The last of Navy’s 24 MH-60R maritime combat helicopters was accepted by Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, in a ceremony at Lockheed-Martin’s Logistics and Maintenance Facility at Nowra’s Aviation Technology Park on Monday 12 September.
The MH-60R Romeo is considered the most advanced maritime combat helicopter in the world. The Commonwealth of Australia chose the Romeo in June 2011 to fulfil the Australian Defence Force's requirement for a fleet of new generation, multi-role naval combat aircraft.
In addition to the Romeo’s primary role of anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, it also has the capability for secondary missions including search and rescue, vertical replenishment, naval surface fire support, logistics support, personnel transport and medical evacuation.
Vice Admiral Barrett said the acceptance of the final aircraft marks a major milestone in the next phase of naval aviation.
“What is happening here at Nowra, and has been happening over the last couple of years, is a reflection of where our navy has to go. The Fleet Air Arm has been reinvigorated with new squadrons - 808 and 725, new equipment - the Romeo the MRH-90, and future equipment such as the Helicopter Aircrew Training System which will arrive here shortly.
“This has not been an easy ride. There have been challenges along the way but what I have seen from the Fleet Air Arm, and all those associated with the development of these new projects, has been the ability to take these challenges and solve them, solve them through agile thinking, solve them through innovative thinking and solve them through a sense of purpose about where we need to go.
“This Navy is about to completely recapitalise over the next 15 years and it’s those same attributes that we need to see the rest of Navy follow.
“I see the way that we have to look forward to deliver future capabilities to government and I consider that what has been demonstrated here is the best in how you achieve that.
“Since deciding on the helicopter in December 2011, we have already gained a lot through this project, including initial operating capability last August,” Vice-Admiral Barrett said.
“We have three flights at sea at the moment. We have great training from 725 Squadron and we have 816 Squadron operating these aircraft at sea.
“This is the future of Naval Aviation, alongside those other squadrons providing new aircraft and new equipment to both train and support the combat role provided by Romeo.
“But it is a team effort - it is Lockheed Martin, it is Sikorsky, it is the Capability Acquisition Sustainment Group, the Romeo project office, the United States Navy, the Naval Aviation Systems Program Office and the Fleet Air Arm, most noticeably 725 and 816 Squadrons.
“But it also the contractors, subcontractors and locals who have allowed us to put this entire capability together, I acknowledge you all.
“We have done the right thing in the way we have brought Romeo into service and this system is worthy of any operator of Romeos anywhere in the world.”
The event included a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Logistics and Maintenance Facility which supports the new fleet.
While Fleet Air Arm personnel will perform day-to-day operational maintenance on the Romeo fleet, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky will support the RAN through the Maritime Helicopter Support Company (MHSCo), which provides Through Life Support logistics which will sustain peak flight readiness for the Romeo helicopters during the fleet’s estimated 30-year lifespan.