Australian MH-60R crash leads to fleet-wide grounding

A Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission maritime helicopter belonging to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) crashed into the Philippine Sea during routine night flying operations on October 14, leading to a fleet-wide grounding of the remaining examples in Australian service.

The helicopter ditched into the Philippine Sea while it was on approach to land aboard the RAN’s Hobart-class air warfare destroyer, HMAS Brisbane (D41), after completing a routine night flight in the region. There were three crew members on board the Seahawk at the time of the crash, all of which were rescued approximately 20 minutes later. The crew suffered minor injuries that were treated aboard HMAS Brisbane.

RAN MH-60R Seahawk prepares to land aboard HMAS Brisbane [Commonwealth of Australia-Department of Defence/LSIS Daniel Goodman]
A RAN-operated MH-60R Seahawk comes into land aboard HMAS Brisbane (D41) after conducting aerial surveillance off the coast of Queensland, Australia, during Exercise Talisman Sabre on July 29, 2021. Commonwealth of Australia-Department of Defence/LSIS Daniel Goodman

Prior to this incident, the MH-60R had been operating from HMAS Brisbane as part of a Regional Presence Deployment with HMAS Warramunga (FFH-152) – a RAN-operated Anzac-class frigate. Rear Adm Mark Hammond, commander of the Australian Fleet, commended the crews of both ships for their quick response during the emergency.

He said: “The successful rescue is credit to the devotion to duty and skill of the officers and sailors of HMAS Brisbane. Their immediate actions ensured the survival of aircrew, validating the significant training undertaken in the event an emergency of this nature occurs.

The two RAN ships have continued to search the area for the helicopter’s debris, retrieving it so that the cause of the incident can be determined. The Australian Department of Defence has also said that it will review the impact of the incident on Brisbane and Warramunga’s current deployment. As a precaution, the RAN has also grounded its now 22-strong MH-60R Seahawk fleet.

“With the aircrew safe, investigating the circumstances that led to the helicopter ditching is the priority at the moment. As a precaution, we have temporarily paused flying operations of the MH-60R Seahawk fleet,” Hammond added.