PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- Two MH-60R helicopters recently got a break from the cold weather at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Patuxent River, Md., and spent three successful weeks in the Caribbean as part of its developmental test phase.
"This was a very important milestone in the development of the MH-60 Romeo, which along with the MH-60 Sierra, is the cornerstone of the Chief of Naval Operation's future helicopter concept of operations," said Capt. William Shannon, manager of the H-60 helicopter program. "It was a good first stretch of our systems that was performed on schedule."
Romeo achieved several firsts while at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC). The first shipboard landing with a Romeo was completed aboard USS Gettysburg (CG 64). The first in-flight launch of a sonobuoy from a Romeo was also recorded. And, this was the first time Romeo located a submarine using airborne low frequency sonar (ALFS) and at the same time conducted a radar sweep of the surface environment using the multimode radar and electronic surveillance measures (ESM).
"We haven't had this capability in the past," said Cmdr. Jim Glass, MH-60R government flight test director assigned to the Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron. "The amount of information flowing into the helicopter has tremendously increased for the three operators aboard. The individual systems are more robust and more sensitive than they were in the past, and now we can put all that together and operate them at the same time."
More than 50 NAVAIR test team members accompanied the two Romeos to AUTEC. Pilots logged 126 hours on the two helicopters in three weeks and captured all of the data required by the test plan.
"This was a tremendous team effort by Glass and his team at VX-21 who worked closely with Lockheed Martin to get the two Romeos prepared for flight test and safely conclude this operation," Shannon said.
The tests primarily looked at how the radar, acoustics and ESM systems worked together. NAVAIR engineers also evaluated the Romeo's data fusion system, which takes data from the subsystems and fuses them into one piece of information for the crew. This test phase puts all the systems together in one package and verifies the expected performance of each system, as well as how they function and communicate with each other.
This was the first phase for the Romeo where the test team actually performed mission profiles to see if it could conduct a complete mission. AUTEC, with its uniquely instrumented range, is the only facility where this type of acoustics testing is conducted.
"A number of milestones were met at AUTEC," Shannon said. "We operated against real-world targets and exercised the full systems capability with fleet assets."
During testing, the pilot puts the Romeo into a hover, dips the ALFS - part of the acoustics suite - into the water and waits for signals to return. While ALFS is doing its job underwater, the radar is picking up information from the surface, and ESM data is also collected at the same time.
"The Romeo will bring tremendous capabilities and more information to the warfighter," Shannon said. "The Romeo and Sierra will provide surface warfare protection, under surface warfare protection and situational awareness for the carrier battle group of the future."
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