Australian MH-60R completes first flight

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Australia's first MH-60R Seahawk Romeo aircraft, complete with RAN kangaroo roundel aircraft markings, conducts its initial test flight at Sikorsky's production facility in Stratford, Connecticut, USA. Mid-Caption Project AIR 9000 Phase 8, the Seahawk Romeo helicopter program, reached a significant milestone on June 26, 2013. Carrying the tail number N48-001, Australia's first Seahawk Romeo completed its initial test flight at Sikorsky's production facility in Stratford, Connecticut, USA. The helicopter successfully passed a range of tests during the 1 hour and 20 minute sortie including controllability, engine performance, vibration analysis and navigation. A second sortie later that day completed the 'Contractor Flight Acceptance' phase. The helicopter will now be fitted with its highly capable mission systems and sensors at Lockheed Martin's facility in Owego, New York. The first two MH-60R helicopters are scheduled to be handed over to the Royal Australian Navy in December 2013.
Australia's first MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopter (N48-001) conducted its initial test flight at Sikorsky's production facility in Stratford, Connecticut, USA June 26, 2013. Australia will receive 24 such helicopter to equip its surface combatants under Project AIR 9000 Phase 8.
Australia’s first MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopter (N48-001) conducted its initial test flight at Sikorsky’s production facility in Stratford, Connecticut, USA June 26, 2013. Australia will receive 24 such helicopter to equip its surface combatants under Project AIR 9000 Phase 8. Photo via Australian MOD.

The first of 24 MH-60R ‘Seahawk Romeo’ naval helicopters destined for the Australian Navy has successfully completed its first test flight at Sikorsky production facility on June 26, 2013. During the 80 minute flight the helicopter successfully passed a range of tests including controllability, engine performance, vibration analysis and navigation as well as the ‘Contractor Flight Acceptance’ phase. The first helicopter is now being prepared for transit to Lockheed Martin’s facility in Owego, New York, where it will be fitted with its highly capable mission systems and sensors. A further three Australian helicopters are currently in various stages of assembly with the first two planned to be handed over to the RAN in December 2013. Aircrew and maintainers from 725 Squadron have already commenced training with the United States Navy at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, USA while they await the arrival of their own aircraft in 2014.

The 24 helicopters will replace 16 MH-60B Seahawk helicopters currently in service, expanding naval surface strike capability with will additional air-to-surface strike capability.

Commodore Vince Di Pietro, Commander of the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, said the flight is exciting news for the Navy. “The RAN will very shortly be flying the most capable Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface helicopter in the world and it will be a quantum increase to our current helicopter force – both in numbers and capability,” CDRE Di Pietro said. The acquisition of 24 Seahawk Romeos allows the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to provide at least eight helicopters embarked at any one time with Australia’s Anzac Class frigates and the new Hobart Class air warfare destroyers, with the remainder based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra.

“This first flight occurred only two years after contract signature, some six months ahead of the original schedule approved by Government in 2011.” Minister for Defence Materiel Dr Mike Kelly said. “The Federal Government has invested over $3 billion in acquiring 24 MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopters, representing a sizeable commitment toward Australia’s ongoing air combat capability,” he added.