By By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor | June 20, 2011
Rear Admiral Steven Eastburg, U.S. Navy, speaking on the first day of the Paris Air Show, expanded on the announcement a few days ago that the Royal Australian Navy had bought 24 Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin MH-60R Seahawk helicopter replacement aircraft for their maritime helicopter competition, Air 9000 Phase 8.
“They are the first in a number of countries that will believe will eventually partner with us," said Eastburg. There are currently 100 Romeo and 200 Seirra Seahawks in service and Bob Kimball, deputy in the program office at NAVAIR, also believes that the potential international sales for the aircraft, following the Australian government's decision over the rival NH-90-NFH aircraft, is high: “…over 1,900 hours of tests went into this platform over a five-year period—over 60,000 hours of operational use, six operating squadrons, annual production capability of 48 aircraft per year. Right now we’re building 25–30.” Other countries said to be considering it include Denmark, Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“There is nothing the Australians are asking for that the Romeo cannot do,” concluded Kimble, when asked why a combination of Romeo and Sierra model MH-60s had not been purchased. In terms of upgrades down the line, Eastburg stated: “You’re going to see in coming months and years new capabilities such as an advanced radar detection [and] periscope detection capability.”