Paris 2011: Australian win spurs new export drive for latest Seahawk versions

Paris Air Show » 2011
June 20, 2011, 8:20 PM

Lockheed Martin has launched a new marketing drive to sell MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters internationally. Last week it won a $3.2 billion deal to supply 24 MH-60R versions to the Royal Australian Navy.

As the mission systems integrator, Lockheed Martin takes basic airframes from co-prime contractor Sikorsky and adds sophisticated hardware and software. It has already completed 200 MH-60S utility versions for the U.S. Navy at the Sikorsky factory, and will soon deliver the 100th MH-60R version equipped for anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare from its own facility at Owego in upstate New York.

Two MH-60S versions that stand ready at Owego for delivery to the Thai Navy are the first Seahawks to be exported for some years. The MH-60R won in Australia against the Eurocopter NH-90. Australia previously bought 50 Black Hawk and Seahawk helicopters, but plans to retire them all by 2014. Lockheed Martin also reports interest from Denmark (a proposal for nine MH-60Rs has been submitted); Korea (MH-60R); Qatar (MH-60S) and Saudi Arabia (a large number of both versions).

“The MH-60 is the world’s most capable maritime helicopter, with highly integrated flight and mission computers,” claimed Dan Spoor, vice president and general manager of aviation systems for Lockheed Martin’s Missions Systems and Sensors (MS2) division. “The U.S. Navy plans to buy 296 MH-60Ss and 300 MH-60Rs, and we can leverage that economy of scale, as well as the spiral development, for international customers,” he added. The U.S. Navy has spent some $1 billion to develop the MH-60R/S series as replacements for six previous helicopters, including the original SH-60B/F Seahawks.

The MH-60S “Sierra,” introduced in 2002, is designed for transport of cargo and passengers, plus combat search and rescue. It can be armed with Hellfire missiles and a Gatling gun.

The MH-60R followed four years later. The four large cockpit displays are common to both. The primary sensors on the “Romeo” are the Telephonics APS-147 multi-mode radar, which includes inverse SAR modes for optimum detection of submarine periscopes; Raytheon AQS-22 long-range dipping sonar; 25 sonobuoys; Raytheon AAS-44 FLIR for visual identification and targeting of the Hellfire missiles; and Lockheed Martin ALQ-210 ESM system.

Output from all these sensors can be sent to ships via a C-band datalink that will be upgraded to KU-band next year. Link 16 is also carried. There is an integrated self-defense system comprising chaff and flare countermeasures, plus protection from radar, IR and laser threats. The stub pylons also mount the Mk54 torpedoes as well as the Hellfires.

Diverse Systems Integration

The Owego facility of Lockheed Martin is home to cutting-edge expertise in aerospace systems. The site still manufactures some specialist components and subassemblies, and is developing the next generation of parallel processors. The processor backbone for the F-35 stealth fighter is produced here. But systems integration is the main task for the 2,800 employees at Owego.

Owego has done C-130 upgrades for the U.S. Coast Guard; P-3 programs for Pakistan, Portugal and Taiwan; and the A-10 for the U.S. Air Force. For the latter, a systems integration laboratory is maintained so that annual software upgrades can be provided to the evergreen Warthog. The digital cockpit and precision strike work that was done here for the A-10 has been exploited again for the Pentagon’s Light Attack Aircraft (LAA) competition, in which Lockheed Martin MS2 is teamed with Hawker Beechcraft for the AT-6.

“A lot of our work is now open architecture, and therefore potentially platform agnostic. We’re making big investments in modular software that is portable between platforms,” said Dan Spoor, vice president and general manager of aviation systems for Lockheed Martin’s Missions Systems and Sensors (MS2) division. As an example, anti-submarine work could be applicable to helicopters, the P-3 or ships. In fact, the company’s current MH-60R/S programs benefit from work done originally for the UK’s Merlin helicopter upgrade.

“We’re doing or pursuing business with more than 40 countries now,” Spoor noted. MS2 has made various international proposals for P-3 upgrades, and palletized ISR system add-ons or ASW mission systems for the C-130J. The division has partnered with Sikorsky for the Pentagon’s key ongoing helicopter competitions: the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP), the HH-60 Recapitalization (formerly Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR-X)), and the second round of the V-XX Presidential helicopter. MS2 was prime for the ill-starred V-XX first round, using the AgustaWestland AW101. This time, though, Sikorsky will be the prime contractor.

Owego is also leading Lockheed Martin’s work on the U.S. Marine Corps unmanned cargo resupply requirement. It has adapted the Kaman K-Max utility lift helicopter for optionally piloted operation. The system will be demonstrated in Afghanistan later this year, if MS2’s solution is preferred to the competing A160 Hummingbird proposal from Boeing.

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