First of Navy Seahawk Romeos completes test flight

The first of 24 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopters destined for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has successfully completed its first test flight, six months ahead of schedule.

Minister for Defence Materiel Dr Mike Kelly said this week that the helicopter passed a range of tests including controllability, engine performance, vibration analysis and navigation as well as the ‘Contractor Flight Acceptance’ phase during the flight at Sikorsky’s production facility in Connecticut, US, on June 26.

“The Federal Government has invested over $3 billion in acquiring 24 MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopters, representing a sizeable commitment toward Australia’s ongoing air combat capability,” Dr Kelly said. “The MH-60R Seahawk Romeo will replace the 16 Seahawk ‘Classic’ helicopters and will introduce an air-to-surface strike capability.

“The US Navy and its industry partners have worked hard to accelerate the Romeo acquisition program and this first flight occurred only two years after contract signature, some six months ahead of the original schedule approved by Government in 2011.”

With the first two due for delivery this December, the 24 Seahawk Romeos will allow the RAN to provide at least eight helicopters embarked at any one time with Australia’s Anzac Class frigates and the new Hobart Class air warfare destroyers, with the remainder based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, NSW.

The Romeos will be operated by 725 Squadron, which is due to re-commission in early 2015. The squadron first formed in the RAN more than 50 years ago, and has a history in the Royal Navy stretching back to August 1943. Originally formed as a fleet requirements unit, 725 Squadron’s aircraft and operations varied considerably before moving to Cornwall to become an air target-towing unit in August 1945. The squadron was commissioned, de-commissioned, and re-commissioned, over a period of decades – its last active date was December 1975.

Aircrew and maintenance staff 725 Squadron have already started training with the United States Navy at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

Commodore Vince Di Pietro, Commander of the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, said the flight was exciting news for the Navy.

“The RAN will very shortly be flying the most capable Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface helicopter in the world and it will be a quantum increase to our current helicopter force – both in numbers and capability,” he said.

Australia's first MH-60R Seahawk Romeo aircraft, complete with RAN kangaroo roundels, conducts its initial test flight at Sikorsky's production facility in Stratford, Connecticut, USA.

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