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Ukrainian diaspora asks Australia to send 45 retired helicopters to Ukraine

by Martin Fornusek January 12, 2024 2:16 PM 3 min read
A member of the 5th Aviation Regiment, Townsville leads personnel toward a MRH-90 Taipan in preparation for departure from Taree Airport as part of flood recovery and assist duties on March 29, 2021 in Taree, Australia. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
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The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO) appealed on Jan. 12 to the Australian government to supply Ukraine with 45 decommissioned Taipan helicopters rather than scrapping them.

Media reports emerged in December that the Australian military decided to quietly disassemble and bury its fleet of multi-role Taipan helicopters, even though Kyiv sent an official request for their transfer to Ukraine.

In its statement, the Ukrainian diaspora organization in Australia said that these vehicles "could be a game-changer in Ukraine."

The helicopters present a great military value, and their supply would "more than double the number of helicopters Ukraine has been given since the start of Russia's genocidal full-scale invasion," the AFUO said.

The statement that the transfer would "more than double the number of helicopters" sent to Ukraine does not correspond with the data collected by the open-source group Oryx, which estimated that Ukraine has received at least 68 attack, transport, and utility helicopters from its partners, with 17 promised for future delivery.

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The program, called Operation Kudu, is managed by the Australian Defense Forces and entails the deployment of Australian servicemen to multinational training missions in the U.K. for Ukrainian soldiers.

The AFUO also said that the transfer to Ukraine would cost less than destroying them, adding that it had raised the issue with the Australian Defense Ministry representatives this week.

"The Ukrainian community will be rallying this Sunday, Jan. 14, at 2 p.m. at the Sydney Town Hall to call on the (Anthony) Albanese Government to reverse its decision," the AFUO said, promising further rallies in other cities in the coming weeks.

The reports that the Australian government plans to disassemble the helicopters sparked a public outcry. Subsequently, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said that the helicopters would be disposed of in a manner that maximizes their value, without elaborating further.

The Asia-Pacific Defense Reporter wrote that the helicopters, retired only in late 2023, were in excellent condition. They can be used for various tasks, including troop transport, search-and-rescue, medical evacuation, and special operations.

The Australian military began decommissioning them in favor of Black Hawk helicopters due to Taipans' reported maintenance issues. The entire Taipan fleet was grounded following an exercise crash that killed four service personnel.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion, Australia has provided Ukraine with assistance worth 910 million Australian dollars (almost $610 million), including $490 million in military aid.

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