MRH-90 for the Australian Defence Force (photo : EADS)
Eurocopter has passed a central milestone in the Australian MRH90 helicopter procurement programme, having yesterday (March 28th) successfully undertaken the initial flight of the first MRH90 produced and assembled in Marignane, France. The Australian programme comprises the acquisition by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) of a total of 46 state-of-the-art helicopters, as well as the associated support for a ten year period This maiden flight of MRH90 MSN 01 (Manufacturer Serial Number), which took place at Eurocopter’s flight test centre in Marignane and lasted 1.0 hour and 30 minutes, was under the command of Eurocopter’s Test Pilot, Jean-Pierre Roldan. Reporting total satisfaction with the flight, he said: “We flew to an altitude of up to 4000ft and at maximum speed, and all of the aircraft’s main systems operated in accord with our expectations”.
The MRH-90 is the Australian variant of the world’s most advanced helicopter in the ten-tonne class, provided by NHIndustries (a co-operative industrial consortium comprising Eurocopter, Agusta and Fokker). Australia chose the MRH-90 over competing types as part of a program to modernize and rationalize its military helicopter fleet with the aim of developing a hardened and networked defence force. The MRH-90, a fly-by-wire, all-composite construction, mediumlift helicopter with highest crash-worthiness standards, was chosen ahead of the U.S.-built UH 60M Black Hawk.
Following assembly of first four Australian MRH90s at Eurocopter’s main plant in France and their subsequent shipment to Australia, the remaining, 42 aircraft will be produced at Australian Aerospace’s Brisbane plant, with the first two helicopters due for delivery to the ADF in December 2007. A 10-year, through-life support program will be carried out in Australia. Altogether, the MRH-90 programme will generate 400 highly skilled new jobs in Australia and will inject A$ 1.1 billion into the national economy. Expanding local production and support for the MRH-90s will make Australia one of the cornerstones of the global supply chain of the Eurocopter network, which includes the local subsidiary, Australian Aerospace. Acknowledged as the world’s leading advanced-combat helicopter in its class, 445 NH90s have now been ordered by 13 countries, including the 46 Australian Army-destined aircraft and nine for the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).