JMSDF shows off latest SH-60L naval helos

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has shown its latest anti-submarine warfare (ASW)-optimised naval helicopter, the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) SH-60L, at a media event at Atsugi airbase on 26 March.

The JMSDF currently possesses two SH-60L helicopters and plans to validate the performance of the type, which is an improved version of the in-service SH-60K, throughout the rest of the year. The service also plans to acquire six more SH-60L helicopters at a unit cost of approximately US$72.7 million in 2027.

On the 26th, the released its newest anti-submarine patrol helicopter, the SH-60L, to the press for the first time. Development was completed in December last year, and the autopilot and network functions have been significantly improved.

MHI earlier delivered two the two SH-60L naval helicopter prototypes to the Japan Ministry of Defense’s (JMOD’s) Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) in late September 2021 at its Komaki-Minami plant.

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 commenced in 2015 under a contract with ATLA.

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 contract from the JMOD 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 JMOD 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 Defense of Japan White Paper, the JMSDF 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