Work on the Royal Australian Navy’s Lockheed Martin MH-60R Romeo helicopter support facilities is well underway at HMAS Albatross near Nowra on the New South Wales south coast.
Construction of the squadron and training facilities for the new helicopters commenced in late 2013, and on 26 March the Maritime Helicopter Support Company (MHSCo) commenced work on its contractor support facilities. MHSCo is a joint venture company of Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin.
One of the new buildings will be an 8,300 square metre deep maintenance workshop and hangar with space for five machines, a ramp, and direct access to the flight line, and will be equipped with a paint booth and wash bay, a structures and composite shop, an avionics shop, a hydraulic test facility, an NDT facility, and offices and training rooms. The other is a 3,100 square metre spares and logistics warehouse.
It is projected that 120 Team Romeo staff from the US Navy, Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky, and General Electric will be based at the facilities and will operate under a through life support arrangement with MHSCo as part of the Project Air 9000 Phase 8 naval combat helicopter programme.
“Excavation and construction of these TLS buildings begin an important chapter for the long-term readiness of Australia’s most sophisticated maritime helicopter,” says MHSCo president Rod Scotty. “Our company’s experience supplying repaired parts for more than 500 US Navy H-60 maritime helicopters around the world will directly carry over to a larger business model specially-configured for Australia’s maritime helicopter needs, and carried out by skilled Australian technicians and administrators inside a modern, dedicated space.”
Work on the contractor support facilities is being overseen by local Sikorsky subsidiary Sikorsky-Helitech, and is due to be completed in early 2015.
Training by ‘NUSQN725’ pilots, aviation warfare officers (AVWOs) and maintainers is well underway with embedded elements at the US Navy’s NAS Jacksonville in Florida. The unit has received four MH-60Rs from Lockheed Martin to date, and is scheduled to return to Australia in December to be formally commissioned as 725SQN.
The MH-60R was selected in early 2011 ahead of the competing NH Industries NFH 90 to replace the RAN’s 16 ageing S-70B-9 Seahawks of 816SQN, and the 11 SH-2G(A) Seasprites which never entered operational service and were cancelled in 2008 due to airworthiness concerns. The RAN Romeo acquisition covers 24 aircraft in total in a military off-the-shelf FMS arrangement through the US Navy, and the aircraft are identical to US Navy machines.
As part of the contract the RAN has also bought a ‘Bromeo’ training aid which was delivered to Jacksonville in February. The Bromeo is essentially a mothballed non-flying SH-60B Seahawk which has been taken out of storage and modified with MH-60R avionics and dynamic components for maintenance training.