The Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) MH-60R Seahawk Romeo maritime combat helicopter has successfully launched its first AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile in the US, marking a key milestone in the Project AIR 9000 phase eight programme.
Australian Fleet commander rear admiral Stuart Mayer said: "[The] navy’s next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter will be the cornerstone of our working navy’s aviation combat capability.
"The new aircraft’s multi-mission and multi-target precision strike capabilities will increase our versatility and potency as a high-end fighting force."
The missile was launched by RAN’s 725 Squadron from Romeo, which is currently deployed to the US Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre off the Florida coast.
Australia Defence Materiel Organisation Helicopter and Guided Weapons Division head rear admiral Tony Dalton said: "This $3.2bn acquisition programme is providing [the] navy with a state-of-the-art, helicopter-based warfighting capability.
"Our journey through production, acceptance and now testing of the aircraft’s major weapon systems has been steady, effective, ahead of schedule and on budget.
"The Seahawk Romeo is a quantum leap over [the] navy’s current combat helicopter force, both in numbers and capability."
The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) received the initial two 24 Seahawk Romeos last December, and a further two in February.
The 725 Squadron is collectively operating all four aircraft together with three US Navy Seahawk Romeo squadrons, away from the US Navy’s Jacksonville air station in Florida.
Eventually, both Seahawk Romeo squadrons will be based at the navy’s Nowra, New South Wales air station, with 725 Squadron carrying out Seahawk Romeo training and 816 Squadron flying them from Anzac-class frigates and the newly inducted Hobart-class destroyers.
RAN will take delivery of two more MH-60R in October, through to 2015, with the 24th and final aircraft to be handed over in 2016.
Image: NUSQN 725’s Aircraft 902 launches the first Hellfire missile from the MH-60R Seahawk Romeo. Photo: courtesy of the Royal Australian Navy.