TechUkraine's bid to buy 'problematic' NH90 helicopters thwarted as Australia opts for disposal

Ukraine's bid to buy 'problematic' NH90 helicopters thwarted as Australia opts for disposal

Australian helicopter NH90
Australian helicopter NH90
Images source: © U.S. Navy | Derek A. Harkins

6:24 AM EST, December 27, 2023

The Australians started withdrawing the "problematic" NH90 helicopters from service in 2022. By the following year, technicians had disposed of 45 such machines. Although these helicopters were integrated into service relatively recently, in the first decade of the 21st century, and their secondary market value stands at a minimum of $20 million per unit, the decision was made to scrap them entirely.

Reason behind Australia's disposal of the NH90

The Australians had good reason for this action. An incident involving an NH90 helicopter during the Sky Sabre exercises in 2023 resulted in the death of four soldiers. Unofficial investigation results showed that the accident was not due to the machine's technical condition. However, doubts about the helicopter's flight safety and preservation difficulties were well-established.

Despite these problems, Ukraine was still interested in these helicopters for their military. They cited situations where an Australian NH90 successfully landed after an incident caused by a pilot error in March 2023. The Ukrainians underscored the practical aspects of the machines, as mentioned in the local Defense Express.

Interestingly, the NH90 helicopters are notable for their carbon fiber construction. Paradoxically, it's so robust that Australian specialists had difficulty cutting through it. Therefore, disposal took an unconventional route - dismantling and burying the removed elements.

About the NH90 Helicopters

The NH90 is a versatile helicopter powered by a system of two Rolls-Royce Turboméca RTM322-01/9 or General Electric T700/T6E1 turbine engines, collectively delivering over 5300 horsepower. The machine accommodates two operators and 20 passengers. It measures over 64 feet in length and about 17.4 feet in height, with a rotor diameter of 53.5 feet—the Taipan's empty weight rounds off to around 14,100 pounds.

The NH90 helicopter can reach up to 186 mph, with a range of about 610 miles. Its practical ceiling is 19,685 feet. Regarding weaponry, the Taipan is armed with a 7.62 mm machine gun and can deploy torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

Australia's replacement: Black Hawks

The Australian military plans to replace the NH90 with UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters. Some critics consider this a regression, particularly as the American "hawks" are machines that are 20 years older. However, the Black Hawks have a more successful track record on the battlefield than the Taipans.

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