Australia replaces European helicopters with American equipment

Australia replaces European helicopters with American equipment

Australia on Wednesday announced it was abandoning its fleet of European-made military helicopters, MRH90 aircraft, aka Taipans, for American equipment, despite efforts by Paris to salvage the contract.

Australian Defense Secretary Richard Marles, a member of the centre-left government elected last year, said the Taipan helicopters would be replaced by American-made Black Hawk aircraft.

The MRH90 or Taipan is the Australian version of the NH90, a multi-role helicopter in service with the French Army under the name Caïman.

This device is manufactured by the European industrial consortium NH Industries (NHI), which brings together the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Helicopters, the Italian concern Leonardo and the Dutch company Fokker.

At the end of 2021, the Australian government “informed Airbus of its decision to initiate an inquiry for military sales abroad, possibly to replace the MRH90,” the European aircraft manufacturer said at the time.

“Taipans have been a problem for us for many years in terms of maintenance and spare parts supply,” Marles told Australia’s national broadcaster ABC on Wednesday.

“We are confident that this will not interrupt renewed ties with France,” he said, while the French government had asked Australia to keep its forty Taipan helicopters.

Trust between the two countries was broken in September 2021 when the former Australian Conservative government abruptly canceled a contract worth A$90 billion (€56 billion) for French group Naval Group’s submarines and bought British or American nuclear submarines -Boats preferred.

At the height of the crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron accused then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of lying about the deal before recalling the French ambassador to Canberra.

Franco-Australian relations remained strained until the election of a new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, in Australia in May 2022, who sought to mend ties with Paris.

In response, Airbus said on Wednesday it would “take note” of Australia’s decision while maintaining its desire to establish a “significant presence” there, a spokesman for the group told AFP, as the country is a key market for the airline European aircraft manufacturer.

In June 2022, overwhelmed by delivery delays and availability issues, Norway announced the termination of a contract with the NHI consortium for 14 NH90 helicopters.