Naval Air: Seahawks Replacing Sea Kings

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July 18, 2012: The Persian Gulf state of Qatar has ordered 22 American MH-60 Seahawk helicopters, with the option to buy six more. Twelve will be the 60S version and ten the 60R. These will replace Qatar's aging British Sea King helicopters. Seahawks have been a frequent replacement for elderly Sea Kings, despite the intense competition in this corner of the helicopter market. Qatar had earlier this year ordered twelve UH-60Ms, equipped with radar and a six barrel 7.62mm machine-guns for use in coastal patrol, as well as for moving personnel and cargo.

The MH-60R is a navalized version of the 11 ton U.S. Army UH-60. The ASW version uses computers, sonar, and radar to search for submarines. This involves sailors on the MH-60Rs staring at a screen most of the time, while manipulating the sensors and computers to detect and locate subs. Once you have a solid location fix you can launch a torpedo and sink the enemy vessel. The MH-60R uses a sonar that operates in active (broadcasting) and passive (just listening) mode. There is a dipping sonar, which is lowered into the water from the helicopter using an 806 meter (2,500 foot) cable and winch. The MH-60R is also 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 above the surface). The sonar system also uses sonobuoys, which are dropped and communicate wirelessly.

MH-60S was designed to replace existing 11 ton, 1960s era, CH-46D helicopters. The ten ton MH-60S is superior to the older CH-46D in most ways (load, range, speed, reliability) but is smaller, so it can use the landing pads on destroyers and frigates. The navalized versions of the UH-60 are more expensive because of anti-corrosion features (salt water rusts unprotected metal and damages other components), more powerful engines, folding blades, a hoist system, more advanced electronics, and numerous other changes.

Qatar is still buying European helicopters, having ordered 18 AW139 transport helicopters, for about $22 million each, four years ago. This eight ton chopper can carry up to 15 passengers and can get by with just one pilot. Cruise speed is 288 kilometers an hour and endurance averages 3.2 hours. The AW149, a military version of the AW139, will be available in four years. The AW139 competes with the U.S. UH-60 and another European helicopter, the slightly larger NH90. The Qataris have seen a lot of UH-60s in the past decade because of an agreement that allows some American troops to be based in Qatar.

 


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