Weapon Systems

MH-60R Seahawk helicopter gives navies edge in anti-submarine warfare


The versatile helicopter is equipped with heavy weapons and a fully integrated mission system that allows for complete situational awareness of the sea surface and sub-sea domain.

Share this article

An MH-60R Seahawk takes off from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. [CENTCOM]
An MH-60R Seahawk takes off from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. [CENTCOM]

The MH-60 Seahawk helicopter is providing US and allied navies with a vital edge in international waters with its unparalleled capabilities in anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

The MH-60 has several versions, but the MH-60R is specifically equipped to handle ASW, anti-surface warfare and special operations, including search-and-rescue.

The MH-60 has the ability to fold the main rotor blades and has a hinged tail to reduce its footprint aboard ship.

The aircraft is deployed aboard a number of US naval vessels, including Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Wasp-class amphibious assault ships.

A US naval air crewman provides overwatch security from an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter. [CENTCOM]
A US naval air crewman provides overwatch security from an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter. [CENTCOM]

The helicopters are also operational with Turkish Naval Forces, the Hellenic Navy, the Royal Danish Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and the Indian Navy.

More than 300 MH-60s are operational worldwide.

Systems and weaponry

The MH-60R is capable of carrying eight AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, according to Lockheed.

The Hellfire has a "fire-and-forget" capability, which means it can hit targets without further guidance after launch and without the launcher requiring line of sight of the target.

The latest iteration of the well-tested air-to-ground missile, the AGM-114R Hellfire II, can be used against soft, hard and enclosed targets and can be launched from higher altitudes than previous versions.

The helicopter can also carry Mk 46, Mk 50 or Mk 54 light air-launched torpedoes and AGM-119B Penguin anti-ship missiles, and can be fitted with a heavy machine gun out the side door, according to Military Today.

The Penguin missile is a short-to-medium range inertially guided missile with infrared (IR) terminal homing.

In terms of sensors, the MH-60R has a full-integrated mission system that can build a complete situational awareness on the sea surface and sub-sea domain, giving the crew the ability to track and engage ships and submarines effectively.

The helicopter is equipped with the long- and short-range APS-147 multi-mode radar; the AQS-22 Airborne Low Frequency Sonar with expanded littoral and deep-water capability, including sonar and sonobuoy processing capability; and the ALQ-210 Electronic Support Measures system for passive detection, location and identification of emitters, according to Lockheed.

The MH-60R is also equipped with an integrated self defense system that provides chaff and flare countermeasures, and self-protection for radio frequency and laser threats.

Upgrades continuing

The US Navy plans to use the MH-60R until 2045 and beyond, and is investing in increased capabilities, lethality and safety for its fleet.

To improve the speed and accuracy of data transfer on MH-60R/S platforms, the Navy plans to upgrade the MH-60's Link 16 systems, according to Navy Aviation Vision 2030-2035.

Link 16 is a communication system for transmitting and exchanging real-time tactical data among the US military, NATO and other allies.

The Navy is also investing in upgrades to the Minotaur mission system to "improve the common operating picture while also increasing aircrew situational awareness by enabling robust, cross-platform, measurement-level data sharing," according to the document published in October 2021.

"As an organic aviation [ASW] platform in the [carrier strike group], the MH-60R will gain added capability and lethality to protect the [aircraft carrier] against near-peer threat submarines," it said.

The helicopter will also receive Digital Magnetic Anomaly Detection for non-acoustic ASW capability, according to the document.

Meanwhile, the fielding and incorporation of the Mk 54 Mod 2 advanced lightweight torpedo will offer enhanced propulsion and an improved warhead.

Do you like this article?

Captcha *