Exercise Talisman Sabre incident

1 August 2023

Latest media updates related to the Exercise Talisman Sabre incident.

  • Thursday, 9 November 2023 - 16:15 PM

    MRH-90 recovery operation concludes

    The recovery operation for the Australian Army MRH90 Taipan helicopter that impacted waters near Lindeman Island, Queensland on 28 July 2023 has concluded.

    Captain Danniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock and Corporal Alexander Naggs were tragically lost during the incident.

    A major search and recovery effort involving hundreds of Australian Defence Force personnel, international military and civilian agencies was conducted, with all practical wreckage and remnants from the MRH90 Taipan recovered to inform ongoing aviation and coronial investigations. 

    Defence thanks all those involved for their tireless efforts, and appreciates the support of all Queensland authorities involved in the operation. An aviation safety investigation into the incident is underway, which may take up to 12 months to complete.

    Defence recognises this incident has been deeply upsetting for all involved. Our highest priority is the safety and wellbeing of our people. Defence continues to support the families of the four soldiers who lost their lives, as well as the broader Defence community.

    Note on reporting:

    As you cover stories and run programs about ADF personnel this may cause distress to those in the serving and ex-service community. We request you include contact details for specialised counselling services and resources for Defence members, their families, and veterans where appropriate.

    • The Defence Member and Family Helpline is the first point of call for Defence members and families seeking support, information or connection with their community. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 624 608.
    • Open Arms veterans and families counselling provides free and confidential counselling and support for current and former serving ADF members and their families. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 011 046 or visit the Open Arms website for more information.

    Imagery of the recovery operation is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/TS2023012

  • Wednesday, 27 September 2023 - 13:15 PM

    6th Aviation Regiment Memorial

    Today the 6th Aviation Regiment, family and friends paid tribute to the fallen MRH90 aircrew lost in the Lindeman Island incident on 28 July 2023. The memorial remembered the lives, dedication and spirit of Captain Danniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class 2 Joseph ‘Philip’ Laycock, and Corporal Alexander Naggs.

    The 6th Aviation Regiment was joined by representatives from the Government, Opposition, and senior Defence leadership.

    In attendance were The Hon. Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister of Australia; The Hon. Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence; The Hon. Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Assistant Minister for Defence and Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs; The Hon. Luke Howarth MP, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry and Shadow Minister for Defence Personnel; Secretary of the Department of Defence Mr Greg Moriarty; Vice Chief of Defence Force Vice Admiral David Johnston AC, RAN; Acting Chief of Army, Major General Richard Vagg DSC; Special Operations Commander Australia Major General Paul Kenny DSC, DSM; and Commander Aviation Command Major General Stephen Jobson AM, CSC.

  • Friday, 18 August 2023 - 16:01 PM

    Exercise Talisman Sabre MRH-90 Incident

    Defence continues the recovery operation of the MRH-90 Taipan helicopter which impacted waters near Lindeman Island on 28 July 2023.

    Our priority remains to support the families of our fallen soldiers and to locate and recover as much of the wreckage as possible.

    Defence is supporting the families of the aircrew – Captain Danniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock, and Corporal Alexander Naggs – and continues to keep them updated on the operation as new details become available.

    During the course of the recovery operation, HMAS Huon, Australian Defence Vessel Reliant and Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers recovered items including personal effects and wreckage from the MRH-90 Taipan, in addition to the voice and flight data recorder.

    The recovery operation has been conducted in an exceptionally challenging environment and has reached the point of requiring specialist equipment not available within the Australian Defence Force.

    Defence will engage a commercial contractor to assist with the completion of the recovery operation, and expects the commercial operator will commence work at the site on or about 22 August 2023.

    The commercial operator will work closely with the Australian Defence Force in support of the Queensland Police Service and Defence Flight Safety Bureau investigations.

    Defence appreciates the support of the public in respecting the privacy and wishes of the families and the impacted Defence community.

    Imagery of the recovery operation is at: https://images.defence.gov.au/TS20230111.

  • Tuesday, 8 August 2023 - 16:23 PM

    Statement issued by Defence

    Defence continues the recovery operation of the MRH-90 Taipan helicopter which impacted waters near Lindeman Island on 28 July 2023.

    The recovery remains a complicated and difficult operation.

    On Monday 7 August, a Royal Australian Navy dive team recovered the Voice and Flight Data Recorder (VFDR), also known as the “black box”, from the wreckage.

    Army is continuing to support the families of the aircrew – Captain Danniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock and Corporal Alexander Naggs.

    Defence’s priority remains the recovery of our soldiers and returning them to their families. Defence remains in close contact with the families and is updating them on the operation as new details become available.

    The Queensland Coroner has released the recovered wreckage, including the VFDR, to Defence to support the Defence Flight Safety Bureau investigation into the accident.

    Defence appreciates the support of the public in understanding the need to withhold some details of the ongoing recovery out of respect for the families and the impacted Defence community.

    Imagery of the search and recovery efforts is available at: https://images.defence.gov.au/TS20230121

    Earlier updates are available at:

    https://www.defence.gov.au/news-events/news/2023-08-01/exercise-talisman-sabre-incident

    Note on reporting:

    As you cover stories and run programs about ADF personnel this may cause distress to those in the serving and ex-service community. We request you include contact details for specialised counselling services and resources for Defence members, their families, and veterans where appropriate.

    • The Defence Member and Family Helpline is the first point of call for Defence members and families seeking support, information or connection with their community. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 624 608.
    • Open Arms veterans and families counselling provides free and confidential counselling and support for current and former serving ADF members and their families. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 011 046 or visit the Open Arms website for more information.
  • Thursday, 3 August 2023 - 16:30 PM

    Transcript of media update in Brisbane

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Lieutenant General Greg Bilton. I'm the Chief of Joint Operations. I would like to update you on the recovery operations for the MRH-90 Taipan helicopter which impacted waters near Lindeman Island on Friday, the 28th of July. Ongoing search and recovery operations have recovered a range of aircraft debris and major sections of the fuselage. This has included searches above and below the water surface.



    I can now advise that yesterday afternoon, Wednesday the 2 August HMAS Huon’s remotely operated underwater vehicle located a further debris field, including parts of the cockpit of the helicopter. The debris field is consistent with a catastrophic high impact. Sadly, I can confirm unidentified human remains have also been observed in this location by the remotely operated underwater vehicle. Due to the nature of the debris field, positive identification of the remains is unlikely to occur until we recover more of the wreckage.



    Army has spoken with the families of the missing soldiers and is providing them with support. We will continue to support the families and other families who have reached out over the coming days and weeks, and as their needs change. In the next 24 hours, HMAS Adelaide will hand over to ADV Reliant, which enables us to incorporate more specific rescue equipment on that vessel. While we continue with the recovery as best we can, poor weather conditions have continued to impact our search efforts. The weather is expected to remain challenging until mid-next week.



    We thank the many emergency service personnel, soldiers, sailors and aviators from our international defence partners, civilian agencies and members of the local community for their assistance. Defence is unable to provide further details of the recovery operation or ongoing investigation at this time. Thank you. I will now take questions.

    JOURNALIST: Must have been a challenging operation. As you said, the weather has been poor, but attribute to the determination of your personnel to try to resolve this as soon as possible.

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: Yes, the conditions have been quite difficult both underwater and above the surface. The Whitsundays is renowned for its significant currents, so the team are working through those and as you can see, we are making progress, but it is methodical.

    ​JOURNALIST: How deep down was that cockpit located underneath the sea?

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: Approximately 40 metres below the surface.

    JOURNALIST: And what sort of logistical challenge does it present to then sort of drag that main airframe back up?

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: Yeah. Hence, ADV Reliant is a vessel that incorporates more modern equipment that helps us to do that sort of recovery operation. But it will still be a difficult operation at 40 metres of depth.

    JOURNALIST: So, how crucial is it to recover as much of the wreckage as possible in terms of forensic examination of the circumstances around the mishap?

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: So, it is important to collect as much of the debris as we can so we can fully understand how this incident occurred.

    JOURNALIST: Have divers already been in the water and how many would be involved in support of ADV Reliant for that lift?

    GREG BILTON: Yes. So, there's a number of dive teams that have been in the area actually since Friday. So, the exercise incorporated some divers. I don't have an exact figure of divers there, but what I can tell you is I have enough divers in that location to make sure we can continue the mission and sustain it for the coming days and weeks.

    JOURNALIST: Without at all pre-empting the outcome of the investigation, which obviously is a long way off, are you satisfied with the extent to which evidence has been gathered so far, given the circumstances?

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: I am, but you're also best to ask the Queensland Police Service because everything is handed over to the Queensland Police Service as they will bring it together so the relevant agencies can undertake the investigation. My understanding at this stage is the Queensland Police Service is happy with the custody of the debris that's been collected.

    JOURNALIST: With the remaining MRH-90 fleet grounded, what plans are in place to support the special operations, given that was excused?

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: Yes. So, we're working options at the moment on what alternatives might be available. Of course, we have to wait until investigation outcomes are made before we can make a decision about the MRH-90. So, we are just working solutions. We've checked with the civil authorities who we would normally support and they are comfortable at this stage with alternate plans we have in place.

    ​JOURNALIST: It's not as easy as fast-tracking the Blackhawk. So, given that's the case, what would that process look like to get that online? How many 'Mike' Model Blackhawks are in Australia at the moment and how many pilots are certified to fly?

    GREG BILTON: So, as I said, we're still working through the plan on how we'll work that capability and the critical roles that those helicopters have played for delivering capability for contingencies. I don't have a specific answer for you yet.

    JOURNALIST: As part of what's been recovered, the data recording equipment, was that on board? Has that been identified?

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: Are you talking about the black box?

    JOURNALIST: Correct.

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: At this stage, we have not found that.

    JOURNALIST: Was anything sent out from before the impact that could help any flight data that was relayed in real time?

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: No, it was a normal flight in a group of four aircraft flying at the time. And at this stage, all communications were normal before the aircraft impacted the water.

    JOURNALIST: How likely is it that that won't be found? Is it likely that once you can get closer, get more machinery et cetera, in there, you can find it?

    GREG BILTON: No. It's a difficult task, but we will do our absolute best to find it. And as you know, the black box is critical to helping us to understand what's actually taken place.

    JOURNALIST: There's, obviously, a default amount of bravery for people to sign up for service, but all the same, how are the colleagues of the deceased? Apart from the obvious descriptions of the families, but how are their colleagues coping? What arrangements are in place to assist with the way in which they're dealing with this?

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL BILTON: Look, I'm devastated, and I'm distanced from the actual gentlemen that have been lost, but I can assure you that in the units, it is having a significant impact on them. We're just making sure that we provide the sort of psychological support and the, I guess, the support for their well-being that's necessary. The 6th Aviation Regiment has come together. I'm confident their commanders are working hard to work through the challenges that they confront in losing their mates.

  • Tuesday, 1 August 2023 - 19:00 PM

    Joint media statement with Queensland Police Service

    Defence offers its deepest condolences to the families of the four soldiers who tragically lost their lives during a training accident off the coast of Queensland on Friday, 28 July 2023.

    Australian Army Captain Danniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock and Corporal Alexander Naggs tragically died when the helicopter they were flying impacted waters off Hamilton Island.

    We recognise that incidents of this nature are deeply upsetting for all involved and this is felt across the Defence community.

    We are particularly aware of the impact this incident has had on the families of the missing soldiers. We will continue to support them over the coming days, weeks and years, and as their needs change.

    Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton said he was extremely grateful for the ongoing support from our allies and partners.

    “Our focus remains on bringing our people home to their families and supporting the Defence family through this difficult period,” Lieutenant General Bilton said.

    “The significant multinational operation engaged in the search, rescue and recovery effort, involving hundreds of defence force personnel, international military and civilian agencies, will continue.”

    Ongoing operations have recovered a range of aircraft debris and located major sections of the fuselage. The crew have not yet been located.

    Defence continues to work closely with the Queensland Police Service (QPS) to aid the recovery efforts.

    Superintendent Graeme Paine said since the determination has been made that the search and rescue is now a recovery mission, QPS is working to prepare a report for the coroner.

    “Members of the public who locate debris are urged not to handle it and to contact police. Handling of any debris could impact investigations or cause injury,” Superintendent Paine said. 

    "An exclusion zone remains in place in waters south of Hamilton Island, and there is also an exclusion zone of 1000 metres from any military vessel, until on-water operations cease.”

    The exclusion zone incorporates waters from the southern tip of Long Island, east to Perseverance Island, south to Cole Island, and west to the mainland at Round Head.

    Queensland police vessels Damian Ledding and Lyle Hoey, as well as QPS police divers, remain on the scene assisting the ADF in its search.

    Media note:

    Statements made on behalf of the families are available online:

    Defence will not be releasing any further information regarding the members’ personal or service details.

    Media is asked to respect the privacy of the members’ families and fellow soldiers at this difficult time.

    Imagery of the search and recovery efforts is available at: https://images.defence.gov.au/TS20230121

    Future updates will be available at:

    https://www.defence.gov.au/news-events/news/2023-08-01/exercise-talisman-sabre-incident

    Note on reporting:

    As you cover stories and run programs about ADF personnel this may cause distress to those in the serving and ex-service community. We request you include contact details for specialised counselling services and resources for Defence members, their families, and veterans where appropriate.

    • The Defence Member and Family Helpline is the first point of call for Defence members and families seeking support, information or connection with their community. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 624 608.
    • Open Arms veterans and families counselling provides free and confidential counselling and support for current and former serving ADF members and their families. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 011 046 or visit the Open Arms website for more information.
  • Tuesday, 1 August 2023 - 09:00 AM

    Transcript of media doorstop at Parliament House

    MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: I just want to give an update on the incident with the MRH-90 Taipan and the recovery operation. Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chief of the Defence Force confirmed that given the time since the chopper had gone down, and the fact that wreckage had been found at the facility, all hope has been lost of recovering the four members of the 6th Aviation Regiment who went missing on Friday evening. The operation has now moved to a search and recovery mission.

    Some of the wreckage has been recovered, but the search continues for the remainder of the wreckage, and hopefully, the recovery of the bodies. We teach and train our members of the Australian Defence Force to be tough in the face of adversity, to show stoicism, and to get on with the job. But the defence family is hurting today and throughout this week. They've lost mates, loved ones, and family members, and I want to reach out to members of the Australian Defence Force to tell them that help is available.

    If you want to talk to someone, if you need help, you should reach out and seek that help to the Defence Member and Family Helpline. You can call that number on 1800 624 608 or Open Arms, the Defence and Veterans' family member support service. During this difficult time for the defence family, defence members, their families, and friends should know that support is available, and that the Australian community is wrapping its arms around the Defence family and that you can reach out and seek that assistance. Thank you.

    ENDS

  • Monday, 31 July 2023 - 15:30 PM

    Transcript of interview on Sky News Afternoon Agenda

    Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite

    Television Interview, Sky News Afternoon Agenda | Defence Ministers

  • Monday, 31 July 2023 - 13:00 PM

    Transcript of media update at Parliament House, Canberra

    Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell

    Press Conference, Parliament House Canberra | Defence Ministers

  • Sunday, 30 July 2023 - 15:00 PM

    Transcript of media update in Townsville

    Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell, Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton

    RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: On this day, at this moment, all of our thoughts, and all of our prayers are for Captain Lyon, Lieutenant Nugent, Warrant Officer Laycock and Corporal Naggs, the four aircrew of the MRH-90, part of the 6th Aviation Regiment, based at Holsworthy, the Australian Army helicopter which went down in waters off Hamilton Island on Friday night. As has been said in the course of yesterday and today, there is now a major international effort engaged in the search and rescue of the crew, which is involving hundreds of Defence Force personnel. Wreckage of the helicopter has been found, but the main body of the airframe is yet to be located. There are specialist assets which are on task right now which are doing that job. Our thoughts are with the aircrew. Our thoughts are with their families and with their teammates who we've met today, and who will be experiencing an enormous degree of anxiety in this moment. This accident is a reminder of the unique significance that comes from service in the Australian Defence Force.

    GENERAL ANGUS CAMPBELL, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: I'd like to express my sincere thanks to our international partners and to all of our aviation team, Army, Air Force and Navy who are contributing to the search and rescue effort which is ongoing and which is bringing out the very best of our people. To the families, to the friends, to the teammates in this very, very difficult time my sincere support and commitment that we can do everything we can to determine the location and to see this search and rescue effort undertaken as expeditiously and as effectively as possible. To the people from 6th Aviation Regiment to 5th Aviation here in Townsville to across the community who I and Chief of Joint Operations and the Commander of 16 Brigade have been engaging with, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister thank you for your service and thank you for the effort that you're committing to take care of our people and to see this through. Thank you.

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GREG BILTON, CHIEF OF JOINT OPERATIONS: Good afternoon. Since late Friday evening, early Saturday morning, there has been an ongoing, coordinated and comprehensive air and maritime search and rescue effort in the Whitsundays region. As I speak to you today, there are a number of Australian and US ships on station, they include HMAS Adelaide, HMAS Brisbane and the USS Miguel Keith. There are also specialist divers who commenced operations this morning almost immediately after arrival and we seek to continue to find the full fuselage of that aircraft. That work is detailed and is in deep cooperation with the Queensland Emergency Services led by the Queensland Police Service. I'd like to just acknowledge the support that has been provided by the Queensland Police Service and the Emergency Services more broadly. Equally, the community of Proserpine and the surrounding Whitsunday area and the support they have provided to our responding teams, both those in civil authorities and those in the military. And lastly, I'd just like to acknowledge the reach out and the support that's been provided by our allies and partners, particularly the United States. Once again, the same resolute support that we're receiving now as we've received in the past, and we're grateful for it. Thank you.

    MARLES: Questions?

    JOURNALIST: Yes, what is actually paused right at this moment in terms of the Talisman Sabre exercise?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL BILTON: So, the exercise has recommenced. It recommenced at 1200 hours yesterday. What we did pause was the special operations activities in the Whitsunday area. And equally, you'd be aware that the MRH-90 has been grounded until we better understand what's occurred regarding the accident. Thank you.

    JOURNALIST: Lieutenant-General, can you give us an idea of the conditions that the search and rescue teams are encountering? Like, is this - are there particularly strong currents, is it the airframe, how deep the water is?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL BILTON: Yes, in fact, the Whitsundays area is renowned for currents and so you do get some movement of any debris in the water. So, that is a very important factor that affects searching and rescue. The waves and the actual conditions at the moment are moderate, so there's some challenge, but it's not insurmountable, it's not stopping operations. And then, of course, the weather can play a factor as well in the search operations and may from time to time impact aerial surveillance activities. But I'm confident we've got the range of capabilities we need to be able to find the fuselage and our four mates. Thanks.

    JOURNALIST: If I can ask CDF, what is the future of these aircraft? At one point you said that the MRH-90 was an extraordinary helicopter. Do you still have that view? And is there any chance that we could speed up getting the Black Hawks?

    GENERAL CAMPBELL: At the moment, we're focused on the search and rescue operation and we'll continue to undertake that and do it as effectively and completely as possible. In terms of the aircraft, there will be an investigation, as there always is in these circumstances, and we will look to that to understand what has occurred here. Thank you.

    JOURNALIST: Mr Marles, could you perhaps give us a little bit more of an idea of what this investigation might look into? For example, there's been reporting previously about problems with a software patch that perhaps wasn't applied across the fleet. Will that be part of the investigation as you understand it? What's the scope, please?

    MARLES: Well, as you'll appreciate right now, our focus is on the search and rescue. I mean, the accident occurred on Friday night and there is much work still to be done there. There will, of course, be a full investigation into this accident so that we can properly understand exactly what has happened and make sure that all the lessons that can be learned from this are learned from it.

  • Monday, 31 July 2023 - 10:45 AM
  • Sunday, 30 July 2023 - 14:45 PM

    Transcript of media conference at Holsworthy Barracks, Sydney

    Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: Thanks for your time this afternoon. As the Chief of the Australian Army, it's my sad duty this afternoon to share with you the names of our four missing soldiers. My thoughts and prayers are with their families and their mates here at the 6th Aviation Regiment as they wait for more news about their loved ones. We'll continue to support their families and their mates in the coming days and weeks, months and years, no matter the outcome.

    ​Importantly, all four families have consented to me sharing the names of their loved ones with you this afternoon. So, it is with their express permission and in accordance with their wishes that I do so. The names of our four missing soldiers are Captain Danniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock and Corporal Alexander Naggs. All four soldiers were members of the 6th Aviation Regiment. Today I'm focused on three things, the first and most pressing is to bring Danniel, Alexander, Joseph and Maxwell home to their families. The second is to support their families and their mates. And third is to support the important work of the Air Safety Investigation Team as they work out what went wrong and why.

    The work that your army, your navy, your air force does every day is inherently risky and we work hard to ensure that we've mitigated those risks. I'm very, very proud of the way in which our people, our soldiers, our sailors and our aviators engage with that risk every day and their achievements. I'm also very proud of the way that the 6th Aviation Regiment, our aviation community in general, has responded to this event. And I'm also deeply grateful for the incredible support that we have enjoyed from our teammates, particularly from our Navy, from our Air Force, our Joint Operations Command, the Queensland Police Service, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and indeed our many international partners and allies. The messages and the practical support has been absolutely outstanding and we can't thank you enough for that.

    I've just spoken with our team here at the 6th Aviation Regiment and I know that over the coming days and weeks and months, they will work together as a team, they will rely on one another and we will rely on our community to support us and their families in that time of need. I'd certainly encourage anybody who is feeling this loss today to reach out and seek support, either from your mates, from your family, or from the many services that are available. Thanks very much.

    JOURNALIST: Sir, can you tell us a bit more about these soldiers, their experience, how they were regarded by their colleagues and, of course, how their families are holding up?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: Yeah, look, you've really got to feel for their families and their mates, and I would ask everybody to keep that in the front of their minds as they think and comment and speak about what has occurred. They're part of a really tight team in a very highly professional, highly skilled aviation unit. This is the aviation unit that supports and performs our special operations set of missions. I couldn't be more proud of them as professionals, as soldiers, and as people.

    JOURNALIST: Sir, can I ask you about software upgrade issues on the Taipan helicopter? Is that going to be part of this current investigation that you're talking about? And also, is it part of the previous probe into the Jarvis Bay crash, similar with the Taipan helicopter?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: Alright, so the Air Safety Investigation team arrived in Queensland today. They will do their work. It's very thorough investigative work, and the aim is to understand exactly what happened and why it happened. Speculation between now and them doing their work is really unhelpful. I'm not going to speculate, and I would ask others just to consider the families, the other aviators that are involved, and let's let that team do its work. We will find out what those outcomes are in due course. And the aim of being armed with that knowledge is to ensure that we understand what happened and we can prevent it happening again. As you probably know, we are not flying the MRH today, and we wait until we think it is safe to do so.

    JOURNALIST: Just a follow up question on that, does that push the timeline to stop flying the Taipan or take them out of service? Does that push it forward? It was going to be taken out of service in 2024, is that now being considered 2023?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: The aim is still 2024. What happens between now and then from what we learn from this incident is yet to be determined. We just need a bit of time. But today we're focused on bringing them home, on supporting their families and getting to the bottom, which I expect is going to take some time, given the difficulties of the site.

    JOURNALIST: Sir, would any pilots ever want to fly these helicopters again?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: Well, our people are incredibly professional. We make sure that we've mitigated the risks to the greatest extent possible. Our people are committed and we don't take unnecessary risks.

    JOURNALIST: Lieutenant General, on that, there's been well documented issues with these helicopters before. Why are they still currently in use?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: Because we've understood those issues and we have worked to ensure that we've mitigated those risks. We don't fly if we don't think it's safe, and that continues to be the case. Going back to the previous question, trying to surmise, trying to suggest things at this stage again is really unhelpful. And I just ask people to wait until we understand what has happened. And right now, let's be focused on bringing them home, on supporting their families and their friends, and then we'll get to the underlying cause of factors.

    JOURNALIST: And on that, just to confirm, so none of the four men as of yet have been located? The searches are [indistinct]?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: That's my understanding. I'll get a brief later today. The team that are undertaking those operations, I've got to say, are just really doing a phenomenal job and we want to support them and make sure that that's done safely and that we can bring these four young men home to their families.

    JOURNALIST: Can you talk a bit more about these men, who they are?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: Look, we're going to continue to work with the families to make sure that they have a say in those kinds of things. I know that Australians will want to know who they are as they seek to remember and appreciate them and their service and that will all be available in due course, but I want to make sure that we're doing that in a way that their families are happy with.

    JOURNALIST: Are they fathers? I mean, can you tell us anything about that?

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: All I can tell you today is who they are. In due course, we'll certainly be able to share more of that. But again, really important that we respect the agency and the privacy of the families, they are who really matter today to me, and I hope to everybody else. So, let's have a little bit of time, give them a bit of breathing space and then allow them to share in who they were as people and I'll certainly add to who they were as soldiers.

    JOURNALIST: Thank you.

    LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIMON STUART: Thanks very much.

  • Saturday, 29 July 2023 - 16:45 PM

    Transcript of media update at Gallipoli Barracks

    Talisman Sabre Exercise Director Brigadier Damian Hill and Queensland Police Service Acting Assistant Commissioner Douglas McDonald, Gallipoli Barracks

    BRIG DAMIAN HILL: Many of you know the Australian Army MRH-90 Taipan helicopter impacted waters near Lindeman Island, Queensland last night, 28 July. The aircraft was participating in a night-time training activity as part of exercise Talisman Sabre. The incident occurred at approximately 11:00 pm. The search and rescue effort commenced immediately with the second MRH-90 Taipan that was moving with the aircraft that impacted waters. Defence can confirm that there were four people on board at the time of the incident. And sadly, at this stage, those personnel have yet to be found.

    ​The combined search and rescue effort by the Australian Defence Force, the United States and Queensland and federal emergency services continues. We have both air and maritime assets currently in location undertaking this search. That includes both Australian - Royal Australian Air Force maritime patrol aircraft, Royal Australian Navy helicopters, United States Navy maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters, Canadian helicopters, as well as the Queensland and federal agency fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft. As well as Queensland Emergency Services vessels on the scene, Australian Defence Force also has its vessels participating exercise Talisman Sabre deployed on the scene. HMAS Brisbane is also on the scene. HMAS Adelaide will arrive later this evening and then early tomorrow, HMAS Huon will arrive in the vicinity as well.

    The families of the missing personnel have been notified. I'd like to reiterate it was Defence's priority to look after those families, their members, their teammates, and those that know them. Our thoughts, and mine in particular, are with the missing service members, their teammates and their families, and especially the search and rescue teams. We will continue to work with local emergency services, to continue the search. The aircraft accident investigation team will arrive this afternoon to commence investigation into the incident.

    As Exercise Director, I put a pause on the exercise this morning. I wanted our people to contact their families to let them know they were safe and what was happening. We have started some limited exercise activity again, mostly in Western Australia and Northern Territory.

    As a precaution, the ADF has established an operational pause for all of our MRH-90 fleet.

    And again, for those service members, those veterans and those members of the community that are suffering as a consequence of this, we ask that you reach out to the relevant support networks. For those of us in the ADF, that includes the Defence Member and Family Support and Open Arms. I'll hand over now to emergency services.

    DOUGLAS MCDONALD: Thank you, Acting Assistant Commissioner Douglas McDonald. I'm from the Queensland Police Service. I'm here today to give an update in relation to police activities in partnership with the ADF to search for the missing helicopter and those that were on board. At present, we are working closely with the ADF on a search and rescue mission around that Whitsunday area. At this time, we have located a number of items of debris that would appear to be from the missing helicopter. They will form part of the investigation as we move forward into what has occurred up there. At this time, it remains a search and rescue operation, and we have a number of specialist resources in place at the moment working with the ADF, including our police vessel, QPV Damian Leeding from where we're controlling the search and rescue at sea and working closely with the Navy in that regard as well.

  • Saturday, 29 July 2023 - 09:00 AM

    Statement issued by Defence

    Defence can confirm an Australian Army MRH-90 Taipan helicopter has impacted waters near Lindeman Island, off the Queensland coast. The aircraft was participating in a night-time training activity as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 when it was reported missing late Friday night, 28 July 2023. Four crew were on board the aircraft at the time of the incident and are currently missing.

    Military and civilian search and rescue aircraft and watercraft are currently conducting search and rescue operations at the incident site. 

    At this time Defence’s priority is supporting our ADF members and their families. Families of affected personnel have been notified.

    Families seeking information and support can call the Defence Member and Family Helpline at 1800 624 608.

    Additional support services are available at https://www.defence.gov.au/adf-members-families/crisis-support/helpline.

  • Saturday, 29 July 2023 - 08:30 AM

    Transcript of media update in Brisbane

    Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell, Talisman Sabre Exercise Director Brigadier Damian Hill

    RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. I am joined this morning by General Angus Campbell, the Chief of The Defence Force, and Brigadier Damian Hill, who is the Exercise Director of Exercise Talisman Sabre.

    We meet this day with a heavy heart. Last night, just after 10.30, an Australian Army helicopter, an MRH-90, ditched in waters close to Hamilton Island. The helicopter was engaging in a two helicopter mission. There were four air crew aboard. Because there was another helicopter present, a search and rescue was able to commence immediately. As we speak to you now, the four air crew are yet to be found. The search and rescue continues. The families of the four air crew have been notified of this incident and our hopes and our thoughts are very much with the air crew and their families. Our hopes are very much with the efforts of the search and rescue crews as they go about their work right now.

    These are early days and there will be much more information to be provided about this incident. But Defence exercises, which are so necessary for the readiness of our Defence Force, are serious. They carry risk. And as we desperately hope for better news during the course of this day, we are reminded about the gravity of the act which comes with wearing our nation's uniform.

    GENERAL ANGUS CAMPBELL, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: Thanks, Deputy Prime Minister. Our focus at the moment is finding our people, and supporting their families and the rest of our team. This is indeed a terrible moment. I really deeply appreciate the assistance that has been provided by a variety of civil agencies, the Queensland Police, the Australian Maritime Safety Agency and the public, as well as our US allies, all of whom have come together to assist, to continue the search and rescue and to find our people. Thank you.

    BRIGADIER DAMIAN HILL, TALISMAN SABRE 2023 EXERCISE DIRECTOR: As Exercise Director, I've initiated a Pause-Ex across Australia for all participants of Talisman Sabre to enable them all, regardless of their nation, to reach out and let their families know what is going on. I'll be available throughout the day, in the coming days, as Exercise Director, to provide updates as they become known to us to ensure that everybody is aware of what we’re doing to look after our people.

    MARLES: Thank you.

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