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Thu, Mar 29, 2007

First Australian MRH-90 Helo Takes Flight

46 Troop Transports Destined For MoD

Australia's Ministry of Defense told ANN the first of Australia's 46 MRH-90 transport helicopters conducted its maiden flight in Marignane, France on Thursday morning. The aircraft flew for 1.5 hours, and the MoD states the Eurocopter test crew was "delighted" with its performance.

The first four MRH-90s -- a variant of the EADS/NH Industries NH-90 twin-engine, troop-lift helicopter (shown above) -- are scheduled for delivery to Australia by the end of 2007. The first fuselage of the 42 aircraft to be assembled in Australia arrived in Brisbane on March 27.

The Australian government announced the acquisition of 12 MRH-90s helicopters for Army in August 2004, to bolster Australia's counter terrorism capabilities. The original intent behind the purchase was to allow the redeployment of a Blackhawk squadron to provide dedicated support for Australian Special Forces on the east coast.

In June 2006, the Government announced the acquisition of an additional 34 MRH-90s -- to replace Army's Blackhawks and Navy's Sea Kings, both based on Sikorsky's UH-60 helo. The project value for the total acquisition of 46 aircraft is around $4.2 billion.

The project includes a $1.2 billion Australian Industry Capability package, that focuses on state of the art composite construction, avionics, turbine engine assembly and maintenance, and ongoing software support.

The project also includes the construction of new or upgraded facilities in Townsville, Oakey, Nowra and Holsworthy.

FMI: www.eads.com, www.defence.gov.au/

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