A MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo is on the tarmac in preparation for mounting on an MH-60R Sea Hawk Helicopter
A MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo is on the tarmac in preparation for mounting on an MH-60R Sea Hawk Helicopter

South Korea Requests Sale of MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes for ROKN MH-60R Sea Hawk Helicopters

The U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Republic of Korea of MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes and related equipment for an estimated cost of $130 million. The Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN) requests to buy thirty-one (31) MK 54 All Up Round Lightweight Torpedoes. Also included is Recoverable Exercise Torpedo (REXTORP); Storage and Issue (S&I) facility; air launch accessories for rotary wing; torpedo spare parts; torpedo containers; torpedo support equipment to include test equipment and tools; torpedo support services; technical program management, infrastructure support, test equipment sustainment, exercise firing assistance, contract management, and initial Follow-on-Technical Support (FOTS). ROKN intends to utilize the MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes on their MH-60R aircraft.

The Mark 54 Lightweight Torpedo (formerly known as Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo, or LHT) is a standard 12.75-inch (324 mm) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedo used by the United States Navy. The Mark 54 was co-developed by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and the U.S. Navy under the U.S. Navy’s Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo program in response to perceived problems with the extant Mark 50 and Mark 46 torpedoes. The Mk 50, having been developed to counter very high performance nuclear submarines such as the Soviet Alfa class, was seen as too expensive to use against relatively slow conventional submarines. The older Mk 46, designed for open-ocean use, performed poorly in the littoral areas, where the Navy envisioned itself likely to operate in the future. The Mk 54 was created by combining the homing portion of the Mk 50 and the warhead and propulsion sections of the Mk 46.

An MH-60R Seahawk, attached to the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77, drops a practice torpedo during the first torpedo exercise conducted by a U.S. Navy squadron alongside the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erica Bechard)

Announced by the US Department of Defense (DoD) on 12 April, the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract is for the second phase of South Korea’s maritime ASW helicopter procurement programme. All 12 helicopters will be delivered to the US Navy by December 2024, ahead of their formal handover to the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN). In securing this sale, Lockheed Martin beat-off competition from Leonardo with its AW159 Wildcat and NHIndustries with its NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH). Once received, the 12 MH-60Rs will join eight Wildcats that were acquired in 2013 under the MOH Batch I requirement. As the latest customer, South Korea will join Australia, Denmark, Greece, India, Saudi Arabia, and the United States in flying the more than 300 MH-60Rs that are currently in service.

The Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Sea Hawk is a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission United States Navy helicopter based on the United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family. The most significant modifications are the folding main rotor and a hinged tail to reduce its footprint aboard ships. The U.S. Navy uses the H-60 airframe under the model designations SH-60B, SH-60F, HH-60H, MH-60R, and MH-60S. 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. Offensive capabilities are improved by the addition of new Mk-54 air-launched torpedoes and Hellfire missiles. All Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light (HSL) squadrons that receive the Romeo are redesignated Helicopter, Strike Maritime (HSM) squadrons.

A MK 54 lightweight torpedo being transported for mounting on an MH-60R Sea Hawk during a training exercise at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erica Bechard)