July 18, 2010: Australia wants to buy 24 American MH-60R Sea Hawk naval helicopters. The entire package will cost $2.1 billion ($87.5 million per helicopter). These are new aircraft, and the price includes 12 spare engines, and other spare parts as well, plus tools, training and simulators.
The MH-60R is one of several navalized versions of the U.S. Army Black Hawk. One of the others is the SH-60F. The navalized versions are ten ton helicopters that can carry three tons of personnel or equipment. Cruise speed is 270 kilometers an hour and sorties are usually three hours.
The MH-60R is an anti-submarine version. It is equipped with a radar system for detecting subs on the surface, or just beneath the surface (with only the periscope or snorkel, which provides air for the diesel engine, and gets rid of the exhaust fumes). The sonar system consists of a dipping sonar (connected to the helicopter via a cable) and sonobuoys, that are dropped and communicate wirelessly. Thus the helicopter crew have lots of sensors to monitor while searching for a sub. Actually flying the helicopter is a small part of their job. As a result, there is a computer simulator that enables the three man crew to gain much valuable practice without being anywhere near the helicopter, or the expensive conventional simulators which are excellent for flight training, but overkill for the sensor operators.
Australia is concerned with the growing number of submarines its neighbors are getting, and Chinese subs that are operating farther and farther from their home waters. While Australia has a huge coastline (25,760 kilometers), the major concern is keeping hostile subs away from the few major ports that support a large export and import trade.