Australia has officially opened its doors as factory-authorised reconditioner of a staple of US military muscle, the MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ helicopter, after chopper mechanics and engineers in Nowra successfully completed the first official “deep maintenance activity” on American machines sent here for an overhaul.
The successful rebuild and subsequent accreditation by helicopter maker Sikorsky, now part of Lockheed Martin, is a coup for the local shop because it means it can officially take in and turn out American birds from the south coast shed taking the strain off US operations and expanding the servicing footprint.
Helicopters, especially military helicopters, need a lot of servicing by sheer nature of their design and heavy use, as well as mandated deep maintenance — that’s stripping them down and literally checking every part for defects and swapping out components with a designated number of operating hours — to keep them flying.
While the US still manufactures MH-60R Seahawks and its land forces variant the UH-60 Blackhawk, as well as a Polish-made version designated S-70, shipping birds to the northern hemisphere and back for their mandated overhauls can be costly and take time, hence the accreditation of the local shed at Nowra.
It also means the US has a trusted forward full maintenance base for its operations in the region, allowing it to offload work here without schlepping all the way back to a US home port. There is also a set priority to strengthen supply chain interoperability and resilience in the Indo-Pacific.
The core H-60 airframe is prolific and long-lived, being the military successor to the famed Bell UH-1 Huey, of which there are still plenty of variants in service.
Commodore Darren Rae, Director General Navy Aviation and Aircrew Training, hailed the induction of the US Navy MH-60R into Australian hands as a “strategically significant milestone” for both Australia and the United States.
“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,” Rae 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.”
It will also create local aviation industry jobs on the NSW South Coast that remain within easy reach of Sydney, as well as enabling Lockheed Martin to up its headcount.
Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand’s boss Warren McDonald said Sikorsky Australia was honoured to be entrusted by the Australian-US navies as their industry partner.
“Sikorsky Australia’s skilled aircraft maintenance engineers have completed 46 PMIs on the Royal Australian Navy’s MH-60Rs. This experience combined with the Romeo configuration alignment and interchangeable maintenance procedures between our two navies enabled seamless integration of the US Navy Romeo into Sikorsky Australia’s maintenance program,” McDonald said.
The engineer who set up the local shed, former MH-60R Seahawk Romeo Helicopter Assurance Program Co-Lead, Royal Australian Navy Commander Andrew Newman, also scored a decoration for the big effort, receiving the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in January 2023 for “his outstanding achievements and devotion to pursuing this activity.”
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Julian Bajkowski is a research and technical-driven reporter with over 20 years’ experience in technology and cybersecurity journalism. Julian has also been an adviser in public policy and corporate affairs for Mastercard and eftpos.
Tags: HMAS Albatross Huey Lockheed Martin Lockheed Martin ANZ MH-60R MH-60R Seahawk Romeo MH-60R Seahawks Nowra RAN rotary wing Royal Australian Navy S-70 Sikorsky UH-1 UH-60 Blackhawk Warren McDonald
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By Julian Bajkowski
Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment
Parliament of Victoria
Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART)
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (the NDIS Commission)

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