Sikorsky to Supply Military Helicopters to Greece and U.S. Marines

 - October 29, 2020, 5:26 AM
The CH-53K recently demonstrated its ability to take on fuel inflight while carrying a heavy external load. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Lockheed Martin received two Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) contracts on October 26. One was awarded directly to the company and covers the production of four Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk “Romeo” naval helicopters for Greece, while the other was awarded to Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky for the next production batch of CH-53K King Stallions destined for the U.S. Marine Corps.

The latest CH-53K award covers six aircraft and associated support, worth $550.4 million and representing Lot IV of the low-rate initial production batch. Work is expected to be completed by 2024. The contract brings the number of CH-53Ks on contract to 24, from a planned buy of 200.

According to Navair, the CH-53K is "moving toward completion of the developmental test in support of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) in 2021. The Marine Corps is in the process of accepting the first operational test aircraft configured for Initial Operational Capability.” The aircraft will first be used to support operator and maintenance training. Three more CH-53Ks are due for delivery in early 2021 to complete the IOT&E test fleet.

In the meantime, developmental tests are nearing completion. In recent tests the CH-53K has been flown in “brown-out” degraded visual environments in the desert at Yuma in Arizona, and has undergone sea trials aboard the assault ship USS Wasp. A recent highlight was the demonstration of the helicopter’s ability to refuel from a KC-130 Hercules in flight while carrying a 27,000-pound underslung load.

The Foreign Military Sales MH-60R deal for four helicopters destined for the Hellenic navy is a $180 million not-to-exceed contract, with deliveries due by February 2025. On top of that is a $14 million contract for three low-frequency sonars.

Greece first announced its intention to buy the latest version of the Seahawk multi-role maritime helicopter in February 2019. The U.S. State Department cleared the potential sale of up to seven MH-60Rs on July 12 that year, and Greece signed a letter of acceptance for four this July. The approval covers the delivery of the helicopters with a range of systems, including APS-153(V) multi-mode radars, airborne low-frequency sonar systems, sonobuoys, AAS-44 multi-spectral targeting systems, and embedded GPS/inertial navigation sets equipped with the Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM). Weaponry included in the approval comprises APKWS laser-guided rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire training rounds, Mk 54 torpedoes, and M240/GAU-21 crew-served machine guns.

Greece has also signed for an upgrade program for its existing S-70B-6 Aegean Hawk helicopters (a version of the Seahawk) that will modernize the sensor suite and avionics. The Hellenic navy currently operates eight S-70B-6s and three later S-70Bs with 2 Mira Elikopteron Naftikou (naval helicopter squadron) at Marathon-Kotroni. The S-70B-6s were delivered between 1994 and 1998, and were augmented by three S-70Bs delivered in the mid-2000s and equipped with four-screen “glass” cockpits. The S-70B-6s were upgraded with forward-looking infrared turrets at the same time. The fleet undertakes a range of maritime missions, notably providing embarked helicopters for the navy’s four MEKO 200HN Hydra-class frigates.