CANBERRA May 9 Australia's military has reached
agreement with Eurocopter's local subsidiary to fix
problems with its MRH-90 transport helicopter that should see
the troubled aircraft cleared later this year, the government
said on Thursday.
The deal, announced by Defence Minister Stephen Smith, will
see Australia receive a 47th multi-role helicopter at no extra
cost, while re-setting the $2 billion, six-year-old project's
"With continued good progress, the MRH-90 programme will be
considered for removal from the Projects of Concern list by the
end of 2013," Smith said in a statement.
Australia's MRH-90 roll-out has been plagued by technical
problems including an engine failure, inertial navigation
problems and windscreen cracks, pushing back delivery of the
helicopters by about three years.
Many of Australia's problems reflected concerns found with
the helicopter elsewhere, including problems identified by
Germany's military with the cabin floor, as well as design
difficulties associated with Australia's harsh climate.
Other problems involved landing on uneven ground in
battlefield conditions and navigating onto naval frigate decks
Australia's helicopters are mostly manufactured locally by
Eurocopter's local wing Australian Aerospace.
The helicopter, a partnership between by European Aeronautic
Defence and Space (EADS) subsidiary Eurocopter and Finmeccanica
subsidiary AgustaWestland, has so far been ordered by
13 nations, with delivery beginning in 2006.
Australia is one of few customers for the fly-by-wire
composite twin-engine chopper outside Europe and has only taken
possession of 16 MRH-90s to date, with a further three expected
to be delivered by the end of the year.
(Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Michael Perry)