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Australia to choose new naval combat helicopter in 2011

Australia plans to select a new naval combat helicopter in 2011 and begin taking deliveries in 2014.

The competition will, as expected, be between the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R and the NH Industries NH90, says the country's defence minister John Faulkner.

The winner will replace the navy's 16 Seahawks and its cancelled Super Seasprite project, which was ditched in early 2008 after falling seven years behind schedule and almost 50% over budget.

Canberra intends to order at least 24 new naval combat helicopters, enabling the navy to provide eight or more aircraft concurrently embarked on ships at sea.

"The new naval combat helicopter will enhance the Royal Australian Navy's ability to conduct a range of maritime operations. It will be capable of undertaking anti-submarine warfare and will be equipped with air-to-surface missiles," says Faulkner.

"The new helicopter will greatly extend the eyes and ears of our surface fleet and allow the conduct of combat and support operations in the complex and demanding maritime environment."


Images © US Navy and Eurocopter
The naval helicopter contest is between the MH-60R (top) and NH90 (above)

The Defence Materiel Organisation will "cost-cap" the competition, and the decision "will take into account all relevant considerations including capability, cost, interoperability with other ADF capabilities, Australian industry opportunities, risk and value for money", he adds.

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