The Sikorsky Aircraft CH-60 fleet-combat-support helicopter has successfully completed its first shipboard deployment in the Atlantic as part of a US Navy test programme to demonstrate that it has enough performance for the required missions.

The CH-60 combines features of the US Army's UH-60 Black Hawk and the USN's SH-60 Seahawk. It has the UH-60's baseline configuration, with the Seahawk's engines and dynamics.

The demonstrator aircraft, fabricated from existing UH-60 and SH-60 components, was deployed to the USN combat-store ship Saturn and transported external loads and passengers on and off the supply ship during 17 landings.

The USN requires as many as 250 aircraft. The CH-60 low-rate-initial-production decision is anticipated early in 1998. Two CH-60s are funded this fiscal year. Six would be procured in fiscal year 1999, with 18 produced annually thereafter. First deliveries are due in 1999.

The CH-60 would replace ageing Boeing Helicopters CH-46s for vertical replenishment (VERTREP) and search-and-rescue roles. In April, the USN awarded the US helicopter maker a $6 million contract to fabricate the demonstrator aircraft.

The USN's Military Sealift Command continues to evaluate civil rotorcraft for commercially operated VERTREP of its warships.

Source: Flight International