Australia has joined Germany in grounding its fleet of Airbus Helicopters Tiger attack rotorcraft in the wake of a fatal crash in Mali in which two crew members were killed.
Investigations are ongoing into the late July accident involving a German army-operated example that came down in unexplained circumstances around 44nm (82km) northeast of Gao.
Berlin immediately withdrew its Tigers from service, although its four aircraft remaining in Mali – deployed as part of a multinational fight against an Islamic insurgency – will be allowed to perform missions in emergency situations, says its defence ministry.
Australia on 14 August decided to cease flying its Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters "until further information becomes available".
Spain is also thought to have suspended flights of its army's Tiger inventory, although there has been no official confirmation of the move.
Madrid’s defence ministry says: "The army will follow the technical recommendations of the manufacturer once it conducts the necessary investigations and checks to find out what could have caused the accident."
France, the other operator of the Tiger, continues to fly its helicopters in Mali, but most domestic training missions are on hold in any case because of the summer holidays.
So far, little detail has been released about the circumstances of the crash, but statements from the German defence ministry indicate that the Tiger lost its main rotor blades after entering into a sudden steep descent.
It hit the ground around 10s later, and the wreckage was consumed by a post-impact fire.
Crash investigators have recovered the helicopter’s flight-data recorders, but both are heavily damaged and may be unable to be accessed.
With Airbus Helicopters not directly participating in the accident probe, it was required, as part of its contract with the nations, to issue a notice advising that the Tiger is unsafe, without being able to offer any safety guidance. This was released shortly after the crash and updated on 10 August.
"Airbus Helicopters declares [an] UNSAFE condition for all Tiger versions. AH can neither identify the part, the failure of which would lead to the accident, nor the origin of the failure (design, manufacturing, maintenance). Consequently, AH is not in the position to propose a protective measure," says the warning.
However, the manufacturer cautions that the update is not based "on additional information or possible root causes of the accident".