The MH-60R showing some of its advanced detection sensors including the FLIR turret

The Department of Defense announced on December 11, 2012 that it was  awarding $563,788,721 to Sikorsky aircraft Corporation for the US Navy MH-60R and MH-60S multi role helicopters. The statement designated this latest funding tranche as the Navy’s Second  Program Year as we know that funding for the systems have been legislated as Multi Year Program covering the Fiscal Year 2012 through 2016.

In fact FY 2012 budget had set aside $1 B as part of this multi year 5 year acquisition program MYP for 24 new MH-60R airframes complemented by separate MYP for the airframes cockpits and sensors. In the same fashion FY 2012 had provisioned $518 millions for the acquisition of 18 MH-60S plus their cockpits and sensors packages.

A Robust And Flexible Approach

The Sikorsky MH-60S/R SEAHAWK incarnates the latest in the family of multi missions helicopters for maritime operations. They evolve from the long standing SH-60 helicopters in service with the US Navy since the early 80’s. While MH-60S designate a more utility variant of this aircraft, its MH-60R extends such capabilities to Anti Surface and Anti Submarine Warfare (ASuW and ASW) operations.

Both aircraft implement the airframe most commonly assimilated to the US Army 30+ years old BLACK HAWK Sikorsky UH-60  even though with profoundly re-designed systems and airframe permitting a  MTGW (Maximum Take Off Gross Weight) of 22,500 lbs (10,206 kg).

The common airborne platform shared by both MH-60R and S models leverages on the power and endurance of the two ”fully marinized” T700-GE401C engines even though the MH-60R is the model most likely to be encountered with external fuel tanks attached to external pylons, each capable of carrying 120 gallons of additional fuel. The aircraft survivability is most readily advertised for the MH-60S 14 crashworthy troop seats. However both models boast  multi-role mission capabilities involving lifting external cargo using a 9,000 lbs (4,082 kg) capable hook for the MH-60S but limited to 6,000 lbs in the case of the MH-60R.

The similar systems architecture that equips both aircraft leads to quasi-identical flight control and management systems as both cockpits use the Enhanced Advanced Flight Control System (AFCS) which is interfaced through four 8 x 10 inches color displays. The modular engineering approach applied to an integrated fully digital on board systems allows a flexible suite of advanced precision all weather INS/GPS-based navigation systems, VHF/UHF and satellite communication, integrated avionics data bus (1553 standard) , environment control systems, FLIR/NVG (Forward Looking Infra Red/Night Vision Goggle) navigation aids, all built by on a Lockheed Martin common open architecture Off The Shelf package with expandable mass storage.

These modernized SEAHAWKS are specifically designed to survive the impact of 23 mm ordinance fired on its rotor blades, offering redundant FCS (Flight Control Systems), self sealing fuel tanks, triple redundant hydraulic and electrical systems, energy absorbing landing gear, Active Vibration Control (AVC), Hover Infra Red Suppressor System and and Integrated Health and Usage Monitoring System.

Mission Specific Packages MH-60S

MH-60S provides integrated sensor suite on a modern glass cockpit with improved systems over the legacy US Navy SH-60B/F and HH-60H. It is the de facto (Combat Search And Rescue) CSAR mission aircraft for the US Navy. Various tactical combat and re-supply/logistical mission (troop transport, special operations, supply, CSAR, MEDEVAC, hovering supply delivery) can be added to Anti-Surface Warfare through the implementation of the  Organic Airborne Mine Countermeasures OAMC.The OAMC capabilities can be adapted to the basic MH-60S. Once available as an upgrade, OAMC will allow the aircraft to detect mines via SONAR and laser (Airborne Laser Mine Detection System) and proceed to their neutralization: hence allowing the aircraft to operate in a Maritime Interdiction role.

In its Triple mission character, MH-60S essentially provide:

VERTREP (Vertical Resupply Platform) capability is supported by the 9,000 lbs (4,082 kg) capable cargo hook, and the 360 gallons internal fuel tanks capacity. Optionally 2 fuel tanks of 200 gallons each can be installed in the cabin compartment for Hover In Flight Refuelling missions.

The OAMCM (Organic Airborne Mine Counter Measures) mission configuration for maritime interdiction comprises the Sonar Mine Detection System, Airborne Laser Mine Detection System, Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep and the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance Systems.

The AHWS (Armed Helicopter Weapon System) configuration would take full advantage of FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) , RWS (Radar Warning Systems), MWS (Missile Warning System), LWS (Laser Warning System), IRCM (Infra Red Counter Measure), CM (Counter Measure) dispensing systems (with automated release of chaffs and flares) all combine with the presence of 2 crew served weapons either 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm (.50 calibre) machine guns.

The Anti Surface Warfare / Anti Submarine Warfare Systems on the MH-60R

The MH-60R will not be restricted solely to ASW and ASuW even though are unique to it the acoustic processor, ESM (Electronic Support Measures), dipping SONAR, torpedoes and sonobuoys, ARC-210 voice (UHF/VHF/Satcom tactical communications/advanced navigation systems), Integrated Self Defense (plus Countermeasure Dispensing Systems/IRCM), multi mode search radar, and 4 external weapons stations. This rich assortment of tactical sub systems allows the aircraft to fully participate in the fleet active offensive defensive operations, while still retaining the basic Utility attribute that better describes the MH-60S. In fact both models can have their internal cabin floor stripped from all equipment and re-fitted for cargo operation or with any other tactical module. At $42 million acquisition price tag per airframe for the MH-60R versus $29 million for the MH-60S, the MH-60R shows its ‘Sensor/Information Processing’ superiority.

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