PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- The Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR's) H-60 Program Office recently welcomed the Navy's newest helicopter, MH-60 Romeo, into its first operational evaluation period with the fleet.
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 has two Romeos at NAVAIR Patuxent River, Md., to use as test aircraft. This operational assessment, known as OT-IIA, is the first chance for fleet users to take a look at the aircraft and its systems, and is a significant milestone in the H-60 program.
"A successful completion of OT-IIA will be a major bridge toward full rate production," said Cmdr. Kevin Switick, NAVAIR's H-60 test and evaluation director.
As part of OT-IIA, VX-1 recently tested two Romeos at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in the Caribbean. Testing at AUTEC included evaluation of anti-submarine warfare sensor systems to include the airborne low frequency sonar system, and the sonobuoy deployment and processing system.
OT-IIA is expected to wrap up in the fall. A positive report from VX-1 and the Operational Test and Evaluation Force Command will lead to a major milestone decision. Once the low rate initial production (LRIP) II milestone is achieved, the second build of the LRIP will begin and will produce six more Romeos. These are scheduled to start arriving in 2006.
After OT-IIA, a six-month technical evaluation begins. The October to mid-March period will be like a dress rehearsal for the operational evaluation (OPEVAL). OPEVAL is the last big look at the aircraft, where users take a good hard look at the airframe and its systems. Successful completion of OPEVAL will lead to a milestone III decision, that declares Romeo ready for the fleet and initiates full rate production. The Romeo's initial operational capability is planned for 2005.
The Navy's helicopter master plan has the Romeo scheduled to replace the SH-60F by 2012 and the SH-60B by 2015.
"The MH-60R is the most capable, sophisticated helicopter in the U.S. inventory," said Ken Caniglia, deputy program manager for NAVAIR's PMA-299. "Its enhancements over the SH-60B will provide both significant increases in war fighting capability and flexibility to battle group commanders."
NAVAIR provides advanced warfare technology through the efforts of a seamless, integrated, worldwide network of aviation technology experts.
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