Monday, July 31, 2023

Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 - Australian Army NH Industries MRH-90 Multi-Role Helicopter A40-040 "Bushman 83" Crashes in the Whitsundays - 4 Lives Lost

During the late evening, just after 10.30pm on Friday 28 July, Australian Army NH Industries MRH-90 Multi-Role Helicopter A40-040 "Bushman 83" ditched into waters close to Hamilton Island.

The four-crew helicopter was engaged in a two-helicopter mission, part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 (TS23).  A40-040 had only just passed through Rockhampton and Gladstone Airports (pictured) while flying up to Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast) Airport where it and other MRH-90s were operating from.

An extensive search and rescue mission commenced in the Whitsundays immediately following the crash.  This involved United States Air Force (USAF) Lockheed MC-130J Commando II Hercules and Lockheed AC-130J Ghostrider gunship Hercules aircraft.  See our Blog post below for more information and photos!

Since Friday night, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Queensland’s Emergency Services have directed a continuous and co-ordinated maritime and air search and rescue mission in the Whitsundays region involving more than 800 personnel.

Sadly, it seems that the four soldiers from the Australian Army’s 6th Aviation Regiment lost their lives.

On Sunday 30 July, it was reported that a large part of the wreckage had been located with sections of the fuselage brought to the mainland.  They showed the helicopter serial to be A40-040.

Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Brisbane, along with the US Navy ship USS Miguel Keith were all deployed to the search, along with specialist divers.

RAN sailors from HMAS Huon have been conducting search operations near Lindeman Island.  HMAS Huon is a Huon class minehunter coastal, with underwater sensor, sonar detection, clearance diving and remotely-operated vehicle capabilities.

UPDATE!  On Wednesday 2 August, the HMAS Huon’s remotely operated underwater vehicle discovered parts of the cockpit and human remains close to the crash site.

Of special interest, since their introduction to service in 2007, the MRH-90 Taipan helicopters have presented ongoing technical and cost challenges for the ADF.  It is understood Defence planners opposed the original Howard government decision to purchase the choppers.

On multiple occasions, the helicopters have been grounded on safety concerns.  In March this year, the fleet was grounded after an MRH-90 suffered engine failure and ditched into the water at Jervis Bay in NSW during a counter-terrorism training exercise.

Our thoughts and prayers go to all the family and friends of the victims of this terrible tragedy.

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