Chopper crash pauses Australia-US military exercise, four missing - GulfToday

Chopper crash pauses Australia-US military exercise, four missing


An Australian Army MRH-90 Taipan helicopter prepares to take off from Ballina airport, Ballina, Australia. AP

Australia paused a major military exercise with the United States on Saturday, after a defence helicopter taking part in the drills crashed into the Pacific leaving four aircrew missing.

Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles said the MRH-90 Taipan went down late Friday night in sub-tropical waters near Hamilton Island, Queensland.

It had been taking part in the vast Talisman Sabre exercise, which features 30,000 military personnel from Australia, the United States and several other nations.

"As we speak to you now, the four aircrew are yet to be found" Marles said after a nearly overnight search, which is set to continue Saturday.

AFP understands that all four of the crew aboard the helicopter are Australian.

"The families of the four aircrew have been notified of this incident and our hopes and thoughts are very much with the aircrew and their families," Marles added.

"We desperately hope for better news during the course of this day."

Officials have not yet said what caused the incident, which came as the Talisman Sabre excercise was entering its second week.

The drills are designed to test large-scale logistics, land combat, amphibious landings and air operations, and to signal the strength of Western military alliances.

Japan, France, Germany, and South Korea are also taking part.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Australia with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for meetings which coincide with the drills.

Both men offered their support, as US personnel aided the rescue effort.

"It's always tough when you have accidents," Austin said. "But the reason you train to such a high standard is ultimately so you can protect lives."

It is not yet clear whether the military drills, which are due to end on August 4 will resume.

Agence France-Presse


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