US Navy Plans TAWS Upgrade for MH-60s

By James T. McKenna | April 4, 2017
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170214-N-WV703-103 SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 14, 2017) Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Kevin Brodwater, a search and rescue swimmer assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4), is lowered from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter onto the flight deck during a search and rescue medical evacuation drill. Coronado is a fast and agile warship tailor-made to patrol the region's littorals and work hull-to-hull with partner navies, providing the U.S. 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler/Released)

A naval aircrewman is lowered from a Sikorsky MH-60S onto the flight deck during a search and rescue medical evacuation drill. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy’s plans to upgrade its MH-60R and -60S fleets with avionics that includes an advanced terrain avoidance warning system (TAWS) highlights the effectiveness of the service’s 2002 Helicopter Master Plan.

Launched in 2002, that plan called for streamlining the service’s helicopter fleet from six types to two — the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R and S — by 2015. The service still flies other types: the HH-60 (special operations and other mission goals); the Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon (for airborne mine countermeasures, assault support and other roles); and the Northrop Grumman unmanned MQ-8C (based on Bell Helicopter’s 407).


But the Romeo and Sierra do the lion’s share of the Navy’s vertical flight work.

The MH-60R is primarily utilized for anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. The MH-60S is used for vertical replenishment, vertical onboard delivery on ships at sea, search and rescue (SAR), combat SAR, surface warfare and counter-mine missions. At the Navy League’s Sea Air Space show near Washington D.C. this week, Capt. Craig Grubb explained that the Romeo and Sierra perform a number of other roles, including ones over land, which is why ostensibly maritime helicopters need a terrain-warning system.

“These are both multi-mission helicopters,” said Grubb, head of Navair’s H-60 Multi-Mission Helicopters Program Office (PMA-299). “The crews are trained for multi-missions. So they can take off intending to do radar surveillance, and end up going feet dry and picking up a passenger, potentially doing a search and rescue in close to the shore” or supporting special operations.

Part of the “System Configuration 18” upgrade of the MH-60R and S, “TAWS 2 is really a big deal for the MH-60S, primarily, Grubb said. The upgraded TAWS database will include maps of the ocean floor. “On the Romeo side, having that bottom topography really helps.”

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