AIR 9000 Phase 8

The new US Navy helicopter was selected by the RAN in June 2011 to replace ageing Seahawks following a competitive tender between the US Navy and NH Industries - offering the NFH-90 - to supply up to 24 complete aircraft and associated support services. The decision seems odd when 46 NH-90s, labelled the MRH-90 will support the RAN’s “transport” capability and means that the RAN will operate two different helicopters and by doing so will ignore the 80% commonality of the two NHI aircraft. This paper reviews the MH-60R.

29th Aug 2011

 AIR 9000 Phase 8

 The MH-60R, the US Navy’s latest naval helicopter.

The new US Navy helicopter was selected by the RAN in June 2011 to replace ageing Seahawks following a competitive tender between the US Navy and NH Industries - offering the NFH-90 - to supply up to 24 complete aircraft and associated support services. The decision seems odd when 46 NH-90s, labelled the MRH-90 will support the RAN’s “transport” capability and means that the RAN will operate two different helicopters and by doing so will ignore the 80% commonality of the two NHI aircraft. This paper reviews the MH-60R.

MH-60R (Romeo) Multi-mission Naval Helicopter.

This aircraft is the latest iteration of the Seahawk family of ship-based helicopters and is evolved from the legacy SH-60B.
A LAMPS (Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System) 111, Block 2 aircraft, the Romeo conforms with the US Navy’s decision to have only two types of helicopter of the same “breed” in Naval service to meet the second stage of the US Navy’s Master plan. This plan fulfils the requirements of the US Navy’s Sea Power 21 “Sea Shield” doctrine and is the cornerstone of its Concept of Operations.
The Romeo is a “new manufacture” aircraft and the US Navy plans to operate about 300 of them by 2015. Production is shared by Sikorsky Aircraft, the platform manufacturer, Lockheed Martin the total systems integrator and a large number of traditional mission equipment suppliers such as Raytheon, Harris and Lockheed Martin.
The Romeo’s primary mission capabilities are ASW and ASuW with secondary missions including SAR, NGFS, VERTREP, communications relay, surveillance, logistics support and personnel transfer. The aircraft operates from a wide range of naval ships, from frigates through aircraft carriers “ in intense littoral and open water warfare environments”.

Development and Production History.

The development cycle was very short with the first MH-60R delivered in August 2005, followed by full rate production approval in April 2006, OPEVAL completed in October 2006, and the first squadron, out of five to be established, commissioned in October 2007. March 2008 saw the first at sea operations. During this time a significant technology insertion program was implemented, principally directed to the replacement of obsolescent mission systems carried forward from the SH-50.
On June 16 2011 Defence awarded the USN a contract for supply of 24 MH-60Rs for delivery beginning 2013-14 that also addressed a wide range of support issues and commitments to local industry by the suppliers. The contract will be managed through the auspices of the US Government’s FMS organisation.


The MH-60R’s airframe is effectively a clone of the SH- 60B’s but uses new materials that are more corrosion resistant, more reliable and easier to maintain and repair.
Two GE turboshaft engines rated at 1425kW each, driving the four- blade main rotor and four- blade tail rotor are installed. Active vibration control replaces the original passive system to attenuate rotor- induced vibrations into the airframe. The main rotor folds automatically for hangar stowage.
The aircrew comprises a Pilot and Co-pilot/Tacco in a two-person cockpit and two sensor operators, operating sensor equipment in a rear crew compartment. Limited personnel transport is also provided.

Mission Electronic Systems.

• Flight System and Equipment
The “all-glass” cockpit, provided by Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors, has four full colour displays for the flight crew with full integration of selectable data provided using an open architecture, scaleable, COTS equipment, digital processing system. Equipment provided for the flight crew includes:
o Standard aircraft instrumentation
o Dual embedded Litton INS/GPS (N-G)
o Link 16 TADIL, ARC-210 radios for voice , UHF/VHF and satellite communications, with communications management being supplied by Telephonics
o Own sensor video and cues
o C-Band data link for bi-directional streaming of situational data between helicopter and its host ship (Harris)
o Common Programmable Keysets
• Mission Systems for Primary Roles
o AN/APS 147 multimode X-band 360 deg surface search radar with inverse SAR, reportedly capable of periscope and small target detection. (Telephonics).
o AN/AQS-22 Active/Passive LF dipping sonar (ALFS), capable of very deep and shallow water operation. (Rebadged Thales Underwater Systems (TUS) FLASH Folding Light Acoustic Sensor). Raytheon/TUS teamed for this program.
o AN/AAS -44 IR/Laser multi-spectral targeting system (Raytheon)
o 25 Sonobuoys , active, passive, directional, carried externally.
o Organic Airborne Mine Counter Measures (OAMCM). A major capability that controls the following systems:
• Sonar Mine Detection
• Airborne laser mine detection (of shallow floating or moored mines)
• AN/AQS-235 Airborne mine neutralisation of above mines
• Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep of above mines
• Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance Sweep of above mines
• Weapons
o AGM-119 Penguin Anti-ship(AS) missile (2)
o AGM-114 Hellfire 11 AS missile (8)
o Crew-served pintle-mounted machine gun (7.63mm or 0.5 in calibre)
o Decision Support System – automatically identifies threats and initiates CM. Reduces crew workload.
o AN/ALQ-201 ESM. Simultaneous Situational Awareness and Threat Warning, 360deg coverage, passive location with AOA
o AN/ALQ-144 IRCM missile threat warner (?)
o AN/ALE-39 Chaff/ Flare dispenser

• Aircraft key Parameters
Length folded: 12.5m
Main rotor dia: 16.4m
Height: 4.1m
Mass, empty: 6, 895kg
Mass loaded: 8,055kg
MTO loaded: 10,659 kg
Airspeed max: 267km/hr
Airspeed cruise: 168 km/hr
Climb rate: 8.38m/sec
Range: 834km
Service ceiling max. 3,438 m
Engines: Two T700-GE-40 C 1470kW
• Mission System Technology Insertion Program

The US Navy’s current program is believed to include:

Radar. Telephonics radar scheduled to be replaced by a new Lockheed-Martin radar contracted in 2008 with delivery from 2013.
Torpedo. Adoption of Mk54 (MK50 torpedo homing head and MK46 electric propulsion system) to provide improved shallow water operation). Replaces MK46 and Mk 50 torpedoes
Noteworthy is that the RAN ordered 200 MK 54s in 2010 along with a significant stock of ancillary equipment for aircraft and ship launch operations, plus a through life support package to establish largely independent support in Australia. (This is odd when the superior Eurotorp MU-90 Lightweight Torpedo is also in RAN service and fitted to the NFH-90).
 Hawklink Ku-Band data link. This data link will replace the present C-band data link.
Hellfire 11 missile. The Hellfire 11 range is only 8,000m, has a laser simple homing capability and a small 9kg warhead. (Other superior performance missiles, in addition to the carried Penguin, are available including the MBDA MARTE (carried on the NFH-90) that has a max OTH range of 25km a minimum range of 2km and a programmable INS/GPS/terminal radar navigation system. A Fire and Forget missile, it carries a 70kg warhead.
It is not known whether any or all of the above developments will be included in the RAN’s initial purchase price of the MH-60R aircraft, but it is believed that Australia has made a “package” purchase – similar to the Super Hornets – which includes all of the weapons.

 MH-60R Support issues

Structural Health and Usage Monitoring (SHUM) techniques developed by the US Navy will be implemented as these move towards the adoption of Conditional and Usage-based Maintenance to maximise the structural life and availability of its helicopter fleet. It appears that the adoption of SHUM accepts that corrosion is inevitable and hence mandates remedial procedures. It is understood that this arrangement will apply to RAN MH-60Rs.
The unavoidable adoption of SHUM practices will almost certainly increase the operational and TLS costs of the RAN aircraft, but the RAN will benefit from USN experience.

• Local Industry Programs
The Team Romeo has proposed a comprehensive local industry program that addresses:
• Upgrading the present through-life support facilities at Aviation Technology Park, Nowra, for the MH-60R’s LOT.
• Establishment of (export?) business opportunities, estimated to be worth $1.5b over 10 years, for local industry.
• The proposal by Sikorsky to establish a new export industry, estimated to be worth $1b over 10 years, to remanufacture helicopters. A first project for this scheme would be to refurbish the fleet of SH-50 Seahawks and S-70 Blackhawks owned by Defence, scheduled to be retired beginning in 2014, and then find buyers for them.
• Encouraging suitable SMEs to involve themselves as suppliers to the Team Romeo.


• It is clear that the RAN has a long established network with the US Navy for the SH-60B, in operations and support, some of which are relevant to the MH-60R.
• No reasons have been offered by Defence why the tender for the NIH-90 was rejected, particularly considering the quality and capability of the NFH-90 that is at least equal to and some cases superior to that of the MH-60R.
• It is questionable whether the costs of the Technology Insertion Program in progress for the MH-60B were included in the supply contract, or additional to it.
• Through-Life Support facilities for both aircraft will have to be provided, compared to shared facilities for the MHR-90 and NFH-90 if the latter had been selected when, as stated by NH Industries, the two aircraft are 80% common.
• It is considered that Defence and Industry will have problems in finding and funding the highly skilled human resources and two discrete R&O facilities required for the MRH-90 and the MH-60R.
• The Sikorsky proposal for re manufacture and sale of exiting Defence assets is “neat”, but is loaded with problems that will have to be resolved before the plan can be implemented.


APDR at a glance