Defence grounds new chopper fleet By Sabra Lane Defence has ordered 40 of the so-called multi-role helicopters at a cost of about $4 billion. (www.navy.gov.au) Audio: Defence grounds new chopper fleet (AM) Related Story: New Defence choppers arrive in Brisbane Related Story: Govt to fast-track buying Navy helicopters The Federal Government has confirmed its new fleet of Army helicopters has been grounded because of engine problems. But the decision to ground the MRH90 fleet was kept secret for four weeks, apparently because of continuing embarrassment over the cancellation of the $1 billion Seasprite helicopter project. The Opposition says it will pursue the issue in Senate estimates hearings in the next two weeks. Australia has accepted 11 new MRH90 Eurocopters so far. Defence has ordered 40 of the so-called multi-role helicopters at a cost of about $4 billion. The manufacturer is also bidding to sell Defence another 24 of the machines for the Navy. But last month one of the choppers experienced what Defence calls a "technical incident". In the aviation industry, though, it is known as catastrophic failure. The pilot experienced an engine failure but managed to nurse the twin-engine aircraft back to the Edinburgh Air Force Base on Adelaide's outskirts. Engineers have flown in from Europe but so far have been unable to find the cause of the failure, and as a result Defence has grounded the entire fleet. The incident happened on April 20 and the news about it and the grounding of the fleet was kept quiet until Defence released a statement on its website last night. The minister responsible, Greg Combet, was unavailable for interview this morning but his office confirmed the fleet had been grounded. AM phoned Defence for an interview only to be told it responds to written requests only and it was unlikely anyone would be available for interview this morning. 'Secrecy' The new acquisitions come after the disastrous Seasprite program commissioned by the previous federal government and cancelled by the current government at a cost of $1 billion. Opposition spokesman for defence science and personnel, Bob Baldwin, says the issue is not the grounding of the helicopter due to a fault. "That's to be commended. The issue here is the secrecy that has occurred under this Rudd/Labor Government, where they have hid from the public for 28 days the fact that there has been a problem with this helicopter," Mr Baldwin said. "Now, Mr Combet has been tagged as Mr Fix It. I'm yet to see one thing that Mr Combet has actually fixed. "This is the first report of any failure of the engine. There have been issues with the helicopter that have been rectified during the introduction phase and that's normal with new pieces of equipment." Defence only issued a release about the grounding last night and Mr Baldwin says it is important the warning goes out to all of the helicopter's operators around the world. "That there is an issue so that all aircraft can be examined to see whether it's an isolated incident or indeed it's spread across the entire fleet," he said. "We don't know what has occurred there. I can assure you of one thing, that next week in Senate estimates this matter will be pursued. "It will be pursued because the Government has tried to hide from the public an issue affecting air safety, an issue affecting our Air Force personnel safety and we need answers." Kuka tietää mitä eroavaisuuksi on meidän NH90 ja Aussien MRH90 välillä??