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MH-60R Seahawk [ex Strikehawk]

The US Navy restructured the remaining MH-60R aircraft from a remanufacture of the existing US Navy H-60 fleet to a new buy program with a total requirement of 243 aircraft. Also, the program designation has changed from the SH-60R to reflect the MH-60R's multi-mission role. The MH-60R was initially to be called a Strikehawk, but ultimately it was decided to call it Seahawk.

The U.S. Navy had planned to convert all SH-60B's, and eventually all SH-60F's, to multi-mission SH-60R's. The new version will feature advanced radar, missiles, low frequency sonar and a host of other improvements.  The first test article MH-60R aircraft made its maiden forward flight on 19 July 2001, and the first two prototype MH-60R aircraft began test flights at the NAWC. Under the initial contract, Sikorsky and Lockheed will provide nine remanufactured SH-60B aircraft, including four test articles to be delivered in 2001 and five low-rate initial production aircraft delivered in 2002.

In 2001 the US Navy restructured the MH-60R program from a remanufacture of the existing U. S. Navy H-60 fleet to a new procurement program with a total requirement of 243 aircraft. The first new production deliveries from Sikorsky are planned in the first quarter of 2005.Under the modified program, only 7 airframes were remanufactured, with the rest to be new buys. The first new manufactured aircraft will be delivered in 2006. The MH-60S currently in the fleet is called the Nighthawk (to keep the tie-in to the Sea Knight which it will have completely replaced by the end of the fiscal year. The MH-60R program is worth approximately $7 billion and encompasses a quantity of approximately 243 aircraft. (Two NMH-60R prototypes; four remanufactured SH-60B to MH-60R test articles, and three LRIP remanufactured aircraft; and the remainder will be all new production MH-60Rs.)

The SH-60R is an SH-60B or -F that has undergone a "remanufacturing" process (hence the "R").  In all, about 243 SH-60B and SH-60F helicopters currently in the fleet were to be reincarnated as SH-60Rs over 10 years. The contract, valued at about $2.5 billion to Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, involved modifying the airframe, as well as the avionics systems. The airframe upgrades are necessary to extend the life of the Navy's helicopter fleet, adding a minimum of 10,000 hours to the helo's life. This "midlife upgrade" - the B/F models are nearing midpoint in their life cycle -- will allow the Navy to become an all H-60 helicopter fleet.

The SH-60R will help advance the Navy's Network Centric Warfare (NCW) mission; avionics upgrades will make the Hawkeye more NCW-friendly. And as crucial battles become more and more concentrated on the shores of the world's bodies of water instead of on the open sea, the upgrades are aimed at optimizing the Hawkeye for littoral operations. The modifications being effected are substantial. It's getting a new cabin, the tail is being given a service life extension, and the helo's avionics have gotten a significant upgrade. The new glass common cockpit (which it will share with the SH-60S) and the other modifications will reduce logistics and life-cycle costs. Major upgrades to both flight and mission avionics, as well as offensive and defensive weapons and countermeasures will occur during theconversion.  These upgrades will include:

  • Upgraded Mission and Flight Displays
  • Improved Advanced Flight Control Computer (LECP)
  • Radar upgrade
  • ESM Upgrade
  • Improved Integrated Self Defense
  • Dipping Sonar upgrade (ALFS)

Additionally, the non-mission specific (flight) avionics are designed to be the same as the new CH-60.  The goal is that a pilot can shift from an ASW mission to a SAR mission to a Cargo mission and be looking at the same cockpit.

Although the airframe itself is not new, the SH-60R program has considerable risk due to the reliability problems with ALFS, higher than expected false alarm rates on the Advanced Radar Detection and Discrimination (ARPDD) program of the MMR, anticipated additional problems with the MMR and incorporation of a new cockpit that will be common to the CH-60.

The Navy's Helicopter Master Plan prescribes reducing the variety of operational helicopters in fleet service to one primary aircraft. Plans to remanufacture and upgrade the current fleet of Sikorsky-built H-60 S Seahawks and to procure Sikorsky's CH-60 utility helicopter are putting the Navy closer to a achieving that goal. Within the next two decades, anyone flying in a US Navy fleet helicopte will almost assuredly be flying one of two HH-60 versions -- the SH-60R or the CH-60. The Helicopter Master Plan calls for the remanufacture of SH-60B, SH-60F and HH-60H Seahawks into a common, more versatile SH-60R configuration that will meet Navy requirements through 2015. The SH-60R will combine the traditional mission areas of the SH-60B and SH-60F, but will be more capable. With the Navy's helicopter antisubmarine (HS) and helicopter antisubmarine light (HSL) squadrons operating the same helicopter, opportunities for adjustments in the force structure will emerge, such as reducing the number of fleet readiness squadrons that support the SH-60 fleet. The distinction between the HS and HSL communities may even disappear altogether.

The SH-60(R) Multi-Mission Helicopter Upgrade (formally called LAMPS MK III Block II Upgrade) brings improvements to the SH-60 B/F helicopters now in the fleet. The SH-60R program will give Seahawks a life extension to 20,000 flight hours, to provide a multi-mission platform capable of conducting undersea and surface warfare for the next 20 to 25 years. This upgrade improves the capability of the LAMPS MK III Weapons System to provide battle group protection and to add significant capability in coastal littorals and regional conflicts. The SH-60R's systems will be able to deal with high numbers of air and sea contacts in a confined space, in shallow water. It will operate with a carrier group, or with a surface action group, where no air cover is available. To fight and survive in this environment, detection systems will be added to the SH-60R that include a new multimode radar, FLIR sensor, ESM system and a retrievable, active, low-frequency sonar with significantly greater processing power.

Improvements include the addition of two stores stations, a data bus, advanced low-frequency sonar, acoustic processor, multimode radar, Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) sensor, upgraded ESM system and integrated self-defense system. The MAD gear will be deleted. Cockpit mission system improvements include the addition of an upgraded mission computer, improved communications suite, high-resolution displays, programmable keysets and tactical aids. The SH-60R will carry AGM-119 Penguin antishipping missiles and AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armor missiles, as well as the current MK 46 and MK 50 ASW torpedoes and a door-mounted 7.62 mm machine gun.

The Upgrade represents a significant avionics modification to the SH-60 series aircraft enhancing USW, ASUW, surveillance and ID and power projection, supporting the operational requirements of full-dimensional protection. The Upgrade develops the Airborne Low Frequency Sonar (ALFS) and increases sonobuoy and acoustic signal processing using the UYS-2A Enhanced Modular Signal Processor. In addition, the aircraft will employ a Multi-Mode Radar (MMR), (including Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) and imaging and periscope detection modes), an ESM upgrade, and a fully automated self protection system. The improved electronics surveillance measures system (ESM) will enable passive detection and targeting of radar sources not currently detectable. The added multi-mode radar includes an inverse synthetic aperture radar mode (permits stand-off classification of hostile threats). Additionally, the aircraft will employ a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) sensor, with laser designator and capability to launch Hellfire missiles.

The SH-60R will have all of the weapons currently available to the SH-60B or SH-60F models, including missiles, torpedoes and .50 caliber machine guns. The major improvement in this area is the incorporation of a Decision Support System to set presets and interpret Dropsond data. Dropsonds are atmospheric measuring devices that measure barometric pressure, winds and temperature. They are launched from the chaff/flare dispensers. The SH-60R will also incorporate new Light Imaging Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) laser technology. LIDAR is an ASW/Mine Warfare laser targeting system.

Certain improvements already approved for the SH-60B fleet will be incorporated as part of the SH-60R Remanufacturing. While some SH-60Bs will have had these upgrades implemented long before induction to the SH-60R pipleline, many will not. One of these changes adds a Forward Looking InfraRed to SH-60Bs which have already been upgraded to the Block I configuration. The SH-60R, unlike its ancestors, will also have Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) capability for nighttime operations. Another adds Hellfire missiles and a .50 caliber Machine gun to the SH-60B.

The navigation system will undergo a modernization of NAVAID receivers. The SH-60R will utilize GPS, SATCOM, Inertial Navigation (INS), and other state of the art navigation systems rather than TACAN or Doppler navigation. Communications will be available in both Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and Very High Frequency (VHF) bands, but not the High Frequency (HF) band.

The entire Radar system of the SH-60 has been revamped for the SH-60R. It has an expanded number of trackable contacts, additional modes (SAR, weather, etc.), and has been improved for the ASW mission (Longer Pulse Interval, periscope detection mode). Additionally, the air-to-air mission has come more to the forefront, and the upgraded Radar system has been designed to incorporate this mission as well. Also new to the SH-60R -- and to the helo world at large -- is the introduction of Automatic Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar. It gives an enhanced capability to identify the contacts" picked up by the radar. The new system means the days of mere blips on a radar screen are gone. It identifies the target, not just as a ship or aircraft or whatever, but as to specifically what type, class, and capability.

Major improvements to the helo's avionics include the upgrade of the AQS-13 sonar system with an airborne low frequency sonar (ALFS), and the use of multi-mode radar, which will extend the range of detection, as well as allow the helo to specifically detect periscopes. The problem with periscope detection is that they are small targets, and only visible for a short time. Submarine crews like to run it up for a few seconds and then take it back down. The system employs an audible alert, so that smaller helo crews can be alerted to the presence of a periscope or other target even if other duties mean they are not always looking at the screen. This makes it possible for the three-man crew, who have many responsibilities, to miss very little, even if they have their backs turned.

The Acoustic system has undergone a major upgrade as well. One of the most important changes is that the SH-60B model only has ability to use four directional sonobuoys. The SH-60R will have eight available. The new Airborne Low Frequency Sonar (ALFS) system is a real improvement over the existing dipping sonar system. It provides greater capability and concurrent ALFS and Sonobuoy processing. The upgraded processor (UYS-2) offers colorized GRAM displays vice the SH-60B's UYS-1 monochrome Automatic Line Integration (ALI) only. While the SH-60B does boast an Automatic Coupled Approach to Hover, the SH-60R integrates the Auto Gate Determination to make this a truly "hands off" system. Integrated Self Defense (ISD) Systems

The Airborne Low Frequency Sonar (ALFS) and increased sonobuoy processing capability for the SH-60 helicopter will maintain and improve undersea warfare mission effectiveness against the quiet submarine threat in deep and shallow water environments. The ALFS project provides a dipping sonar with demonstrated capabilities typically 3 to 6 times (square miles of ocean searched per hour) the existing deep water capability. This improvement will significantly increase battle group and independent ship protection providing improved survivability and operating flexibility. ALFS provides longer detection ranges and a greater detection capability by using lower frequencies, less signal attenuation, longer pulse lengths, improved processing and increased transmission power. ALFS utilizes the Enhanced Modular Signal Processor, designated UYS-2A, for improved sonobuoy processing capability.

The Seahawk is benefiting from a militarywide trend toward utilizing COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) solutions whenever it can. COTS is the wave of the future, because it saves money on research, and operations. The Seahawk is getting a new COTS acoustic processor, which detects and processes input from sonobuoys and speeds the classification of targets. The old Proteus processor was military-unique. It was not easily upgradable. The new system will have a much longer useful life, because it will not become obsolete as quickly, since it is being used in other sectors of the economy.

The Emission Sensor Measurement (ESM) system, the helicopter's equivalent of a radar detector, has been significantly improved. It's getting an increase in bandwidth, which allows it to pick up more varieties and more sophisticated types of radar signals, and to operate in areas with signal clutter. Specifically, there is an expanded frequency range over the SH-60B's ESM suite. The SH-60R will be more effective against frequency agile emitters, and it will be more accurate.

The Decision Support System (DSS) is new to the SH-60 family. It is an executive decision making "artificial intelligence" system that integrates threat data and environmental information in order to coordinate offensive and defensive actions. While it does not eliminate the requirement for pilot involvement for weapons selection and release, it does provide many of the weapon selection and set-up decisions automatically. This allows the pilot to focus more concentration on flying the aircraft in a threat-filled environment. Threat Envelope Depiction identifies a platform or shore station, correlates the known weapons of that site, and displays a "danger range" for attack to the pilot on the navigation display. This allows the pilot to remain out of range as possible.

In general, the SH-60R will be MUCH more "aware" of threats than the SH-60B. Additionally, it will be able to DO something about these threats. The ISD will be able to identify specific threats, and determine the best countermeasures to use against them. Expendable and/or towed decoys will be provided against IR, EM, RF, and Laser threats.

While the fuel capacity and burn rates do not change considerably, the addition of so many systems results in an increased maximum weight, allowing less fuel to be carried when fully loaded with stores. This trades off to a reduced On-Station time. Also, as a result of the increased weight, the Coupled Approach to Hover and Departure from Hover are less aggressive because the acceleration/deceleration rates are reduced on the SH-60R compared to SH-60B or SH-60F models.

Initial Developmental Assessment testing of the first prototypes of the SH-60R was done by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VX-1) and the Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron. This first phase was completed by June 2001, just in time for the first production model to arrive. That next, more-formalized phase, to be done on four models of the craft exactly as they come off the re-manufacturing production line rather than the more experimental prototypes, will also be handled by VX-1 and Rotary Wing. The early-on involvement of VX-1 and Rotary Wing is crucial to executing a successful, thorough evaluation of the helos in a timely manner so we can get them out to the fleet.

The majority of the remanufacturing process will take place at the Sikorsky Aircraft plant in Stratford, CT, while some avionics work will be done at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration - Owego, in Owego, NY. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for low-rate initial production of four SH-60Rs, with Sikorsky as major subcontractor. The SH-60R is scheduled to reach operational capability in 2002. Remanufacture of the SH-60B fleet has started and will continue through FY 2009. The first four SH-60Bs were inducted as test assets late in 1999. Turn around time (from induction to sale) was two years. This delivered the first four SH-60R's to the fleet in 2001. While the majority of SH-60R's will be converted SH-60Bs, there are 18 SH-60Fs currently scheduled for remanufacturing. The first of these will be inducted in 2002. Remanufacture of the SH-60F and HH-60H fleets will begin in FY 2004 and continue through FY 2012. By the year 2011, all SH-60B's (170) and 18 SH-60F's will have been converted. This will leave 59 SH-60Fs and 42 HH-60H's in their current configurations. The "Helo Master Plan," developed by NAVAIR shows that eventually (beyond 2011) ALL SH-60 series helicopters will be upgraded to the SH-60R series. In an attempt to get the SH-60R's weapons systems to the fleet a bit earlier, CNO directed a "Rapid Deployment." This meant that eight Block I SH-60B's received the FLIR and Armament packages. The kits to perform these upgrades are currently flying in the fleet.

Common Cockpit and mission systems integration for the MH-60R has resulted in numerous software instability problems, according to DOT&E. System integration was not complete prior to the start of the June 2003 OA, thereby precluding test of the weapon system and Integrated Self Defense System. The Program Executive Office de-certified the MH-60R for further operational test and evaluation in early September 2003 because the aircraft mission systems failed to demonstrate adequate performance during the OA. Deficiencies were recorded for the Electronic Support Measures, acoustic, and multi-mode radar systems. Failure analyses and fault isolation efforts are ongoing to fix and verify correction of the deficiencies prior to the start of the rescheduled technical evaluation (TECHEVAL) and operational evaluation. To provide additional risk reduction, the program office plans to run an additional OA concurrently with TECHEVAL. The joint LFT&E program is adequately resourced and is expected to provide the required information to evaluate the survivability of the MH-60R. Testing, beginning with the program's full-scale development tests and the available combat data on earlier versions of this aircraft, indicates that the MH-60R will be more survivable than previous models of this airframe.




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