Graham Warwick & Paul Lewis / Washington DC

Lockheed Martin and USNavy to begin development testing of MH-60R integrated mission suite in November

Lockheed Martin has delivered five new Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk helicopters to the Spanish navy. A sixth aircraft is being retained for testing a Spanish-developed acoustic processor and will arrive in the country early next year.

The Spanish SH-60Bs are the last Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS III) helicopters to be produced, with Lockheed Martin and the US Navy focusing on development of their successor, the multi-mission MH-60R.

Spain's new SH-60Bs will join six existing Seahawks, which will be upgraded next year to the same Block 1 standard with new avionics, forward-looking infrared turret and provisions for Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The new acoustic processor, developed by SAES of Spain to replace an out-of-production system, will only be installed in the new SH-60Bs,says Spanish LAMPS programme manager Debora Hamlin.

The US Navy will begin development testing of the MH-60R's integrated mission suite in November as the programme passes the midway point. Testing until now has focused on individual systems using two modified SH-60Bs. Delivery of the first two of four remanufactured MH-60R test aircraft clears the way to begin testing the integrated sensor suite.

"In November we will begin six months of development testing looking at integration of systems to produce a common picture for tactical operator and co-pilot," says Bill Shannon, US Navy H-60 programme manager. The helicopters will be equipped with Lockheed Martin ALQ-210 electronic support measures (ESM); Telephonics APS-147 radar; Thales AQS-22 dipping sonar; and a Raytheon acoustic processor and AAS-44 thermal imager/laser ranger.

Standalone radar testing has resolved earlier problems with clutter and the only glitch was stability when moving between modes. A final avionics software update planned for December will enable crews to enter waypoints more easily in flight. Still not integrated is the Hawklink Ku-band sensor datalink, but this is not due to be deployed until 2006 as part of a planned Block I upgrade. New-build MH-60Rs are to be delivered from mid-2005 and will replaceSH-60Bs and -60Fs.

Under study are the cost and performance trade-offs between improving the General Electric T700-401C engines or switching to the uprated -701D being developed for the US Army's UH-60M. The former is aimed at extending overhaul life, while the bigger engine would improve hot and high performance.

Source: Flight International