Regional success for MH-60R naval helicopter continues to build

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has replaced its old Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawks for modern MH-60R helicopters. The US Department’s Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) recently approved a $360 million, ten-year FMS upgrade for the RAN’s 24 strong MH-60R fleet. (Photo: Australian Department of Defence)

Developments for Asian operators of the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multirole naval helicopter have moved in recent months, with notable updates from Australia, India, and South Korea.

On 8 October, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the State Department’s approval for Australia to proceed with a possible follow-on acquisition of 12 MH-60R helicopters configured for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare (ASW/ASuW) along with spares, mission equipment, launchers, training, and technical support. The total cost of the proposed deal is estimated at US$985 million

“This proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay,” stated DSCA.

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) already operates 24 MH-60R helicopters acquired under Project AIR 9000 Phase 8 as replacements for the service’s S‐70B‐2 Seahawks and the cancelled Kaman SH‐2G(A) Seasprites.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy’s first two MH-60R helicopters were handed over in a ceremony held on 16 July at the US Navy’s Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. India acquired a total of 24 helicopters under the India under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme worth around US$904 million, with work expected to be completed by September 2024. The first batch of Indian Navy MH-60R crews is already in the US undergoing training.

In August, parent company Lockheed Martin was awarded a US$117 million FMS modification contract to configure 12 MH-60Rs to a Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN) configuration.

Work is expected to be completed in November 2026 and will involve non-recurring engineering and field service representative labour to modify the 12 helicopters, which were earlier acquired in standard FMS configuration, to the specifications originally requested by the RoKN in 2019.

DSCA had earlier noted that equipment requested by the RoKN includes the Telephonics APS-153(V) multi-mode radar, Thales/Raytheon AQS-22 airborne low-frequency sonar systems, Raytheon AN/AAS-44C(V) multi-spectral targeting systems, as well as embedded global positioning and inertial navigation systems.

The sale of the 12 helicopters, worth US$447 million, were announced in April 2021. These are expected to be delivered to the US Navy by December 2024 prior to handover to the RoKN.

Over 300 MH-60R helicopters are in operation with Australia, Denmark, Greece, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the United States.

by Jr Ng