Australia expects all 24 of its purchased MH-60R helicopters to be handed over by 2016. (Nigel Pittaway)
OWEGO, N.Y. — The first two MH-60R naval combat helicopters were handed over to the Royal Australian Navy at Lockheed Martin’s facility here today.
The two helicopters are the first of 24 Australia ordered to replace S-70B-2 Seahawks, which have been in service for about 25 years, and will also add an anti-surface warfare capability to its Fleet Air Arm.
The occasion also marked the delivery of the first MH-60R for the export market.
They are being acquired via a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement under Project AIR 9000 phase 8, which is on schedule and under budget, according to Rear Adm. Tony Dalton, head of the Helicopter Division of Australia’s Defense Materiel Organisation. The first deliveries occurred one month ahead of program schedule and the final aircraft will be handed over in 2016, six months earlier than contracted, he said.
“Australia is between the Indian and Pacific oceans and there are currently more than 200 submarines active in the region, 64 of them nuclear,” Dalton said after accepting the helicopters.
“This aircraft is a game changer for the Royal Australian Navy, in terms of delivering the capability to ensure our sea lanes are kept open,”
Accepting the aircraft on behalf of the US Navy before handing them to the RAN under the FMS process, Capt. Select A.C. Lynch from Navair’s PMA299 said the MH-60R capability was integral to the air-sea battle.
“It is truly an honor to be here today to deliver the world’s most capable naval helicopter to Australia,” he told guests. “Such significant partnerships are necessary.”
The two helicopters are due to leave Owego tomorrow on delivery to NAS Jacksonville, Fla., where the Royal Australian Navy’s 725 Squadron is being established to act as the training squadron. Australian personnel are undergoing training with the US Navy in Florida and the first seven helicopters will begin returning to Australia in October.
“The US Navy has been a terrific partner in this whole process,” said the 725 Squadron commanding officer, Cmdr. David Frost. “This is a huge shift in capability for us and all our experiences so far have been positive. It has allowed us to build a qualified and competent work force quicker than usual.”
First of Class sea trials with an Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate is due to begin in early 2015.