicopters, said last month that the time taken to overhaul components was a major problem. He also noted that some capabilities had yet to be introduced, such as separated side guns, a fast roping repelling system, and a cargo hook for operations at sea. Initial versions of the latter two items proved unsatisfactory.
Charles Crocombe, AGAP vice president for government helicopters, this month told a naval aviation symposium in Australia that 33 Taipans had now been delivered, and the fleet is exceeding the flight hour “rate of effort” set by the MoD. He said that the army would test the new fast roping system next month, and that a new cargo hook had been designed. Better seating for fully combat-equipped soldiers had also been designed. Corrosion issues were being addressed, and the rotor head would be modified.