MH-60R/S: The USA’s New Naval Workhorse Helicopters
December 29/15: In addition to the $130.6 million contract to provide AH-64 modernized day sensor assemblies to the government of Qatar, Lockheed Martin has been awarded over $227 million in additional contracts by the US Department of Defense to provide work to Saudi Arabia. The first, worth $117.2 million, is a modification of a previously existing fixed price contract for the manufacture and delivery of 10 MH-60R Mission Avionics Systems and Common Cockpits to Riyadh. The second is for non-recurring engineering to support the MH-60R aircraft. The contract, worth $110.2 million, is for the development, test and qualification of the MH-60R Mission Avionics Systems and Common Cockpits configuration for production. Both contracts will run until April and June 2016 respectively. The US State Department approved the sale of the multi-mission helicopters back in May 2015, in a deal worth $1.9 billion as part of a modernization of the Saudi navy’s eastern fleet.
The US Army’s UH-60 Black Hawks have always had a naval counterpart. SH-60B/F Seahawk/ LAMPS helicopters were outfitted with maritime radar, sonobuoys, and other specialized equipment that let them perform a wide variety of roles, from supply and transport, to anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, medical evacuation, and even surface attack with torpedoes or Kongsberg’s AGM-119 Penguin missiles. Like their land-based counterparts, however, the Seahawks are getting older. The Reagan defense build-up is receding into history, and its products are wearing out.
European countries chose to build new designs like the medium-heavy EH101 and the NH90 medium helicopter. They’re larger than the H-60s, make heavy use of corrosion-proof composites, and add new features like rear ramps. The USA, in contrast, decided to upgrade existing H-60 designs for the Army and Navy. Hence the MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopter (aka. “Romeo”) and MH-60S (aka. “Sierra”) Seahawks. MH-60Rs and MH-60Ss will eventually replace all SH-60B/F & HH-60H Seahawks, HH-1N Hueys, UH-3H Sea Kings, and CH-46D Sea Knight helicopters currently in the US Navy’s inventory. Both programs are underway, and will be covered in this DID FOCUS Article.
The New Sikorsky Seahawks
Romeo, Armed: The MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopter
Blue Collar Sierra: The MH-60S
The MH-60R/S Program
MH-60R/S Contracts and Key Events
FY 2015 – 2016
FY 2005 and earlier
Additional Readings & Sources
Background: Ancillary Systems
News and Views
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