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The Army Chief Reveals the High Cost of Maintaining the Taipan Fleet: 40 Hours of Maintenance for 1 Hour of Flight Time

The Taipan fleet has a history of technical issues and was grounded in multiple instances.

Australia is projected to incur significant savings on the cost of maintaining the now-shuttered MRH-90 Taipan helicopter with their replacements, the UH-60 Black Hawks, with officials revealing the cost to be about one-fifth of their predecessors.

Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Simon Stuart, told a Senate Estimates hearing that the new Black Hawk helicopters cost up to $12,000 every flight hour, compared to the $58,000 per flight hour for the Taipans.

The U.S.-made aircraft also require a fraction of the maintenance time.

“We’ve flown about just around 200 hours on our Black Hawks. We’re sitting at about five, six maintenance man hours,” Major General Jeremy King told the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Senate Estimates Committee.

It was noted that given they are brand new, they would require less maintenance at this stage.

This is compared to the European-made Taipans which required 40 hours of manned maintenance for every hour of flight time based on historical averages.

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killed four ADF personnel. Two months later, the entire fleet was retired, 14 years ahead of its original planned withdrawal.

The fatal incident also pushed forward…years later. Forty U.S.-made UH60 Black Hawk helicopters are slated to replace the aircraft.

Australia currently has three Black Hawks, a number which is expected to grow to 12 by the end of this year.

The Taipan helicopters are currently in the process of being dismantled and buried underground.

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is seen in a file photo. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukraine Expressed Interest In Taipans

Liberal Senator David Fawcett revealed that Ukraine had expressed an interest in the aircraft when he attended a NATO conference in October 2023.

Australia refused Ukraine’s request for a donation of the Taipan fleet to boost its air defense.

Mr. Stuart defended the decision, saying that while the defence force had not received advice that the Taipans were unsafe to fly, they determined that they were unsuitable for Ukraine’s intended use as evacuation aircraft due to their performance and enormous costs.

He noted that the availability—the percentage of time an aircraft can be flown in missions or training—of the Taipans was 40 percent at best.

“One of the key problems, challenges in the system, which is well documented and has been well discussed in this committee over a number of years, is the support of the system and the paucity of spare parts.

So regardless of whether it’s the ADF operating the aircraft, NATO partners or Ukraine, there is no evidence to suggest that the system would be able to perform any better than it currently has.”

Meanwhile, Black Hawks are currently operating at an availability rate of 80 percent.

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