Australia Defence grounds Seahawk helicopter fleet after crew forced to ditch into Philippine Sea

06:02  14 october  2021
06:02  14 october  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Three Royal Australian Navy personnel have been rescued from the Philippine Sea and treated for minor injuries after their Seahawk helicopter was forced to ditch into the water.

Defence has now grounded its entire fleet of the American-made aircraft just days after the United States approved a $1.3-billion sale of 12 additional Seahawks to the Navy.

The crew members from HMAS Brisbane were conducting a routine flight as part of a regional deployment with HMAS Warramunga when the overnight incident occurred.

Defence said boats were deployed from HMAS Brisbane, with the crew rescued and given first aid approximately 20 minutes later.

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In a statement, the Commander of the Australian fleet, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, commended the crews of both ships involved for their quick response to the emergency.

"The successful rescue is credit to the devotion to duty and skill of the officers and sailors of HMAS Brisbane," he said.

"Their immediate actions ensured the survival of the aircrew, validating the significant training undertaken in the event an emergency of this nature occurs."

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the military was still trying to determine the cause of the accident and he was grateful the crew members involved are safe.

"They are not sure yet what went wrong but the most important thing is the crew members have been rescued by boats dispatched by the HMAS Brisbane and brought back 20 minutes later," Mr Dutton told Nine radio.

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Rear Admiral Hammond said both HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Warramunga are continuing to search the area for any debris from the lost helicopter, which could help determine the cause of the incident.

"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."

The Navy already operates 24 MH-60R Seahawks based at HMAS Albatross, near Nowra, and the next US purchase would mean a total fleet of 36 aircraft.

Defence said it was also reviewing the impact of the incident on the Regional Presence Deployment being conducted by HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Warramunga.

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