MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Australia’s delayed NHI MRH 90 Taipan Multi Role Helicopter program received a significant boost Thursday with the induction of the Royal Australian Navy’s 808 Squadron in a ceremony at HMAS Albatross, near Nowra, South of Sydney.
“The commissioning of 808 Squadron is a significant milestone for the Navy as we formally welcome into service a new generation, maritime support helicopter that not only replaces the retired Sea Kings, but delivers new capabilities and a capacity to meet emerging requirements in the future,” said Rear Adm. Tim Barrett, commander of the Australian Fleet.
The Taipan is replacing the Navy’s now-retired Sea King helicopters in the shipboard utility helicopter role and will also replace the Australian Army’s S-70 Black Hawks in battlefield airlift and special operations support roles.
“Bringing a technologically advanced, new generation aircraft into service is no simple task, but 808 Squadron personnel have worked tirelessly together, and with the Defence Materiel Organisation project office and the Army to reach this milestone,” Barrett said.
Australia has 46 helicopters on order but the project is three years late and only about 20 have been accepted to date, despite first deliveries occurring in December 2007. The project has been delayed by a series of technical issues as well as an inadequate sustainment program, and has been on the government’s Projects of Concern list since November 2011.
However, a deed of undertaking was signed on May 9 between the commonwealth and prime contractor Australian Aerospace, a Eurocopter subsidiary that is assembling the helicopters at its facility in Brisbane, to remediate a number of commercial and contractual issues and to re-baseline the project. The contract included a 47th helicopter to be provided at no cost to the Australian government and there is confidence now that the MRH 90 program will be removed from the Projects of Concern list by the end of the year.
“Australian Aerospace congratulates the Navy on the recommissioning of its illustrious 808 Squadron. This is indeed a significant milestone for the Navy. It also marks the official entry into Australian service of the world’s most advanced multirole naval and land forces support helicopter,” said Jens Goennemann, CEO of Australian Aerospace. “As a long-term defense partner, Australian Aerospace is proud to support 808 Squadron and its commitment to service of the nation.”
The next major milestone will be the achievement of Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for Navy, which represents the point at which the first helicopter is capable of deploying to sea in the maritime utility helicopter role aboard a support vessel, and is expected before the end of the year.
IOC for Army is expected to follow in the middle of 2014.