Lockheed Martin announced on October 12 that its Sikorsky business unit had received a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract – worth $379.58m – from the US Navy to produce eight MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission maritime helicopters for the Spanish Navy.
This deal forms part of a wider $950m procurement that will also include associated support equipment, weapons and other services. In 2022, the Spanish Navy retired the last of its 18 SH-3 Sea King helicopters that were initially delivered in 1966. However, the eight MH-60Rs will actually serve as a replacement for the Navy’s 12 newer SH-60Bs (delivered from 1988 to 2001) in the anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare (ASW/ASuW) roles, while also providing search-and-rescue (SAR), vertical replenishment, naval surface fire support, logistic support, communications relay, personnel transport and MEDEVAC capabilities.
Work under the contract is due to be completed in March 2027, but the delivery dates have yet to be announced. In September 2018, the Spanish government ordered seven NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopters (NFH) with folding rotor blades and tailboom, and a strengthened undercarriage to replace the six interim ex-US Navy SH-60Fs that were received from 2017. The NH90s will be delivered between 2023-2025.
The Navy is expected to buy more MH-60Rs or NH90s to plug the gap left by the now-retired Sea Kings and its experience with the two new types is likely to influence which aircraft is selected. The global MH-60R fleet is now more than 300-strong, serving with the Indian Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Danish Air Force, Royal Saudi Naval Forces and the US Navy. Seahawk deliveries to Greece and South Korea are due to begin in 2024. In May 2023, the US Navy announced that the fleet had surpassed one million flying hours.