Lockheed Martin targets further MH-60R sales, building on Australian success

An MH-60R helicopter aboard Anzac class frigate HMAS Perth. (Defence)
An MH-60R helicopter aboard Anzac class frigate HMAS Perth. (Defence)

Lockheed Martin has hailed progress on the Royal Australian Navy’s MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ project, with 14 of the 24 naval combat helicopters being acquired so far delivered ahead of schedule.

Of those, 13 aircraft are already here in Australia, and one is in the US for the purposes of testing. Three more of the anti-submarine warfare/anti-surface warfare multi-mission helicopters are due to be delivered by the end of this year, and the remainder will have been delivered by August next year.

“We are beyond the point where all our major development milestones have been completed and we are really transitioning into sustaining support now, but it has been a pretty busy year; there has been a lot going on,” said Tom Kane, director of naval helicopter programs at Lockheed Martin, in a briefing ahead of Pacific 2015.

725 Squadron was recommissioned in June, marking the formal induction of the Romeo helicopter into the fleet.

The MH-60R is manufactured by Sikorsky and equipped with mission systems and sensors by Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training. Lockheed Martin announced in July that it had agreed to acquire Sikorsky, but its plans to align the company under the Mission Systems and Training business segment will not result in any changes in the way the aircraft are manufactured and supported, Kane said.

The RAN will be able to provide eight Romeo helicopters embarked concurrently aboard the Anzac class frigates and Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers, with the rest based at HMAS Albatross conducting training and maintenance activities.

Successful delivery of the Australian project known as AIR 9000 Phase 8 could pique the interest of potential MH-60R customers. Denmark has agreed to buy nine helicopters as the second international customer for the Romeo, and Lockheed Martin is eyeing other opportunities, particularly in the Middle East.

“The Saudis have expressed interest in procuring some aircraft and we are working through that right now with the US Navy, the specifics; that contract has not yet been let to industry,” Kane said. “There are some other countries in the Middle East that are interested, but it is probably premature to discuss the specifics of those right now.”

The US Department of State approved the possible sale of 10 aircraft to Saudi Arabia under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program earlier this year at an estimated cost of US$1.9 billion.


  1. TimC69 says

    A follow on order from the RAN for additional 20 to embark on the proposed corvettes-Armidale class replacement- rumored to be the Austal Independence class.An additional AWD and we have a world class navy.

  2. Jackspeak says

    You are kidding aren’t you TimC69, What magical money tree do you propose we pick? A Romeo is about $42 million each.

    Romeo’s are overrated anyway. old technology airframe at the end of its design life / combined with short range hellfire missiles= sitting ducks against an adversary with a missile system able to detect and kill above a 10k range.

  3. says

    Jackspeaks , your right about no more follow ons but MH60 makes EH101 look like a biplane spotter of ww2 , Hellfire is for small targets ,only nations without air-forces waste loiter time tacking Penguin missiles on choppers , the ships offensive weapons via data link is what an MH60 kills worthwhile targets with bigger and badder than any missile it could carry ..

  4. Pierre Blackman says

    How the hell is the Eurocopter NH-90 not involved in the successes of this occasion?.. we should be retiring the Sikorsky products and going full Euro! Europe is on the brink of financial collapse and we don’t support them by buying more of their advanced machines. Sure there’s a few teething problems with them and may take a little bit more time to get up to speed but its not like we are going to war tomorrow. Less product for the money and more employment I reckon, plus we are helping our European allies out of a jam!!

  5. TimC69 says

    Jackspeak, the same one we were sending $500m per year to Indonesia in the form of aid from!! Also we’re in re-building/capability expanding phase for good reasonas our neighbours are engaged in a minor/major-depends who you speak to- arms race and we can’t AFFORD to be left behind..

    Buy off the shelf subs as opposed to SA built ones and theres a couple of $Billion saved already, a capable defence force should overide cost.

  6. Leo Lindberg says

    Pierre Blackman that’s got to be one of the worst reasons to buy a pile of junk I have ever heard. We are in enough trouble already for our purchase of MRH90 and its likely to be a money pit until their retirement (assuming spare parts even become obtainable to make it through to their retirement). Yes Europe is hurting and wouldn’t they love to see us walk back into their shop for another ’emperors suit’ but I think we would be better off spending our cash on something more productive-like making 6mm wetsuits for brahman cows.

  7. Jackspeak says

    If there was a large enough threat from our neighbours I’m sure all the geniuses in Canberra would have our navy and defence force stationed north to defende our interests. keeping the money in the subs creates jobs here, which stimulates the local and federal economy.

  8. TimC69 says

    “If there was a large enough threat from our neighbours I’m sure all the geniuses in Canberra would have our navy and defence force stationed north to defende our interests. keeping the money in the subs creates jobs here, which stimulates the local and federal economy”

    You are kidding me right? The same geniuses that gave us the Seasprite, Collins Class subs and now the over budget and late AWD’s? Those geniuses?

    I was in the army throwing rocks and calling out “grenade” becasue of these-as you put it-geniuses!

    also it’s about t,he best bang for our buck-defence of this nation- and not jobs.

  9. Jackspeak says

    I take it Leo hasn’t had much to do with a MRH. Looking over one at Avalon doesn’t count.

  10. John N says

    Wow! What an interesting bunch of comments! Seems like some have been to the water cooler with young Corey and had way too much undiluted Red Cordial and Red Bull too!

    Where do I start……

    Order another 20 MH-60R’s for the ACPB replacements?
    The OPV’s (That’s ‘P’ for patrol, not ‘C’ for combat), are far more than likely to be ships in the 1800-2000t max range and be rather lightly armed too, and certainly not larger Austal LCS type ships. Realistically these ships, anywhere between 12 to 20 (depending in if they are to be the full SEA1180 replacements) are not going to be sent into any sort of high intensity operational situations and more than likely, even if equipped with helicopter facilities that are ‘capable’ of supporting an MH-60R size aircraft, are never going to operate a helicopter full time (like a Destroyer or Frigate would), we are probably going to see a potential ‘full time’ UAV capability and I’d suggest that they would be more likely to operate a Light Utility Helicopter far more often than an MH-60R, an MH-60R for the OPV’s is overkill to the extreme.

    Hellfire equipped MH-60R?
    Hellfire is going to more than sufficient against lesser capable surface targets, if an MH-60R does come up against a potential target that has the ability to be a serious threat to an MH-60R’s defensive or offensive capabilities, it won’t be directly attacked, that is something that is far more likely to be handed over to the Destroyer or Frigate that the MH-60R is operating from to be dealt with by the offensive armament of that ship.

    MH-60R’s are old technology airframes at the end of their design life?
    Yes an MH-60R is in appearance very similar to the original SH-60B’s, but would anyone suggest that a C-130J of today is the same old technology as a C-130A from nearly 60 years ago? Or that a current spec CH-47F is the same technology as a CH-47A-D? Or an UH-60M is the same technology as the original UH-60 Blackhawk? They are not.

    All of these aircraft have had significant changes in airframe construction and not to mention the various avionics and combat systems enhancements too.

    Purchase NH-90’s from our Euro friends instead?
    Now that is a Red Cordial and Red Bull moment! Seriously, nothing against the ‘potential’ that the various variants of the NH-90’s will eventually delivery, but the key words are ‘potential’ and ‘eventual’. Sorry, but the RAN needs capable and mature (ASW)/(ASuW) multi-mission helicopters today, not way way into the future! Plus as a taxpayer, I’m not willing to see my tax dollars going to ‘help’ our Euro friends just to help their financial situation, that is ridiculous in the extreme!

    The bottom line!
    The bottom line is that the MH-60R purchase (via the US FMS system), is providing a proven off the shelf product that is ‘ready to go’ from day one (and easily supported and upgradable into the future), just as all the other FMS purchases of recent times, F/A-18F, C-17A, CH-47F, EA-18G, etc, etc.


    John N

  11. Bobby Dazzler says

    I couldnt think of a better helicopter to invest in than something that ‘doesnt’ have the cost associated with that of a european luxury sinkhole platform! John Howard is gone now, Australia can once again buy American quality without the political lefties crying we are living in the pocket of the U.S.

  12. TimC69 says

    John N,

    your comments as always are informative and well grounded, but on the OPV’s -which i believe the Indepence class is seriously being considered due to the Austal/WA build-we’ll agree to disagree.

    And for all those commenting that we don’t have an immediate serious/credible threat , we should always be prepared and not caught off guard as we were with East Timor back in 99.

  13. Jason says

    At around 3000t, the Independence class LCS is way too big for an OPV. OPVs are generally <2000t, and it's unlikely the OPVs being considered for SEA1180 will have a hangar.

    No hangar means no permanently embarked helo, but it will have a flight deck so there will be lily-padding and UAS opportunities.

  14. John N says


    Mate, always happy to agree to disagree, as long as we are all civil here, no problem at all!!

    Let’s put the Austal LCS type ship to one side for a minute (I’ll get back to that), and look at what we reasonably do know.

    The Government has said that the ACPB’s are to be replaced with a class of OPV’s and that class of OPV’s will be built in Adelaide (or at least until construction of the Future Frigates start in Adelaide too), then the OPV build may be relocated to elsewhere, or a split build in two locations (remember all the OPV’s will have to enter service in a reasonably short time to replace the ACPB’s).

    What we don’t know until the DWP is released (due end of this month or early next), is if the plan to replace the ACPB’s with OPV”s will eventually grow into the full SEA1180 project as proposed in the 2009 DWP, eg, replace the patrol boats, mine warfare and hygrographic ships with a single class of 20 ships, and each ship could perform the other’s role with the addition of mission modules.

    Again, realistically, I can’t see anything larger or more capable than something like, for example, the Damen 1800 or 2000 OPV design being selected (even at the very top end), and those ships will be lightly armed, there is certainly the possibility that these OPV’s will have a hangar and heli deck built into the design, but I don’t see that they will ever regularly carry a helicopter, more than likely a UAV capability.

    And then there is the budget allocation too, from what I’ve read, LCS 6 for the USN is costing in the order of $432m (that’s US $’s too), and that the plan is to get the ‘average’ cost per ship down to around $352m per ship, those sort of cost are just way way over any allocation that this, or any, Government would allocate to SEA1180.

    Next problem is the PB bases in Darwin and Cairns, many $100’s of millions would have to be spent on greatly expanding those facilities to be able to cope with LCS types ships as opposed to much smaller PB’s and OPV’s. The ship lift in Darwin will struggle to cope with a 80m+, 2000t OPV, let alone a significantly larger LCS type ship.

    Honestly I just can’t see the justification in virtually any way for LCS type ships to replace the ACPB’s, just isn’t going to happen.

    But, and this is the ‘big but’, if the Government did decided to add, lets call it a ‘patrol frigate’, capability that would sit between the OPV’s at the bottom end and the DDG’s and FFG’s at the top end, then yes there might be a justification for a class of LCS types ships to fill that particular role, 4-6 hulls perhaps?

    Weapons systems could be ‘recycled’ from the retiring FFG’s, such as the 76mm guns, Mk41 VLS, etc, and fitted to such ships, but still the very first thing that would have to happen is for a requirement for such a ship to exists in RAN service in the first place.

    Anyway, Austal LCS for the ACPB replacement? Never going to happen.

    Austal LCS for a ‘new’ class of Patrol Frigates? Well that could be a possibility if such a requirement was part of the new DWP.


    John N

  15. Brain wash says

    As a current project manager for a major force in Australian defence aviation I find all this dribble of mrh versus Seahawks absolute rubbish.. Clearly the future is chinook. An A grade platform services by A grade technicians and managed by AAA managers yours truly Mr Brain Wash

  16. Crazy John says

    There’s a whole lot of experts here and nobody agrees on any one solution…. This is where I step in and suggest the defence force reduce the amount of helicopters it plays with and just stick with one or two types. Australia is not America and doesn’t need to fight the wars like them. They should just get something like a fleet of ospreys to kill 5 or 6 birds with one stone! Smaller fleet variety equals a cheaper conversion outlay. Whhawt….

  17. TimC69 says

    Experts or not, what we have is a group of concerned Australians who want nothing more that a capable ADF.
    And we have the 12th largest defence budget in the world so why not the 12th largest/most capable defence force? Because of bean counters in Canberra controlling what we buy and where we buy it from-lets buy a horse and cart with an artillery piece on it from SA as opposed to an Abrams Tank because it’s built in Australia…..seriously people.