They will serve to replace the older SH-60B of the Aircraft Fleet

MH-60R Seahawk: this is the new multi-mission helicopter that the Spanish Navy will receive

This week we have learned about one of the new acquisitions that Spain will make in defense matters, specifically for the Navy.

The Spanish Navy announces its 12th Squadron and the goodbye of the AB-212 and the Cayuse
The Air Arm of the Spanish Navy in old photographs of the US National Archives

The Spanish Navy will receive eight MH-60R

This Tuesday, April 18, the Council of Ministers approved the purchase of eight Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, stating the following in this regard: "The basic purpose of this program is the acquisition of eight multipurpose naval helicopters, model 'Multi-Misssion Multi -Role Helicopter' (MH-60R). The amount of this project amounts to 820,515,490.36 euros and affects the annuities between 2023 and 2029."

A Spanish Navy SH-60B Seahawk on the flight deck of the F-103 frigate "Blas de Lezo" on October 15, 2019 (Photo: U.S. Navy).

The current fleet of SH-60 Seahawks of the Spanish Navy

The raison d'être of this new acquisition is to replace the older helicopters in the SH-60 Seahawk fleet of the Spanish Navy, made up of 20 units in total: 12 SH-60B (6 from the initial variant and another 6 of the Block I variant) and 8 SH-60F purchased from the United States Navy for transport missions. The first six SH-60Bs arrived in Spain on December 2, 1988, being part of the 10th Squadron of the Navy Aircraft Flotilla.

A Spanish Navy SH-60B during vertical replenishment training (VERTREP) on the US Navy destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) on May 26, 2016 (Photo: U.S. Navy).

The six SH-60B Block I were received by the 10th Squadron of the Spanish Navy in October 2002. After their arrival, the initial six SH-60Bs were upgraded to the Block I Core B version, in order to have a homogeneous fleet. The Spanish Navy usually operates these helicopters from its frigates, both the "Santa María" class (F-80) and the "Álvaro de Bazán" class (F-100).

An MH-60R of the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 79 of the United States Navy in the hangar of the 10th Squadron of the Spanish Navy at the Rota Naval Base in January 2023. On the left we see one of the Spanish SH-60B (Photo: U.S. Navy).

This is the MH-60R multimission helicopter

The development of the MH-60R began in 1999 from the SH-60B. Outwardly they are very similar. The difference between the initials of both helicopters indicates their capabilities: in US Navy aircraft designations, SH is assigned to helicopters whose primary mission is anti-submarine warfare (such as the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite, the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King and the aforementioned SH-60 Seahawk), while the initials MH are assigned to multi-mission helicopters.

An MH-60R Seahawk of the US Navy's Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74 armed with two Hellfire air-to-surface missiles (Photo: U.S. Navy).

The main difference between the SH-60B and the MH-60R will be noticed by the crew members. While most of the SH-60B's instruments are analog, the MH-60's cockpit 60R has four large color multifunction displays to control the various on-board systems. That will make navigation much easier for your pilots. In addition, these screens are compatible with night vision goggles.

The interior of the cockpit of an MH-60R (Photo: Lockheed Martin).

In addition, the MH-60R includes advanced digital sensors with a multi-mode radar, an electronic back-up measurement system, an electro-optical/infrared camera including FLIR and laser rangefinder, data links, survivability systems from aircraft, immersion sonar and sonobuoys (the latter was already available on the SH-60B, with its launchers located on the port side).

An MH-60R of the U.S. Navy's Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 51 doing a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) on July 13, 2021 ( Photo: U.S. Navy).

Lockheed Martin highlights that the MH-60R's fully integrated mission system processes sensor data "to build a complete situational picture of the ocean surface and subsea domain", so that the crew can "track, target and engage ships or submarines effectively and efficiently."

An MH-60R of the U.S. Navy's Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46 aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) on April 18, 2019 (Photo: U.S. Navy).

The MH-60R also includes an AAR-47 missile approach warning system, an ALE-39 anti-missile decoy dispenser, and an AN/ALQ-144 airborne infrared jammer against missiles heat driven. Among the advantages that Lockheed Martin points out for this helicopter is that it achieves 95% availability for flight, an excellent figure which is explained by easier maintenance for mechanics.

An MH-60R of the US Navy's Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 firing a Hellfire air-to-surface missile (Photo: U.S. Navy).

As for weapons, the MH-60R can launch Mark 54 MAKO anti-submarine torpedoes (a type of weapon with which Spain will equip its future F-110 frigates) and air-to-surface missiles AGM- 114 Hellfire , in addition to small arms in the right door of the helicopter. Due to these capabilities, the US Navy - which has operated the MH-60R since 2006 - has renamed its former SH-60B-equipped Anti-Submarine Light Squadrons (HSL) as Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadrons (HSM).


Main photo: U.S. navy. An MH-60R Seahawk of the US Navy's Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 taking off from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) on May 8, 2018.

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