The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has unveiled the first of 24 next-generation maritime combat helicopters, the MH-60R Seahawk Romeo, on HMAS Albatross in Nowra.
Australia Defence Minister David Johnston said: "The arrival of the Romeo means that [the] navy will eventually have the capacity to provide eight warships with a combat helicopter at the same time, including the Anzac-class frigates and the new air warfare destroyers.
"They will be fully interoperable with our alliance partner, the US, which brings significant advantages, as well as being a proven capability equipped with highly sophisticated combat systems."
The RAN has already taken delivery of three of the Romeos from the US under a $3.2bn acquisition, with the overall fleet to be delivered incrementally by the end of 2016.
Built in collaboration by Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, the new MH-60R helicopters are integrated with a complete package of sensors and systems that deal with escalating submarine and surface warfare threats.
Johnston added: "They were all very much looking forward to bringing the Romeo back to Australia to begin trials and eventually deploy to navy’s frigates and destroyers. They couldn’t speak more highly of the aircraft, which is very gratifying."
Aimed at replacing the navy’s ageing 16 Bravo Seahawks, the MH-60R will offer assistance to Anzac-class frigates and Hobart-class destroyers.
In addition to executing anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare missions, it can perform secondary missions such as search and rescue, vertical replenishment, naval surface fire support, logistics support, personnel transport, medical evacuation and VHF / UHF / link communication relay.
Image: The RAN took delivery of the first two Romeo helicopters last December. Photo: courtesy of the Lockheed Martin Corporation.