The Royal Australian Navy (RAN)is planning to extend a two-phase upgrade programme for its Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopters, which could lead to the integration of new anti-ship missiles onto the aircraft.

Tenix Defence Systems of Australia is carrying out the current, two-phase, upgrade, which is known as SEA1405. This work includes the installation of a forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) sensor and an electronic counter-measures suite, along with a self-protection system.

A RAN officer close to the programme says that a further two phases of the programme are being planned.

Phase three will be a capability study for the avionics and weapons system, which will define phase four - which could be a weapons, sensors and avionics upgrade - or could stop at improved avionics.

According to the source, a go-ahead for phase three is expected next year, with funding to be allocated in fiscal year 2000-1. Phase four is expected to extend over three to four years.

The source says that, if a missile is chosen to be part of the final upgrade, it is likely to be the Penguin Mk 2, which has recently been procured by the RAN to arm its Kaman SeaSprite helicopters. Missile components such as canards, inertial navigation systems and seeker elements are already to be manufactured by Tenix subsidiary Hawker de Havilland. A dipping sonar could also be under consideration for the upgrade.

According to Tenix, the SEA 1405 upgrade contract is worth about $110 million. The new FLIR is to be supplied by Raytheon, and the ECM suite will include a radar warning receiver (RWR), missile approach warner, chaff and flare dispenser, and possibly a laser warner.

If included, the laser warner will come from Elisra, which will also supply the RWR, while Tracor will supply its ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser.

Northrop Grumman has recently been selected for the supply and integration of its AAR-54(V) passive missile approach warning system under a $4.1 million contract.

Source: Flight International