29 June 2023

Sikorsky Australia completes deep maintenance of US Navy helicopter at Nowra

| Andrew McLaughlin
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US Navy and Royal Australian Navy MH-60Rs are identical apart from their national insignia. Photos: ADF.

Sikorsky Australia – located at the Albatross Aviation Technology Park near Nowra – has become the first non-US military location in the world capable of performing deep maintenance on US Navy MH-60R ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopters.

The goal was achieved in June with the completion of a Periodic Maintenance Inspection (PMI) of a US Navy MH-60R operated by HSM41 in San Diego by Sikorsky Australia, a subsidiary of global defence giant Lockheed Martin.

Previously, US Navy MH-60R PMIs were only able to be performed at Jacksonville in Florida, San Diego in California, and at the US Navy base at Atsugi in Japan.

The US Navy operates nearly 400 MH-60Rs in the anti-submarine, anti-surface, maritime surveillance and fleet replenishment roles. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) currently operates 23 MH-60Rs, which are all based at Albatross, and has another 13 on order for delivery from next year.

The US MH-60R was delivered to HMAS Albatross on a US Air Force C-17 transport last October, and was inducted into Sikorsky’s large hangar for its PMI earlier this year alongside RAN MH-60Rs.

READ ALSO New apprentices join Sikorsky Australia helicopter maintenance team at Nowra

The RAN’s Director General Navy Aviation, Aircrew Training and Commons, Commodore Darren Rae, said the induction of the US Navy MH-60R into Australian facilities is a strong demonstration of the Australian capability in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The principal aim of this activity was to demonstrate to the US the capability of Australian industry and the pathway available to perform maintenance, repair and overhaul of this helicopter in our region,” he said.

“This demonstration of Australian industry’s support to US Navy helicopter maintenance is a hallmark for the steady progress being made in the US-Australian Alliance.”

Sikorsky Australia’s Albatross facilities employ about 200 staff, 100 of whom work in the maintenance building and adjoining workshops, and a further 70 in the logistics warehouse across the street. About a dozen Sikorsky Australia staff are also embedded with the RAN’s MH-60R training unit, 725 Squadron, to assist with squadron maintenance activities.

The company has to date employed about 20 apprentices from the Shoalhaven and Illawarra regions, primarily as aircraft maintenance engineers and warehouse logisticians.

US Navy MH-60R

The US Navy MH-60R being unloaded at HMAS Albatross from a US Air Force C-17 transport last November.

The maintenance building has space for six MH-60Rs to be worked on simultaneously, but typically has four PMIs running at the same time. The helicopters are inducted every 42 months for a PMI-I, which entails a complete strip-down and inspection of all of the key components. Every second PMI is a more invasive PMI-II, which includes all the paint being stripped from the helicopter and a complete re-paint, also done on-site. Each PMI is scheduled to be completed in 120 days.

Since the MH-60R entered service with the RAN in 2016, Sikorsky Australia has completed 42 PMIs across the fleet. The Albatross facility now has the capability to repair more than 70 different components on-site in addition to the aircraft’s structure, while other parts are sent elsewhere for repair and placed back into the global supply chain.

The US Navy’s H-60 Multi-Mission Helicopters Program Manager, Captain William Hargreaves, said the ability to perform a PMI on US Navy MH-60Rs helped to strengthen the ties between the two countries.

“Demonstrating successful PMI on a US Navy MH-60R in Australia is a testament to our two nation’s shared trust and commitments in our century-long partnership with the Royal Australian Navy,” he said.

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Commodore Rae added, “Australia has a world-class industry capability in Nowra that continues to be highly successful in supporting the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of Romeo helicopters. The Sikorsky Australia team can now add the highly successful completion of this US Navy Romeo deep maintenance activity to its list of achievements.”

Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite was at an event on 26 June to commemorate the PMI’s completion. “Australians performing a deep level maintenance on a Romeo helicopter signifies the trust and confidence of the US Navy in our local industry, and the skill and competence of our tradespeople and technicians,” he said.

“Sikorsky Australia and its employees should rightly be proud of this achievement. It is no small feat to keep the most advanced maritime helicopter in the world fighting-fit.”

Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on Riotact.

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