The Royal Australian Navy has taken ceremonial delivery of its first two MH-60R ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopters in a ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s Owego, New York facility on Tuesday.
The first two of 24 MH-60 Romeos being acquired under AIR 9000 Phase 8 to replace the S-70B Seahawk and the cancelled SH-2G Seasprite capability were handed over a day ahead of their planned ferry flight to Jacksonville, Florida where the RAN’s 725SQN will transition onto the type over a period of 12 months ahead of bringing the Romeos to Australia in late 2014.
The two helicopters, N48-001 and -002, will be formally accepted by the RAN in January after they are placed on the Australian military register once acceptance testing is completed at Jacksonville.
“I want to emphasise that from the Australian government’s perspective and from the Royal Australian Navy’s perspective, this aircraft is a game-changer,” RADM Tony Dalton, Head of Helicopter Systems for the Defence Material Organisation, told the ceremony.
RADM Dalton also stressed that the delivery ceremony was just one key milestone in an ongoing partnership between Australia and the US on Romeo. “The quality of the partnership gives me great confidence that we will be able to fly these aircraft into the future at the rate that we need to and in the spaces and places we need to,” he said.
“Two years and 27 weeks ago we signed an LoI (Letter of Intent) for the acquisition of 24 Romeos and today we are taking ceremonial delivery of the first two, the first ever export of this magnificent capability,” remarked AIR 9000 Phase 8 project director CAPT Scott Lockey. “It is a remarkable achievement for everybody involved, not only by those in this room, but for those that can’t be here.”
CAPT Lockey noted that the the government required the AIR 9000 Phase 8 acquisition proceed as a “matter of urgency”. “These three words have characterised the pace at which this program has been running since June 2011, and with everyone from our two navies and industry both in the US and Australia were focused on achieving a successful outcome, we’ve reached this significant milestone six months ahead of the government directed schedule, and on budget or under, depending on what numbers you look at.”
The MH-60R is built by a teaming of Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky. Sikorsky builds the MH-60R at its Troy, Alabama and Stratford, Connecticut facilities, while Lockheed Martin is responsibility for systems integration at its Owego plant.