Australia — New Naval Combat Helicopters

Min­is­ter for Defence Stephen Smith and Min­is­ter for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced that the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment had approved the acqui­si­tion of 24 MH-60R Sea­hawk ‘Romeo’ naval com­bat heli­copters at a cost of over $3 bil­lion.

The 2009 Defence White Paper com­mit­ted the Gov­ern­ment to equip­ping naval war­ships with a new com­bat heli­copter capa­ble of con­duct­ing a range of mar­itime misions with advanced anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare capa­bil­i­ties and the abil­i­ty to fire air-to-sur­face mis­siles.

This announce­ment deliv­ers on that com­mit­ment.

The new heli­copters will replace the Navy’s cur­rent com­bat heli­copter capa­bil­i­ty pro­vid­ed by 16 Sea­hawk S‑70B‑2 heli­copters and will also pro­vide the air to sur­face strike capa­bil­i­ty which was to have been pro­vid­ed by the can­celled Sea­sprite pro­gram.

This deci­sion fol­lows a 15-month com­pet­i­tive acqui­si­tion process involv­ing the Siko­rsky-Lock­heed Mar­tin built MH-60R and the NATO Heli­copter Indus­tries NH90 NFH assem­bled by Aus­tralian Aero­space.

This com­pet­i­tive process has ensured val­ue for mon­ey for the tax pay­er.

The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment has cho­sen the ‘Romeo’ heli­copter because it rep­re­sents the best val­ue for mon­ey for tax­pay­ers and was the low­est risk option.

The ‘Romeo’ is a proven capa­bil­i­ty cur­rent­ly oper­at­ed by the Unit­ed States Navy. The Unit­ed States Navy has accept­ed around 100 ‘Romeos’ which have accu­mu­lat­ed 90,000 fly­ing hours, includ­ing on oper­a­tional deploy­ments.

Inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with Australia’s Alliance part­ner, the Unit­ed States, is also a sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage of this heli­copter.

The heli­copters are large­ly mil­i­tary off-the-shelf built by Siko­rsky and Lock­heed Mar­tin and will be pur­chased through the For­eign Mil­i­tary Sales process from the US Navy.

Defence has signed a Let­ter of Agree­ment for the acqui­si­tion with the Unit­ed States Gov­ern­ment.

The first two heli­copters will arrive in mid-2014 for test­ing and eval­u­a­tion with oper­a­tions expect­ed to com­mence in mid-2015.

Acqui­si­tion of 24 ‘Romeos’ means that Navy will have the capac­i­ty to pro­vide at least eight war­ships with a com­bat heli­copter at the same time, includ­ing ANZAC Class frigates and the new Air War­fare Destroy­ers. The remain­der will be based at HMAS Alba­tross in Nowra, New South Wales, and will be in var­i­ous stages of the reg­u­lar main­te­nance and train­ing cycle.

They will be equipped with a high­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed com­bat sys­tems designed to employ Hell­fire air-to-sur­face mis­sile and the Mark 54 anti-sub­ma­rine tor­pe­do.

The Gov­ern­ment will work with Aus­tralian Small-to-Medi­um Enter­pris­es to iden­ti­fy oppor­tu­ni­ties to form part of the ‘Romeo’ glob­al sup­ply chain.

The Gov­ern­ment has estab­lished a joint work­ing group between Defence and the Depart­ment of Inno­va­tion, Indus­try, Sci­ence and Research to progress Aus­tralian indus­try involve­ment in the project.

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia

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