The Federal Government has grounded a billion dollar
helicopter fleet and is considering scrapping it altogether.
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has banned the
troubled Seasprite helicopters from flying.
The fleet has been plagued with technical
The Minister's spokesman says the problems involve
flying at night, over water and in mists.
The Federal Government has spent $1 billion on the 10
helicopters, with one more yet to be delivered.
Dr Nelson ordered the review to determine whether the
anti-submarine and shipping aircraft should be upgraded, which means
spending more money, or they should be scrapped and a replacement
The review comes just two weeks after the
auditor-general reported another aircraft fleet, the Tiger Armed
Reconnaissance Helicopters, were underpowered, unsafe and over-budget.
The Defence Minister ordered the review into the
Super Seasprite helicopters several weeks ago when they were grounded
because of software problems.
The review is due to report by the end of next month
and will decide whether Defence should spend up to $200 million to make
the Seasprites fully equipped for maritime warfare or spend more than $1
billion to buy a replacement.
Dr Nelson has been unavailable to talk about the
Labor's defence spokesman, Robert McClelland, says
that while it is the Defence Materiel Organisation that buys Australia's
aircraft, it is the Minister who should accept responsibility for the cost
blowouts and safety problems.
The Opposition's defence industry spokesman, Mark
Bishop, also says it is not good enough.
"It really is scandalous that we buy major platforms
and there is insufficient thought, insufficient preparation gone into
their use here," he said.
The Government has ordered a review into the
helicopters to decide whether to persist with the Nowra-based fleet or
scrap it altogether.