Sikorsky is adapting the S-70/SH-60 Seahawk to use the external stores support system (ESSS) normally employed on UH-60 utility machines.

At last month's Asian Aerospace show, a model was displayed of a helicopter with the additional fuselage stores pylons as well as the US Navy's SH-60R sensor suite, including a nose-mounted forward-looking infrared and Telephonics APS-143 radar.

Other changes could include the Sikorsky S-92's more powerful dynamic system and uprated General Electric CT7/T700 engines. The ESSS is used to carry fuel tanks and weapons - including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, for which the SH-60R has a laser-guidance capability.

Sikorsky says the development is driven by requests from Asia-Pacific customers and it could raise the Seahawk's maximum take-off weight to 11,300kg (25,000lb).

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have shipborne helicopter requirements. The former needs around 12 machines for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations and, increasingly, for economic exclusion zone patrol. Candidates are the GKN Westland Lynx, the Kaman SH-2 Super SeaSprite, the NH Industries NH90 and the SH-60.

Industry sources say manufacturers have begun to brief the Indonesian navy, anticipating that the country's pre-economic crisis requirement to replace Westland Wasps will be revived.

Malaysia ordered six Super Lynx last year and is expected to move forward with its competition for 12 machines to equip offshore patrol vessels. The decks can accommodate Malaysia's Sikorsky S-61 Nuris and, as a result, will fit the same four contenders as the Indonesian competition.

Singapore has long had a maritime helicopter requirement that is expected to become more focused once an imminent order for six destroyers is placed.

Source: Flight International