December 18, 2013 by Kris Osborn - defensetech.org
Navy engineers are upgrading the MH-60R helicopters’ radar, improving its sonar technologies and adding laser-guided precision rockets, service officials said.
The torpedo-armed combat helicopter, in service since 2005, is configured with weapons and sensors designed for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, said Capt. James Glass, H-60 Multi-Mission Helicopters Program Manager.
The MH-60R is equipped with two torpedos, the Mk 50 and Mk 54 as well as rockets and small arms.
Glass said the MH-60S is slated to fire a M197 20mm gatling gun produced by General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products. The three-barrel, 132-pound gun can fire up to 1,500 rounds per minute. The M197 is the same weapon which now arms the Marine Corps’ Cobra helicopter.
The MH-60R is also getting equipped with precision-guided 2.75in folding fin rockets by March of 2015, Glass said. The program, called Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, or APKWS, uses semi-active laser guidance to create precision targeting technology for the Hydra 70, or 2.75in rockets fired from the MH-60R, he added.
APKWS has been in existence for several years and has been tested on fixed wing aircraft by the Air Force as well. The Navy’s MH-60S model helicopter is slated to receive APKWS by March of 2014.
The aircraft’s maritime-specific radar system is specifically geared toward detecting submarines and conducting anti-surface warfare missions with a 360-degree field of view, said Glass.
Glass said the Navy has a new multi-mode version of the radar system for the MH-60, called the APS-153, which will reach the fleet by January of next year. The new upgraded radar will have automatic radar periscope detection and discrimination, or ARPDD, he said.
“The upgraded multi-mode radar will allow the operator to detect smaller targets much more quickly,” Glass added.
The radar achieves this imaging capability, in part, through a technique Glass described as Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar or ISAR mode, a technology which helps operators get a rendering, image or representation of a target or item of interest.
Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar uses the motion of the contact to create a picture of the contact, said Capt. A.C. Lynch, H-60 International Programs Manager.
“The 360-degree radar is designed to identify surface contacts. There are several modes from long-range search to short range search, ISAR, and ARPDD – the radar periscope detect mode to detect submarines,” Glass said.
Made by a firm called Telephonics, the APS-153 is able to detect moving ship targets at night and under restricted visibility situations using the hi-resolution radar, according to statements from the company.
Engineers are also improving the reliability of the MH-60R’s Airborne Low-Frequency Sonar, or ALFS, a high tech sonar system attached to several thousand feet of cable able to lower it under the water to detect submarines.
The Raytheon-built AN/AQS-22 dipping sonar is nine times more effective than previous versions of similar technology. The system has been in service since 2009 and 2010. However, the Navy is now working on technical improvements.
“We’re going after smaller engineering and technical challenges. If we find a piece of hardware that we can improve that will keep the system more reliable, we are incorporating that in these sonars,” Glass said.
The helicopter is engineered with landing gear designed for ship landings. Also, the MH-60R is built with a folding pylon tail and folding rotorblades so as to minimize the amount of space taken up on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, destroyer, frigate or amphibious assault ship, Glass said.
“The whole thing can be folded up and stuffed in a hangar,” he said.