The first two of 24 Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin MH-60R naval helicopters being acquired for the Royal Australian Navy under Air 9000 Phase 8 could be delivered as early as December 2013, according to Lockheed Martin.
Under Air 9000 Phase 8 the RAN requires delivery of its first MH-60R ‘Romeos’ from mid 2014, but Australia has requested early delivery of some of the aircraft. Consequently, under current planning the first two MH-60Rs will be delivered in December 2013, followed by seven in 2014, seven in 2015, and the last eight in 2016, according to George Barton, director of naval helicopter programs at Lockheed Martin’s MS2 business.
Lockheed Martin is hopeful an acquisition contract for the Australian Romeos will be signed by the end of this year, while a through life support contract will be signed in 2013. The acquisition contract will also incorporate a commitment that Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky place work with Australian industry under their respective Global Supply Chain agreements with the Australian government (Lockheed Martin signed its GSC with the Australian government last January, Sikorsky is expected to sign a GSC around the time of the Romeo acquisition contract). Then Australian Industry Capability work packages will be negotiated over a three month timeframe once the acquisition contract is signed.
“We’ve got an awful lot of work to do this year with regard to the Australian Air 9000 [Phase 8] program,” Barton told Australian journalists on October 27. “We just completed a through life support survey at Nowra, and we spent two weeks over there going through the facilities, a site survey meeting with the DMO reps fleshing out the details of exactly what they are going to want. We have a meeting here in November to discuss some of the development options, and then in December there is a scheduled program review with the US Navy and Australia. So a lot of work is going to be ongoing between the two teams and industry will be supporting those.”
Meanwhile, production of the Romeo at Sikorsky’s Stratford, Connecticut, and Lockheed Martin’s Owego, New York plants, is continuing apace, with aircraft currently being delivered to the US Navy at a rate of approximately three per month. The 100th Romeo for the US Navy was delivered mid this year, while a new multiyear contract to take production for the US Navy through to 2018 is expected to be signed in the December-January timeframe. The helicopter is also currently being marketed to Denmark, South Korea and Qatar.