The Australian Government had approved the acquisition of 24 MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters at a cost of over $3 billion. The new helicopters replace the Royal Australian Navy’s current combat helicopter capability provided by 16 Seahawk S-70B-2 helicopters and will also provide the air to surface strike capability which was to have been provided by the cancelled Seasprite program. Royal Australian Navy have the capacity to provide at least eight warships with a combat helicopter at the same time, including ANZAC Class frigates and the new Air Warfare Destroyers. The remainder will be based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, New South Wales, and will be in various stages of the regular maintenance and training cycle
The MH-60R was originally known as “LAMPS Mark III Block II Upgrade” when development began in 1993 with Lockheed Martin (formerly IBM/Loral). The MH-60R Seahawk (also referred as Romeo) is a further development of the SH-60B Seahawk, which in turn is based on the US Army UH-60 Black Hawk. Designated YSH-60R, they were delivered to NAS Patuxent River in 2001 for flight testing. The production variant was redesignated MH-60R to match its multi-mission capability. The MH-60R was formally deployed by the US Navy in 2006. The MH-60R is designed to combine the features of the SH-60B and SH-60F. The United States Navy has accepted around 100 ‘Romeos’ which have accumulated 90,000 flying hours, including on operational deployments. The first two helicopters will arrive in mid-2014 for testing and evaluation with operations expected to commence in mid-2015.
Main missions of the MH-60R Seahawk are Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW). This helicopter can detect and track submarines and surface ships and attack with torpedoes and missiles. Secondary missions are search and rescue, combat search and rescue, vertical replenishment, medical evacuation and insertion and extraction of special forces. The MH-60R has two General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines, developing 1 900 shp each. These are the same engines of the SH-60B. The MH-60R has a hinged tail, that can be folded in order to reduce footprint aboard ships. Cockpit instrumentation and displays are similar to that of the MH-60S. For extended range this helicopter can carry external fuel tanks. The helicopter has an integrated self-defense system.
Its sensors include the ASE package, MTS-FLIR, the AN/APS-147 multi-mode radar/IFF interrogator, an advanced airborne fleet data link, and a more advanced airborne active low frequency sonar (ALFS). Pilot instrumentation is based on a fully integrated glass cockpit, using several digital monitors instead of the complex array of dials and gauges in Bravo and Foxtrot aircraft. Offensive capabilities are improved by the addition of new Mk-54 air-launched torpedoes and Hellfire missiles. A single door-mounted 7.62 mm mm or 12.7 mm machine gun can be fitted. All Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light (HSL) squadrons that receive the Romeo are redesignated Helicopter, Strike Maritime (HSM) squadrons. During a mid-life technology insertion project, the MH-60R fleet shall be fitted with the AN/APS-153 Multi-Mode Radar with Automatic Radar Periscope Detection and Discrimination (ARPDD) capability.