Amid China tensions, Australia bought additional 12 MH-60R ASW helicopters for RAN

A RAN MH-60R helicopter prepares to land onboard HMAS Adelaide as it departs Sydney for first-of-class flight trials. Source: Royal Australian Navy.

The United States’ State Department approved Foreign Military Sale to Australia of twelve MH-60R Multi-Mission helicopters for an estimated cost of $985 million. The ‘Romeos’ would likely replace the six MRH90 ‘Taipan’ currently in-service with the Royal Australian Navy.

The MH-60R combines the features of the SH-60B and SH-60F aircraft. Its sensors package includes an MTS-FLIR, the AN/APS-147 multi-mode radar/IFF interrogator, an advanced airborne fleet data link, and a more advanced airborne active low frequency sonar (ALFS). Offensive capabilities are improved by the addition of new Mk-54 air-launched torpedoes and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency:

The Government of Australia has requested to buy twelve MH-60R Multi-Mission helicopters; thirty T-700-GE-401C engines (24 installed, 6 spares); twelve APS-153(V) Multi-Mode Radars (installed); twelve AN/AAS-44C(V) Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems (installed); thirty-four (34) Embedded Global Positioning System/Precise Positioning Service (GPS/PPS)/Inertial Navigation Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) (24 installed, 10 spares); twenty (20) Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems (MIDS) – Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) (12 installed, 8 spares); twelve (12) GAU-61 Digital Rocket Launchers (aircraft provisions only); twelve (12) Airborne Low Frequency Sonars (ALFS) (aircraft provisions only); eighteen (18) AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems (12 installed, 6 spares); eighteen (18) AN/ALE-47 Chaff and Flare Dispenser, Electronic Countermeasures (12 installed, 6 spares); twelve (12) AN/ALQ-210 Electronic Support Measures (ESM) Systems (installed); twenty-four (24) M299 Missile Launchers; twelve (12) GAU-21 Crew Served Guns aircraft provisions (installed, includes aircraft adapter, ammunition bin, and other accessories); twelve (12) M240D Crew Served Gun Cradles (installed); and eighteen (18) AN/ARQ-59 Hawklink Radio Terminals (12 installed, 6 spares). Also included are AN/ARC-210 RT-2036 UHF/VHF radios with Communications Security (COMSEC); AN/APX-123 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponders; KIV-78; KIV-6; KOV-21; KGV-135A; Advanced Data Transfer Systems (ADTS); Airborne Low Frequency Sonars (ALFS) Training Simulators/Operational Machine Interface Assistants (ATS OMIA); spare engine containers; trade studies with industry to determine the feasibility and cost of implementing provisions for additional passenger seating and modifications to achieve enhanced crew survivability; defense services; spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; communication equipment; ferry support; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; United States (U.S.) Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; obsolescence engineering, integration, and test activities required to ensure readiness for the production of the Australian MH-60R helicopters; and other related elements of programmatic, technical and logistics support.

These twelve MH-60R ‘Romeos’ would likely replace the six MRH90 ‘Taipan’ currently in-service with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The move would allow the RAN to have a single helicopter type in its fleet which would ease maintenance. The MRH90 are used for utility missions. The RAN became the first MH-60R export customer with 24 now in service. They were delivered between 2013 and 2016.

MH-60R helicopter drops a Mark 54 lightweight hybrid torpedo Photo: Royal Australian Navy

While the 816 squadron achieved successful Mk 54 recoverable exercise torpedo drops during a 2014 deployment to the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in Florida, this is the first time the weapon has been dropped and recovered in Australia.

Commanding Officer 816 Squadron, Commander Todd Glynn said the primary role of the MH-60R is to provide anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities.

The Mk 54 combines the advanced sonar transceiver of the Mk 50 torpedo with the legacy warhead and propulsion system of the older Mk 46 torpedo.

“Combining the Mk 54 with the Romeo’s advanced acoustic systems situates Australia at the forefront of airborne anti-submarine warfare.” Commander Glynn said.

“The lessons identified from this and all our flying training is so important to delivering Australia a fighting navy.”

So far, the MH-60 Romeo has been selected by the navies of the United States, Denmark, Australia and Saudi Arabia. In 2019, the U.S. State Department approved similar deals for the ROK Navy (South Korea) as well as for the Hellenic Navy. India became the latest country to place an order for 24 MH-60Rs in February 2020. Taiwan’s Republic of China (ROC) Navy could be next.

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