19 May 2010

All Australia's new army helicopters grounded

4:31 pm on 19 May 2010

The Australian Government has confirmed that a new fleet of army helicopters has been grounded because of engine problems.

The ABC reports that the decision to ground the MRH90 fleet was kept secret for four weeks, apparently because of continuing embarrassment over the earlier cancellation of a Seasprite helicopter project.

Australia has accepted 11 new MRH90 Eurocopters so far, out of 40 ordered at a cost of about $4 billion. The manufacturer is also bidding to sell the defence forces another 24 of the machines for the Navy.

But last month an engine on one of the twin-engine choppers failed, though the pilot managed to nurse the aircraft back to base.

Engineers flown in from Europe have so far been unable to find the cause of the failure, and as a result the entire fleet has been grounded.

The Seasprite programme commissioned by the previous federal government was cancelled by the current government at a cost of $1 billion.