MHI delivers upgraded SH-60K naval helicopter prototypes

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has delivered two upgraded SH-60K naval helicopter prototypes to the Japan Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA).

MHI said in a statement that the helicopters were handed over to ATLA on 28 September at its Komaki-Minami plant, which is adjacent to Nagoya Airport. The company earlier announced on 12 May that it had completed the first test flight of one of the prototypes – comprising a 30-minute hover – at the same facility.

According to MHI, the upgraded SH-60K is powered by two IHI Corporation T700-IHI-401C2 turboshaft engines and measures 19.8 m in length and 16.4 m in width, with a height of 5.4 m.

Development work on the improved model – which is derived from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) in-service SH-60K helicopter – commenced in 2015 under a contract with the Japan Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA). Delivery of the prototype to ATLA is expected to be completed in 2021, following further flight testing.

The SH-60K itself is an improved version of the earlier SH-60J which is also in JMSDF service. Both rotorcraft are licence-built variants of the Sikorsky SH-60B helicopter, and are used by the JMSDF for missions such as anti-submarine-warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and search-and-rescue (SAR) operations.

MHI was awarded a US$63 million contact from the MoD to develop an improved version of the SH-60K in November 2015. According to official statements at the time, the new variant would be optimised for ASW operations and complement the JMSDF’s existing fleet of naval helicopters.

The MoD also earlier noted that the upgraded helicopter will feature a new datalink and engine transmission, as well as new ASW-specific equipment such as a low-frequency dipping sonar and acoustic signal processor. The helicopter will also be capable of coordinating multiple rotorcraft during ASW operations.

According to the 2021 Defense of Japan White Paper, the JMSDF currently operates 69 SH-60K helicopters, the first of which was delivered in 2002: about a year after the platform’s first flight.

by Jr Ng