Australia will pay helicopter maker Sikorsky up to $49.6 million to modify 12 MH-60R Seahawk naval helicopters.
The US Department of Defense (DoD), which facilitated the deal through its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, said on 20 October that Canberra and Sikorsky parent Lockheed Martin reached an agreement covering the work.
“The ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopter instills confidence in navies worldwide for its high operational availability in the harsh maritime environment, and for the fully integrated mission systems and sensors that quickly generate a complete picture of the surface and subsurface domains,” says Hamid Salim, vice-president of maritime and mission systems at Sikorsky.
Lockheed in September disclosed a deal to sell the 12 MH-60Rs to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
“This effort continues the long-standing partnership between the United States Navy [USN] and the Royal Australian Navy,” says Captain Todd Evans, who oversees the H-60 helicopter programme for the USN.
The RAN, which in 2013 became the first international navy to acquire R-model Seahawks, operates 24 of the multi-role maritime rotorcraft. The additional aircraft are to add a third so-called “Romeo” squadron to the RAN fleet.
The service’s two existing MH-60R squadrons are primarily tasked with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions, though they also perform search and rescue operations and provide general medium-lift heliocopter support.
The latest contract covers delivery of the MH-60Rs and modifications from their standard FMS configuration. Lockheed declines to specify what those changes encompass.
The company will perform the modifications at its facility in Owego, New York.
According to the RAN, the mission system assembled by Lockheed includes a range of sensors, such as Telephonics APS-153 radars, Raytheon AAS-44 Multispectral Targeting Systems, Thales AQS-22 dipping sonars and Lockheed ALQ-210 passive signal-detection systems – technologies used to detect submarines.
The RAN’s 816 Squadron, which operates Seahawks, says the aircraft can also “employ an array of weapon systems”, including torpedoes and Hellfire missiles. MH-60Rs can also be equipped with sonobuoys, to assist with ASW operations.
Lockheed says it will deliver the 12 modified Seahawks starting in 2025, with work concluding in 2026. The company received $15 million in funds at the time of the contract award.