Australia has announced that it will retire its fleet of Taipan helicopters earlier than planned following a crash during a joint military exercise with the United States in July, which resulted in the death of four Australian aircrew. The Taipan helicopters were scheduled to be withdrawn from service in December 2024, but they will now not return to flying operations. Defence Minister Richard Marles emphasized that this decision does not prejudge the outcome of the investigations into the incident.
To replace the Taipan fleet, Australia had previously announced the purchase of 40 Black Hawk military helicopters from Lockheed Martin for an estimated cost of A$2.8 billion. The first Black Hawks have already arrived and begun flying in Australia. However, the withdrawal of the Taipan fleet before the Black Hawks are fully operational presents certain capability challenges, which the Defense Ministry aims to address by exploring options to expedite the delivery of the new helicopters and providing aircrew training through partnerships with allies such as the United States.
The Taipan helicopters, manufactured by NHIndustries, have long been plagued by maintenance issues. Norway also faced problems with NH90 helicopters and decided to return them due to unreliability or late delivery. The detailed investigations into the recent crash are expected to take some time, with one investigation alone estimated to last a year. As a result, Australia will have to manage defense capabilities without an operational Taipan fleet while waiting for more Black Hawks to be delivered.