SH-60F/HH-60H/HH-60J (Sikorsky S-70B) Seahawk Helicopter Edited & Written by Ken Caniglia


SH-60B/SH-60F/HH-60H/HH-60J/MH-60R/MH-60S (Sikorsky S-70B) Seahawk Helicopter

Edited by Ken Caniglia

The Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk (or Sea Hawk) is a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission United States Navy helicopter based on the United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family. The most significant airframe modification are a folding main rotor and hinged/folding tail pylon to reduce its footprint aboard ships.

The U.S. Navy uses the H-60 airframe under the model designations SH-60B, SH-60F, HH-60H, MH-60R, and MH-60S. Able to deploy aboard any air-capable frigate, destroyer, cruiser, fast combat support ship, amphibious assault ship, or aircraft carrier, the Seahawk can handle anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), naval special warfare (NSW) insertion, search and rescue (SAR), combat search and rescue (CSAR), vertical replenishment (VERTREP), and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). All Navy H-60s carry a rescue hoist for SAR/CSAR missions.

During the 1970s, the U.S. Navy began looking to upgrade the capabilities of the SH-2F and more fully integrated with shipboard weapon systems. The SH-2 Seasprite was used by the Navy as its platform for the Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mark I avionics suite for maritime warfare and a secondary search and rescue capability. Advances in sensor and avionic technology lead to the LAMPS Mk II suite being developed by the Naval Air Development Center (NADC). The initial NADC work started with an SH-2F test bed, but transitioned to an SH-3H because of size/weight constraints of the prototype avionics.

In 1974, the Navy conducted a competition to develop the Lamps MK III concept which would integrate both the aircraft and shipboard systems. The Navy selected IBM Federal Systems to be the Prime systems integrator, hence the start of the Lamps MK III concept. IBM was selected because they were also responsible for the UYS-1 Common Acoustic Processor and the SSQ-89 Shipboard Undersea Warfare Combat System on CRUDES ships. IBM Federal Systems located in Owego New York has changed hands, and is now owned by Lockheed Martin.

Since the SH-2 was not large enough to carry the Navy’s required equipment a new airframe was required. In the mid-1970s, the Army evaluated the Sikorsky YUH-60 and Boeing Vertol YUH-61 (conventional 4 bladed single rotor helicopter) for its Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) competition.[4] The Navy based its requirements on the Army’s UTTAS specification because of similar size/weight capability and to decrease costs from commonality. [3] Sikorsky and Boeing-Vertol submitted proposals for Navy versions of their Army UTTAS helicopters in April 1977 for review. The Navy also looked at helicopters being produced by Bell, Kaman, Westland and MBB, but these were too small for the mission. In early 1978 the Navy selected Sikorsky’s S-70B design,[3] which was designated “SH-60B Seahawk” to be the new airframe to carry the Lamps MK III avionics.

IBM was the prime systems integrator for the Lamps Mk III with Sikorsky as the airframe manufacturer. The SH-60B maintained 83% commonality with the UH-60A.[5] The main changes were corrosion protection, more powerful T700 engines, single-stage oleo main landing gear, removal of the left side door, adding two weapon pylons, and shifting the tail landing gear 13 feet (3.96 m) forward to reduce the footprint for shipboard landing. Other changes included larger fuel cells, main rotor blade folding system, folding tail pylon/horizontal stabilators for storage, and adding a 25-tube pneumatic sonobuoy launcher on the left side.[6] An emergency flotation system was originally installed in the stub wing fairings of the main landing gear; however, it was found to be impractical and possibly impede emergency egress, and thus was subsequently removed. Five YSH-60B Seahawk LAMPS III prototypes were ordered, BuNos 161169-161173. The first flight occurred on 12 December 1979. The first production SH-60B made its first flight on 11 February 1983. The SH-60B entered operational service
with HSL-41 in 1984 with first operational deployment by HSL-43 in 1985.[4]

A Seahawk hovers during a simulated casualty evacuation as MARSOC operators carry a stretcher.

The SH-60B is deployed primarily aboard frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. Total procurement was 181 aircraft. The primary missions of the SH-60B are anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. It carries a complex system of sensors integrated through the AYK-14 Mission Computer and common tactical display/key set. Avionics included the APS-124 surface search radar, ALQ-142 ESM system, UYS-1 Acoustic Processor, the AQS-81 towed Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD), ARQ-44 sensor datalink, air-launched sonobuoys and an optional AAS-44 nose-mounted forward looking infrared radar (FLIR). In the late 1980s, the Block I upgrade was incorporated which included GPS, Mk50 torpedoes, 99 channel sonobuoy receiver and a targeting mode for the Radar/left hand extended pylon (LHEP) to support the Penguin anti-surface missile. To support the increased mission weight of the aircraft, theT700 engines were upgraded from 1,700 shp to 1,900 shp with the 401C version and the main rotor transmission was upgraded from 3000 shp to 3400 shp with the Improved Durability Main Gearbox (IDGB). Munitions carried include the Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54 torpedo, AGM-114 Hellfire missile, and a single cabin-door-mounted M60D/M240 7.62 mm (0.30 in) machine gun or GAU-16 .50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun.

A standard crew for an SH-60B is one pilot, one ATO/Co-Pilot (Airborne Tactical Officer), and an enlisted aviation warfare systems operator (sensor operator). The U.S. Navy operated the SH-60B in Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron, Light (HSL) squadrons. All HSL squadrons were redesignated Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) squadrons and transitioned to the MH-60R between 2006 and 2015.

The Spanish Navy also procured six SH-60B aircraft to operate with its Frigate fleet. The Spanish were the only foreign government to operate the SH-60B.

The SH-60J is a version of the SH-60B airframe for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, but does not have the Lamps MK III avionic suite. The SH-60K is a modified version of the SH-60J. The SH-60J and SH-60K are built under license by Mitsubishi in Japan.[7][8]

After the SH-60B entered service,[9] the Navy conducted a competition to replace the SH-3 Sea King. The competitors were Sikorsky, Kaman with the SH-2 and IBM (SH-60B avionics with AQS-13 Sonar). Sikorsky began development of this variant in March 1985. In January 1986, seven SH-60Fs were ordered including two prototypes (BuNos 163282/3). The first example flew on 19 March 1987.[11] The SH-60F was based on the SH-60B airframe, but with upgraded SH-3H avionics including an upgraded TACNAV and AQS-13F Sonar.

The SH-60F primarily served as the carrier battle group’s primary antisubmarine warfare (ASW) aircraft. The helicopter hunted submarines with its AQS-13F dipping sonar, and carried a 6-tube sonobuoy launcher. The SH-60F is unofficially named “Oceanhawk”.[11] The SH-60F can carry Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54 torpedoes for its offensive weapons, and it has a choice of fuselage-mounted machine guns, including the M60D, M240D, and GAU-16 (.50 caliber) for self-defense. The standard aircrew consists of one pilot, one co-pilot, one tactical sensor operator (TSO), and one acoustic sensor operator (ASO). The SH-60F was operated by the U.S Navy’s Helicopter Antisubmarine (HS) squadrons until they were redesignated Helicopter Sea Combat (HCS) squadrons transitioned to the MH-60S. The last HS squadron completed its transition in 2016.

The SH-60F entered operational service on 22 June 1989 with Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 10 (HS-10) at NAS North Island.[19] SH-60F squadrons planned to shift from the SH-60F to the MH-60S from 2005 to 2011 and were to be redesignated Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC).[31]

As one of the two squadrons in the US Navy dedicated to Naval Special Warfare support and combat search and rescue, the HCS-5 Firehawks squadron deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. The squadron completed 900 combat air missions and over 1,700 combat flight hours. The majority of their flights in the Iraqi theater supported special operations ground forces missions.

Based on the SH-60F, the HH-60H was developed in conjunction with the US Coast Guard’s HH-60J. The Navy competed the requirement with two competitors responding, Sikorsky with the SH-60F and Kaman with the SH-2. In September 1986, Sikorsky was awarded a contract for the first five helicopters. The variant’s first flight occurred on 17 August 1988. Deliveries of the HH-60H began in 1989. The variant earned initial operating capability in April 1990 and was deployed to Desert Storm with HCS-4 and HCS-5 in 1991.[11] The HH-60H’s official DoD and Sikorsky name is Seahawk, though it has been called “Rescue Hawk”.[12]

An HH-60H Seahawk deploying a SAR swimmer

The HH-60H is the primary combat search and rescue (CSAR), naval special warfare (NSW) and anti-surface warfare (ASUW) helicopter. It carries various defensive and offensive sensors, it is one of the most survivable helicopters in the world. Sensors include the AAS-44 FLIR with laser designator and the Aircraft Survival Equipment (ASE) package including the ALQ-144 Infrared Jammer, AVR-2 Laser Detectors, APR-39(V)2 Radar Detectors, AAR-47 Missile Launch Detectors and ALE-47 chaff/flare dispensers. Engine exhaust deflectors provide infrared thermal reduction reducing the threat of heat-seeking missiles. The HH-60H can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles on an extended wing using (LHEP) the M299 launcher and a variety of mountable guns including M60D, M240, GAU-16 and GAU-17/A machine guns.

The HH-60H’s standard crew is pilot, copilot, an enlisted crew chief, and two door gunners or one rescue swimmer. Originally operated by HCS-5 and HCS-4 (later HSC-84), these two special USNR squadrons were established with the primary mission of Naval Special Warfare and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). Due to SOCOM budget issues the squadrons were deactivated in 2006 and 2016 respectively. The HH-60H was also operated by Helicopter Antisubmarine (HS) squadrons with a standard dispersal of six F-models and two or three H-models before the transition of HS squadrons to HSC squadrons equipped with the MH-60S, the last of which completed its transition in 2016. The only squadron equipped with the HH-60H as of 2016 is HSC-85, one of only two remaining USNR helicopter squadrons (the other being HSM-60 equipped with the MH-60R). In Iraq, HH-60Hs were used by the Navy, assisting the Army, for MEDEVAC purposes and special operations missions.

An MH-60R Seahawk conducts sonar operations

The MH-60R was originally known as “LAMPS Mark III Block II Upgrade” when development began in 1993 with Lockheed Martin (formerly IBM/Loral). The Block II upgrade initially included four basic requirements; increased frequency range for the ESM, adding Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) capability, incorporation of the Airborne Low Frequency dipping Sonar (ALFS) and integrating the existing ASE equipment. Two SH-60Bs were converted by LM/Sikorsky, the first of which made its maiden flight on 22 December 1999. Designated YSH-60R, they were delivered to NAS Patuxent River in 2001 for flight testing. As the program developed, a robust integrated cockpit/crew work station was added to handle the sheer volume of sensor data on the aircraft and to increase pilot situational awareness, referred to as Common Cockpit. Also added were a new acoustic processor (originally the UYS-2), Multi-Spectral Targeting (MTS) FLIR (adding day color, low light and fused imagery), and a Ku band CDL waveform sensor datalink. The program also switched from remanufactured Bravos to new airframes because the existing SH-60B fleet had exceeded its original service life of 10,000 hrs, with some over 14,000 flight hours. Few changes were made to new Romeos, with the most significant being the addition of high speed machined frames in the fuselage, The production variant was redesignated MH-60R to match its multi-mission capability. [13] Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) was completed in October 2005 with full rate production approved in April 2006. The MH-60R was formally deployed by the US Navy in 2006.[14]

The MH-60R is designed to combine the features of the SH-60B with a dipping Sonar.[15] Its sensors include the an integrated ASE package, AAS-52 MTS FLIR, the APS-147 multi-mode radar/IFF interrogator with ISAR imaging,[16] ALQ-210 ESM system, the AQS-22 ALFS dipping sonar, and an advanced airborne sensor data link (ARQ-58/59). It does not carry the MAD suite. Pilot instrumentation is based on a fully integrated glass cockpit with functionally equivalent work stations using two digital monitors instead of the complex array of dials and gauges in Bravo and Foxtrot aircraft. Offensive capabilities are improved by the addition of new Mk-54 air-launched torpedoes and a new right-hand extended weapons pylon (RHEP) with four Hellfire missiles. During a mid-life technology insertion project, the MH-60R fleet shall be fitted with the APS-153 Multi-Mode Radar with Automatic Radar Periscope Detection and Discrimination (ARPDD) capability.[18]

All Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light (HSL) squadrons that receive the Romeo are redesignated Helicopter Strike Maritime (HSM) squadrons.[17] The west coast MH-60R Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), HSM 41, received the MH-60R aircraft in December 2005 and began training the first set of fleet pilots. In August 2008, the first 11 combat-ready Romeos arrived at HSM-71, a squadron assigned to the carrier John C. Stennis.

An MH-60S lifting humanitarian supplies from the deck of USNS Comfort in Haiti 2010

The Navy decided to replace its venerable CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters in 1997. After sea demonstrations by a prototype CH-60 which combined a UH-60L airframe with a SH-60F. The Navy awarded a production contract to Sikorsky for the CH-60S in 1998. The variant first flew on 27 January 2000 and it began flight testing later that year. The CH-60S was redesignated MH-60S in February 2001 to reflect its planned multi-mission use.[19] The MH-60S is based on the UH-60L and has many naval SH-60 features.[20] Unlike all other Navy H-60s, the MH-60S is not based on the original S-70B/SH-60B platform with its forward-mounted twin tail-gear and single starboard sliding cabin door. Instead, the S-model is a hybrid, featuring the main fuselage of the S-70A/UH-60, with large sliding doors on both sides of the cabin and a single aft-mounted tail wheel; and the engines, drivetrain, flight controls and rotors of the S-70B/SH-60.[21][20] It also includes the Common Cockpit featuring an integrated glass cockpit developed by Lockheed Martin for the MH-60R and shares some of the same avionics/weapons systems.

It is deployed aboard aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, Maritime Sealift Command ships, and Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). Its missions include vertical replenishment, medical evacuation, combat search and rescue, anti-surface warfare, maritime interdiction, close air support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and special warfare support. The original MH-60S aircraft fulfilled the VERTREP/Logistics Support missions and were designated Block 1 aircraft. It was followed by the Block 2 upgrade to incorporate various sensor/weapons to detect and destroy mines and the Block 3 upgrade to add ASE, MTS FLIR and Hellfire capability to conduct small boat interdiction and CSAR missions. The MH-60S is to deploy with the AQS-20A Mine Detection System and an Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) for identifying submerged objects in coastal waters. It is the first US Navy helicopter to field a glass cockpit, relaying flight information via four digital monitors. The primary means of defense is with the M60D, M240 or GAU-17/A machine guns. A “batwing” Armed Helo Kit based on the Army’s UH-60 External Weapons Pylons was developed to accommodate Hellfire missiles, Hydra 70 2.75 inch rockets, or larger guns. The MH-60S can be equipped with a nose mounted forward looking infrared (FLIR) like the MH-60R to be used in conjunction with Hellfire missiles; it also carries the ALQ-144 Infrared Jammer.

The MH-60S is unofficially known as the “Knighthawk”, referring to the preceding Sea Knight, though “Seahawk” is its official DoD name. [23][24] A standard crew for the MH-60S is one pilot, one copilot and two tactical aircrewmen depending on mission. With the retirement of the Sea Knight, the squadron designation of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) was also retired from the Navy. Operating MH-60S squadrons were re-designated Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC).[17] The MH-60S was to be used for mine clearing from littoral combat ships, but testing found it lacks the power to safely tow the detection equipment.[25]

On 6 August 2014, the U.S. Navy forward deployed the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) to the U.S. 5th Fleet. The ALMDS is a sensor system designed to detect, classify, and localize floating and near-surface moored mines in littoral zones, straits, and choke points. The system is operated from an MH-60S, which gives it a countermine role traditionally handled by the MH-53E Sea Dragon, allowing smaller ships the MH-53E can’t operate from to be used in the role. The ALMDS beams a laser into the water to pick up reflections from things it bounces off of, then uses that data to produce a video image for technicians on the ground to determine if the object is a mine.[26]

The MH-60S will utilize the BAE Systems Archerfish remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to seek out and destroy naval mines from the air. Selected as a concept in 2003 by the Navy as part of the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) program and developed since 2007, the Archerfish is dropped into the water from its launch cradle, where its human operator remotely guides it down towards the mine using a fiber optics communications cable that leads back up to the helicopter. Using sonar and low-light video, it locates the mine, and is then instructed to shoot a shaped charge explosive to detonate it. BAE was awarded a contract to build and deliver the ROVs in April 2016, which will be delivered in September 2017.[27]






An MH-60R Seahawk firing a live Hellfire missile

Originally, the Bravos only operated off of CRUDES ships using independent 1 to 2 a/c detachments. When the S-3B ASW/ASUW aircraft were retired, this only left the SH-60F to conduct ASW missions on the carriers. This reduced the overall ASW/ASUW capability on Aircraft Carriers and the Romeo was proposed to fill that void, and replace both the S-3B and SH-60F. Today, the MH-60R has a full squadron on-board the carriers for ASW/ASUW support with detachments to the CRUDES ships in the battle group. In addition, a squadron of MH-60S aircraft were added to the carrier to provide the SAR/Logistic Support/CSAR missions. This was as a result of the Navy helicopter community assessing its entire fleet of aircraft against all operational mission needs and looking at consolidating, reassigning, and reorganizing to support the new approach, hence the move to the HSM/HSC squadron construct and MH-60R/S.

On 23 July 2013, Sikorsky delivered the 400th MH-60, an MH-60R, to the U.S. Navy, 166 MH-60R and 234 MH-60S aircraft. The MH-60S is in production until 2015 and will total a fleet of 275 aircraft, and the MH-60R is in production until 2017 and will a total fleet of 291 aircraft. The two models have flown 660,000 flight hours. Seahawk helicopters are to remain in Navy service into the 2030s.[33]

The SH-60B Seahawk completed its last active-duty deployment for the U.S. Navy in late April 2015 after a seven-month deployment aboard USS Gary. After 32 years and over 3.6 million hours of service, the SH-60B was formally retired from U.S. Navy service during a ceremony on 11 May 2015 at Naval Air Station North Island.[34][35] In late November 2015 the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned from its deployment, ending the last active-duty operational deployment of both the SH-60F and HH-60H. Currently all SH-60F aircraft have been taken out of the operational Navy and the HH-60H are only flown by HCS-85 to provide Naval Special Warfare support.