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Ian DeMartino
Ian DeMartino
Ian DeMartino is a Sputnik correspondent who specializes in technology, cryptocurrency and economic injustice.

Four crew missing after Australian chopper crashes during military drill

FILE PHOTO: MRH90 'Taipan' helicopter.

The exercise was part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023, which includes over 30,000 troops and is the largest-ever joint military exercise between Australia and the United States.

The four crew members of an MRH90 helicopter, often called a Taipan, remain missing after the chopper crashed on Friday around 10:30 p.m. local time.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said the helicopter was participating in a two-helicopter training accident when the accident happened. The Defense Department confirmed the helicopter crashed into the water near Lindeman Island, south of Hamilton Island, off the West coast of Australia.

“The aircraft was participating in a night-time training activity as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 when it was reported missing late Friday night,” a statement from the Defense Department read. “Military and civilian search and rescue aircraft and watercraft are currently conducting search and rescue operations at the incident site.”

At a follow-up news conference, Marles said the second helicopter immediately began looking for the missing crew members but was unsuccessful. The official indicated the search and rescue mission remains underway as of Saturday morning.

“Our hopes and our thoughts are very much with the aircrew and their families,” Marles added.

The accident came as Australia hosted US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was speaking to Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong as part of the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUMIN 2023).

The Taipan helicopters have been a sore point for the Australian military. In March, 10 military personnel were rescued off the coast of New South Wales after their Taipan crash-landed into the water during exercises, a move that forced a brief grounding of all Taipan helicopters.

In 2019, the entire fleet was grounded after a defect was discovered in the Taipan’s rear rotor.

In 2021, then-Defense Minister Peter Dutton announced the fleet would retire a decade earlier than previously announced, and that it would be replaced by 40 Black Hawk and Seahawk helicopters purchased from the United States for $2.1 billion. The first Black Hawks are expected to arrive later this year.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Note to Australia- go and purchase the Hind choppers and the Kamov Alligators.
    Reliable, combat rugged, and affordable.
    Use only for defence under the Laws of Neutrality.

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