Model Masterplan

By Gerrard Cowan

The US Navy (USN) first deployed the MH-60R Seahawk in 2009, and will receive its final scheduled deliveries of the helicopter in the summer of 2018.

While the aircraft has been in service for some years now, it continually receives upgrades and modifications to allow it to adapt to an evolving operational environment.

The Romeo variant is primarily focused on ASW and ASuW, with secondary missions including SAR and medevac.

According to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, the platform – along with its sibling, the MH-60S – has flown more than 650,000 hours across a 500-plus fleet. It is deployed with both the USN and a number of export customers.

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(All images: Lockheed Martin)

The most recent batch for the service was procured in FY2016, making a total of 280 platforms, said Capt Craig Grubb, manager of the navy’s H-60 programme. The final set of 29 MH-60Rs is known as Lot 14, and will be delivered in June 2018.

The acquisition is part of a rotorcraft masterplan, designed to take seven different types and replace them with the two MH-60 variants, and the programme is almost complete.

According to Grubb, the SH-60F retired in the spring of 2016 and the SH-60B retired in 2015.

There are still a few HH-60Hs remaining in the fleet, which he said will be in service through FY2019 and possibly longer. ‘They’re pretty valued by the fleet, so there’s a lot of consideration being given to keeping those aircraft in service longer,’ he told DH.

The MH-60R and MH-60S are enduring platforms that are likely to be around for decades, said Chris Stellwag, director of marketing communications at CAE Defence & Security, which provides the USN and international customers with simulators and other training devices for the aircraft.

‘One of the advantages for foreign militaries when they acquire a platform like that is they’re getting the benefit of the significant investment the USN is making in the continual upgrades and enhancements to a fleet of 500-plus helicopters,’ he commented.

This meant that international customers were able to leverage the investment the USN is making in enhancing the aircraft, through new sensor suites, weapon systems or countermeasures, for example.

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Additionally, it boosted interoperability with their US ally. Stellwag said the helicopter was an attractive, low-risk and cost-effective platform. ‘We’re always conscious of maintaining strong positions in platforms that we think are enduring, and that’s what we’ve successfully been able to do so far with the Seahawk,’ he said.

‘We definitely see opportunities over the next decade with other countries, and continued improvements and enhancements to the suite of training systems that the USN uses.’

While the navy is in only the very early phases of exploring what a successor to the MH-60 might look like, there is an interest in being able to migrate the work done on the mid-life upgrade onto another platform at a later date.

For more on the USN’s MH-60R programme looking ahead to mid-life upgrades and an eventual successor, please see the January/February edition of Defence Helicopter for further details.

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