Romeo rising – first RAN MH-60R flies

written by australianaviation.com.au | July 3, 2013
Australia's first MH-60R Seahawk Romeo during its first flight from Sikorsky's production facility in Stratford, Connecticut.

The first of 24 MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy successfully competed its first flight from Sikorsky’s Stratford, Connecticut facility on June 26.

The aircraft undertook a number of checks during the flight, including of controllability, engine performance, vibration analysis and navigation. With ‘contractor flight acceptance’ now completed, the MH-60R will now be transferred to Lockheed Martin’s Owego, New York state facility for integration of its mission systems and sensors.

Defence Material Minister Mike Kelly said in a statement that a further three RAN Romeos are currently in various stages of assembly, with the first two planned to be handed over to the Navy in December 2013.

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“The RAN will very shortly be flying the most capable Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface helicopter in the world and it will be a quantum increase to our current helicopter force – both in numbers and capability,” Commodore Vince Di Pietro, Commander of the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, said.

The 24 MH-60Rs are being acquired under the $3 billion AIR 9000 Phase 8 project to replace the RAN’s existing 16 S-70B-2 Seahawks and the capability gap left by the cancellation of the SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite program.

10 Comments

  • Cameron McCulloch

    says:

    DMO made the right choice. Stay with what we know works and works well. Happy to spend my tax dollars on the romeo’s.

  • John N

    says:

    Good to see another FMS purchase moving ahead smoothly and apparently 6mths ahead of schedule too.

    I think that the FMS purchase of mature ‘off-the-shelf’ equipment is very sensible, as long as it ‘meets’ the requirement, but if something that is needed is not available off the shelf, then risks have to be accepted.

    Recent, or soon to enter service, purchase of FMS equipment such as C17A’s, FA18F’s, EA18G’s, MH60R’s, C27J’s and P8A’s are all good examples of equipment that matches the requirement and all should enter service with a minimum of problems.

    As far as ‘happy to spend my tax dollars’ too, In my opinion, the one downside of these purchases, and also other non-FMS purchases too, is that we don’t seem to have a mandatory process in place where for every dollar we spend on overseas equipment, we don’t get a commitment for X percentage of the contract value to be spent here in Oz in return.

    Considering the Billions of dollars we regularly spend on overseas defence equipment, that is certainly one area that needs improving.

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Dan

    says:

    So true John N.

  • swissaroo

    says:

    The KISS Principle at it’s best. It just goes to show that defence acquisitions do not have to reinvent the wheel and come up with a square one!

  • Wayne

    says:

    Great result but hardly surprising given the maturity of the program. The small numbers of equipment that Australia buys frankly dictates buying proven technology from a proven supplier. Good enough for the USN/USMC/USAF then why not good enough for us at an affordable price.

  • Glen

    says:

    These are the helos the RNZAF should have bought instead of the NH 90 which is so expensive that they have only bought 10 such a waste of time buying so few . Then they buy A109s what use are they 4 seat helicopters good for carrying VIPs and that is about it. Also another not so great idea is buying the seasprights that were no good for RAN. Another shocking idea

  • John N

    says:

    Glen,

    The problem for NZ can be summed up in one word, ‘Money”, or more accurately, the lack of money.

    The NZ defence budget is around 1/10th of Australia’s, so they can’t just spend the sort of dollars we do, they have to be a bit more ‘creative’ in their decision making.

    As to the Aircraft types you have mentioned, the A109’s are far more than just VIP aircraft, they are modern Light Utility aircraft replacing the very old Bell Sioux’s in training aircrews on modern equipment before they move forward to either the NH90’s and the S2G’s, which is the same as the Australian Army and Navy do with its fleet of LUH / training helicopters, you can’t just throw inexperienced crews into highly complex machines without initial training first.

    They are also useful for the light utility role where an NH90 would be far too big and expensive to operate in certain roles.

    As to the 8 (not 10) NH90’s, they again are far more modern, larger and capable than the very old UH1H they are replacing.

    Should NZ have purchased new Blackhawks? The answer to that is probably tied the fact that Australia purchased MRH90’s, if we had gone done the path of new Blackhawk’s maybe NZ would have too, but we both didn’t, so we both are where we are.

    Once all the bugs associated with new complex machines are sorted out, hopefully both sides of the ditch will look back and be satisfied with their decisions, time will tell.

    And lastly the SH2’s, NZ has successfully operated both the F and G models since 1997, I think, again with the very limited Defence budget, that the 10 (8 active and 2 spares) SH2G(I)’s that have been purchased for a bargain price will be a great asset to NZ.

    Removing the extremely and overly complex flight control systems that Australia intended to install on the SH2G(A)’s should result in a highly capable aircraft that NZ can operate for many years to come.

    The other issue is that whilst the much larger MH60R Seahawks can operate off the NZ Frigates, they would be too large to operate / hangar on the Offshore Patrol Vessels.

    Again for NZ, a lot of decisions come back to money, what we are paying for the 24 MH60R’s is equal to nearly two years worth of the total NZ Defence budget!

    Chees,

    John N

  • Cameron McCulloch

    says:

    John and Glen,

    Everything that you guys have said shows that Australia and New Zealand really need to work more closely
    together. Most of the defence equipment that the two countries use are the same ( aircraft, helos, anzac frigates, aslav/nzlav, combat rifles the list goes on). The problem is we usually come to the same conclusion but at slightly different timing. Surely it would be better to identify common equipment that needs replacing and combining and order and getting a better deal.
    For example (by the way I’m not just interested in aircraft but ALL things military so if i write about other things other than aircraft in an aircraft magazine this is why) in the 10-20 year time scale Aus/NZ are going to need to replace our fleet of vehicles based around the LAV25 design. Initally Australia bought around 250 and NZ about 100. Would it not be better for BOTH countries to combine an order of say 350 vehicles. The economies of scale dictate that both countries would be better off, and as i said this is just one example of similiar equipment.

    Thanks Cameron

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Cameron,

    Firstly, if you are interested in broader military matters, can I suggest you visit ‘DefenceTalk.com’, a broad range of forums that you can read and contribute to, including matters relating to Australia and NZ. (Ps, I hope the good folk here at AA don’t mind me mentioning DT).

    I agree, yes Australia and NZ should work more closely together, but unfortunately the reality of that happening regularly and consistently is difficult.

    Yes we are almost like ‘first cousins’ but we are also two separate independent Countries, vastly different Defence budgets (in both GDP and dollar terms too), at times we have Governments with different Political, Defence and foreign Affairs views, etc, different outlooks on our part of the world.

    Even here in Australia, how often do we ever get the Federal Government and ALL the State Governments to agree on the same thing all at the same time? Not very often at all!

    And yes we do currently have equipment that is of similar origin, as you mentioned, but the configurations and upgrade paths vary significantly too.

    And apart from all of that, timing is a very big issue too, when we purchased the C130J’s, NZ could have been involved with that, but chose to upgrade their aging C130H aircraft. As has been discussed here, NZ is looking replace the ‘H’ models around the early 2020’s, which again puts them out of ‘sync’ with Australia, that’s just one example of where both countries could have gone down the path of ‘continued’ joint purchases into the future, but didn’t.

    Again I agree with what you are suggesting, but unfortunately the lack of regular and consistent common ground will continue to get in the way.

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Darren

    says:

    Hi All

    While it would be advantageous for Australia and New Zealand to cooperate on purchases this is much as to what Australia has done with recent purchases (FA-18F; EA-18G; C-17; SH-60R; etc) with USAF/USN programs.

    It is all well and good to combine to gain an economic effect. As a larger player I am sure the USN and Boeing are happy with us purchasing some of their aircraft and no doubt would like us to buy more. They would like other countries to follow suit. This would work in favour of Australia if New Zealand brought a few of the same equipment we want. It helps us get a better price.

    However this only works if New Zealand has the same need as Australia, and has the money to buy it. Australia shouldn’t choose something less than they can afford of a lower standard to satisfy a New Zealand requirement any more than New Zealand buying something it can’t afford simple because Australia can.

    There are instances where Australia has not selected US equipment. While the reasons are many and varied, sometimes it is about cost. Australia just can’t always keep up with the USN/USAF.

    So long as it is a benefit to both countries then it is good to combine, otherwise best left alone as a compromise might not satisfy anyone.

    And as for the original line in the article it is good to see the Romeo’s coming along. As said by John and others it shows the benefit of a mature program. Hopefully these good news stories about on time on budget defence programs are reported to the general public so that the perception by some that every program is late and more than estimated brought back to a balanced perspective.

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