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Saudi deal sustains Sikorsky MH-60R production

Saudi Arabia’s purchase of 10 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters “dovetails nicely” with delivery of the last of 280 examples to the US Navy, according to the brand’s new parent Lockheed Martin, particularly as production of Australian and Danish “Romeos” concludes.

Sikorsky clinched the Saudi contract for 10 green aircraft last month, seven months after the foreign military case worth an estimated $1.9 billion was approved by the US government.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on 11 January, Lockheed’s director of MH-60R business development Mike Fralen confirms that initial deliveries of the torpedo-toting maritime helicopter to Saudi Arabia begin in 2018 – with the first delivered in July and the last in April 2019.

That schedule aligns favourably with final delivery to the US Navy in 2018, with 217 of 278 production models already received by the service.

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MH-60R Seahawk operating from the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto

US Navy

The last seven Australian MH-60Rs will be received by the Royal Australian Navy in 2016, concluding the 2011 deal for 24 aircraft — seven of which support training. Lockheed expects final delivery in August.

Two initial Royal Danish Air Force MH-60Rs have been completed, and were procedurally signed over to the US Navy in October as crew training gets underway at Naval Station Mayport in Florida.

Fralen says six Danish examples will be delivered in 2016, although the last aircraft is due by April 2018 – a spokeswoman confirms.

Opportunities for export of advanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities currently abound despite a bleak outlook previously for the Romeo, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region where sabre-rattling over territories has navies on high alert. This security climate gives Lockheed confidence of continued export success for the type, first delivered in 2005.

“The MH-60R is currently being considered by other countries, and we’ll look to see how their analysis and contract decisions mature over the next one to two years,” he says. “Over the next three years, we’ll look at what other countries want to add to their capabilities, then we’ll look at that production time line.”

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US Navy

Sikorsky finishes the S-70/H-60 derivatives in Stratford, Connecticut while Lockheed outfits the final product in Owego, New York.

Lockheed, which supplies the submarine-hunting mission systems and cockpit, acquired Sikorsky in November, and is now leading the global sales push against competitors such as the anti-submarine-warfare-configured NHIndustries NH90 and Airbus Helicopters AS565.

There are outstanding MH-60R cases with South Korea, with eight aircraft approved by the US in 2012, and Qatar – 10 approved in 2013. Other interested parties reportedly include Taiwan.

Armed with Lockheed Hellfire missiles, Raytheon torpedoes and guided rockets for the Saudis, the MH-60R also comes equipped with advanced radar, deep-water sonar, forward-looking infrared and electronic protection systems, with full-mission simulators and training provided by CAE. It replaces the SH-60B and SH-60F for the US Navy.

Update: This story has been updated to include delivery dates provided by Lockheed

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