Lockheed Martin's MH-60R programme is awaiting final clearance to enter a five-month operational evaluation (Opeval) phase early this month, with the company believing it has overcome deficiencies that caused a one-year delay. Jeff Bantle, MH-60R programme manager, says the US Navy was due to receive its fourth and last Sikorsky-built submarine-hunting helicopter to be used for the test fleet ahead of a final programme review on 21 April.

The MH-60R uses a com­bination of sonobuoys, a Raytheon AQS-22 dipping sonar and a Telephonics APS-147 radar to detect undersea targets. Lockheed loaded a final system software configuration – Version 19.8 – in January to complete fixes to deficiencies found during flight tests last year. The programme has been seeking to rebound from initial flight tests in 2003, which found 50 system deficiencies, many related to stability problems with the APS-147.

There are signs of growing USN confidence in the programme. It has increased the requirement for the new fleet from 243 to 254 helicopters, says Bantle, who adds that a potential Littoral Combat Ship requirement could raise the order tally.

Source: Flight International