Two of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) MH-60R Seahawk helicopters were loaded onto a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17 at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland, for delivery to their new home in Australia, on May 27, 2015.
These two Seahawks mark the halfway point for the US Navy’s foreign military sales agreement with the Commonwealth of Australia for training and production of 24 MH-60R helicopters, which began in June 2011.
“As they come off the production line, the Australians have picked them up two at a time,” said Cmdr. Scott Stringer, HX-21 MH-60 government flight test director. “This is a multiyear plan that should carry into mid-2016. We are delivering brand new aircraft to the Australians. They still have that new car smell with very few flight hours.”
RAN squadron 725 is in the process of establishing MH-60R operations at NAS Nowra, New South Wales.
Later this year, HX-21 and RAN squadron 725 are scheduled to test unique modifications on the MH-60Rs. These modifications are based on unique RAN requirements and include the addition of an instrument landing system and a crash-survivable data recorder.
The collaborative US and RAN test and evaluation of the MH-60R modifications also allows for an open exchange of professional views and experiences.
Because of interoperability – how the two navies have trained and operated together – Stringer explained how he could foresee a US Navy H-60 pilot seamlessly operating during a cross-deck tour on an Australian ship or vice versa.
“We have six people supporting the MH-60R acquisition and sustainment effort at Pax River and share office space with the RAAF Classic Hornet and Super Hornet sustainment team,” said Cmdr. Andrew Dawes, RAN MH-60R project resident team lead. “This is something we take a great deal of pride in and greatly appreciate the support that everyone at NAS Pax River is providing in this process.”
The mission of HX-21 is to conduct the highest quality developmental flight test and evaluation of rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aircraft, airborne systems in support of all US Navy and United States Marine Corps training, operational combat and operational combat support missions.