Home Americas US Navy begins search for MH-60R/S, MQ-8B/C successors

US Navy begins search for MH-60R/S, MQ-8B/C successors

MH-60S and MQ-8B
MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters and one MQ-8B at the Wallops Flight Facility. Photo: US Navy

The US Navy appears to be looking into joining the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program as it begins its search for the successors to the MH-60R/S helicopter and MQ-8B/C unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Maritime Strike (MS) established a requirement for a vertical lift capability to replace the MH-60R/S and MQ-8B/C as they reach their end of service in the 2030s. The timeframe would roughly coincide with the arrival of first systems under the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition.

In the “analysis of alternatives” (AoA) solicitation published on the US government’s contracting site, the navy said the MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and the MQ-8 Fire Scout UAS were the pillars of the naval helicopter concept of operations for the 21st century.

However, Future Vertical Lift Maritime Strike has identified a requirement to assess potential solutions for capability gaps due to the increasingly sophisticated adversary as well as capacity gaps incurred with aging and expected retirement of the MH-60 and the MQ-8.

“Identification of solution options for these gaps for a family of manned and unmanned systems is of paramount importance and is expected to support the broad range of decisions associated with the recapitalization of the MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and the MQ-8 Fire Scout UAS,” the Navy said in the AOA.

Each of the competitors in the Army’s FLRAA program to replace the Black Hawk helicopter could be considered a candidate for the replacement of the MH-60, a marinized version of the Black Hawk. The Sikorsky-Boeing team, who are competing against Bell and its V-280 Valor solution, have already shown graphics of their Defiant aircraft in a marinized version aboard a US Navy ship.

The US Army’s FVL undertaking also includes the development of a Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (FTUAS), which could inform the navy’s search for a successor to the MQ-8 Fire Scout.