Four air crew members are missing after an Australian army helicopter ditched off the Queensland coast on Thursday night, the Defence Department said. The helicopter, a MRH-90 Taipan, was conducting a routine training exercise when it crashed into the sea near Shoalwater Bay, about 600 km north of Brisbane.
The Defence Department said in a statement that a search and rescue operation was underway, involving navy and air force assets. The cause of the incident is not yet known.
The MRH-90 Taipan is a multi-role helicopter that can carry up to 20 troops or six stretchers. It is used for troop transport, special operations, search and rescue, and medical evacuation. Australia has 47 MRH-90 Taipans in service, which replaced the older Black Hawk and Sea King helicopters.
The Defence Minister Peter Dutton said he was deeply concerned by the incident and offered his support to the families of the missing crew members. He said the government would provide updates as more information became available. He also thanked the personnel involved in the search and rescue operation for their efforts.
The incident is the latest in a series of mishaps involving Australian military helicopters in recent years. In 2019, two army helicopters collided during a night-time exercise near Townsville, injuring three soldiers.
In 2018, an army helicopter made an emergency landing in a park in Canberra after experiencing technical issues. In 2017, two navy helicopters were damaged by debris while landing on a ship in rough seas off Queensland.