Saturday, July 29, 2023

Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 - Australian Army MRH-90 Helicopter A40-040 "Bushman 83" Crashes in the Whitsundays - The Grim Search Begins for Wreckage and Crew - Plus More!

Late on Friday 28 July, Australian Army NH Industries MRH-90 Multi-Role Helicopter A40-040 "Bushman 83" ditched into waters close to Hamilton Island during low-level flight operations in the Whitsundays during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 (TS23).  

Almost immediately, a search and rescue operation commenced involving several military aircraft and helicopters from both the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and United States Armed Forces, as well as several civilian aircraft and helicopters.

United States Air Force (USAF) Lockheed AC-130J Ghostrider gunship Hercules aircraft 18-5891 "Jackal 92" was on the scene on Friday night searched the area most of the night before then being spotted at Mackay Airport taking on fuel.  It then departed to RAAF Base Richmond where it has been deployed to during TS23.

On Saturday 29 July, fellow USAF AC-130J Ghostrider Herc 18-5905 "Jackal 93" looked to fly out of Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast) Airport and also search in the area of crash.

Later, USAF Lockheed MC-130J Commando II Hercules 11-5731 "Rogue 72" came up from Richmond to search and then land at Mackay Airport as pictured below.

While fellow Australian Army NH Industries MRH-90 Multi-Role Helicopter A40-029 looked to join the search while on a flight out of Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast) Airport.  There seems to be several MRH-90s based at Prosie at the moment.

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing P-8A Poseidon Maritime Surveillance Aircraft A47-007 as "Rescue 251" flew up from RAAF Base Edinburgh and then RAAF Base Amberley to the search area at the Whitsundays.

And it appeared that RAAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft A41-208 as 'ASY667' did a low pass over the search area while flying from Canberra to Townsville.

Meanwhile, some of the civil aircraft and helicopters noted in the search efforts, also on Saturday 29 July, included the Cairns-based Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) (Cobham SAR Services Pty Ltd) Bombardier CL-600-2B16 Challenger 604 bizjet VH-XNC as "Rescue 440" which flew down and spent several hours seemingly coordinating some of the search efforts.

Careflight Kawasaki BK117 B-2 helicopter VH-IME "Careflight 2" operated in the search area out of Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast) Airport - where it seems to be currently deployed for TS23.

And the two Central Queensland Rescue (CQ Rescue) (Babcock Mission Critical Services Australasia) Bell 412 helicopters VH-CQJ and then VH-VAU were both noted in the search area as "Rescue 412" while on flights out of and back to Mackay Airport.

Finally, also on Saturday 29 July, while it seemed that most flying for the day was called off out of respect of the overnight incident, there was still some action around the Lakeside Airpark and other large airports nearby as the United States Marine Corps (USMC) looked to complete troop insertion and extraction exercises.

United States Marine Corps (USMC) Lockheed KC-130J Hercules 165735 (Tail Code QB-5735) was noted departing Proserpine Airport for the North. It looked to use the radio callsign of "Raider 51".

USMC Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft 168243 (EP-00) and 168217 (EP-01) of VMM-265 'Dragons', flew as "Bowser 31" from the United States Navy (USN) amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) to Rockhampton Airport before then departing up to Lakeside Airpark.

They both then flew down to Mackay Airport and landed for a short time to refuel.  

They later returned to Rockhampton Airport for the night.

While after dark, three MV-22B Ospreys of VMM-363 'Lucky Red Lions' appeared to depart Lakeside Airpark and also then arrive into Mackay Airport for the night.

UPDATE!  Early on Sunday 30 July, the three Ospreys were identified as 168687 (YZ-13) "Dumptruck 11", 168686 (YZ-11) "Dumptruck 12" and 168234 (YZ-03) "Dumptruck 13".

These Ospreys are a part of the latest Marine Rotational Force Darwin (MRF-D) and have deployed from the top end to RAAF Base Scherger in Far North Queensland for TS23.

And finally, some more ADF action saw Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk 'Romeo' naval combat helicopter N48-018 (Code 918) "Tiger 18" visit Mackay Airport.

It is believed that the Seahawk arrived from and departed back to the Royal Australian Navy's Hobart-class air warfare destroyer HMAS Brisbane (DDG 41) which is in the area.

And a pair of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Lockheed C-130J-30 Hercules transport aircraft looked to also visit Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast) Airport during the day with A97-442 as "Trojan 04" noted departing to Richmond, while A97-468 as "Trojan 03" looked to visit from RAAF Base Scherger.

Thanks to the local plane spotters and enthusiasts for their help in compiling this post!

Photos taken by 'AC', Steve Vit, Dan Bishop and 'JM'  ©

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