An Australian Army NH-90 helicopter, known locally as the MRH-90 Taipan, crashed into the sea off Lindeman Island in the State of Queensland during Exercise Talisman Sabre.
The incident occurred on the evening of July 28, 2023, during a night training flight, leaving the four crew members on board unaccounted for. The aircraft belonged to the 6th Aviation Regiment, based at Holsworthy Barracks in New South Wales, Australia.
Exercise Talisman Sabre, which kicked off on July 22, 2023, aimed to foster cooperation and interoperability among participating nations, including France, the United States, Germany, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. The crash of the MRH-90 Taipan helicopter prompted authorities to suspend all operations and launch search and rescue efforts.
The Australian Department of Defense confirmed that the missing MRH-90 Taipan was accompanied by a second helicopter at the time of the incident, allowing for an immediate search to commence. However, despite locating debris from the downed aircraft, the crew members’ whereabouts remain unknown.
“There is now a major international effort engaged in the search and rescue of the crew, which is involving hundreds of Defence Force personnel,” stated Richard Marles, the Australian Minister of Defense, “expressing the nation’s anxieties while emphasizing the importance of the ongoing search. “Wreckage of the helicopter has been found, but the main body of the airframe is yet to be located.”
This tragic incident marks the second occurrence involving an MRH-90 Taipan helicopter this year. On March 22, 2023, another MRH-90 helicopter was damaged at sea off the coast of New South Wales during a counter-terrorism exercise due to an engine failure. However, the crew was promptly rescued in that incident, and the Taipan fleet was subsequently grounded for a month while investigations were conducted.
In December 2021, the Australian Department of Defence decided to replace the Army’s fleet of 41 NHIndustries MRH-90 Taipan with 40 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.