The Navy issued a request for information (RFI) Jan. 28 to start analyzing options to replace and succeed the current fleet of Sikorsky [LMT] MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters and Northrop Grumman [NOC] MQ-8B/C Fire Scout autonomous helicopters.
In November 2019, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council validated an initial capability document for future vertical life maritime strike. This established a requirement for a vertical lift capability supporting the Navy, specifically recapitalizing the current fleet of Sea Hawks and Fire Scouts. The new helicopter system is expected to have initial operational capability in the mid-2030s, when the older aircraft start to reach the end of their service lives.
Now, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV N98) has directed this Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) RFI to help identify cost-effective alternatives to fill the future capability gaps in MH-60R/S and MQ-8C fleets.
“The MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and the MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Air Vehicles are the pillars of the Naval Helicopter Concept of Operations for the 21st century,” the solicitation said.
“The Warfighting Capability provided, whether deployed as Carrier Air Wing squadrons embarked on aircraft carriers under the leadership of carrier air wing commanders or as Expeditionary squadrons embarked on LHAs/LHDs, surface combatants and logistics vessels, is broad and unparalleled in naval warfare,” it added.
Under this project, N98 identified a requirement to assess potential solutions for capability gaps due to increasingly sophisticated adversaries and capacity gaps incurred with aging and expected retirement of the MH-60 and MQ-8 aircraft.
“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 Unmanned Air Vehicles systems.”
Alternatives from industry will be assessed according to mission areas and categories including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (IST&T); surface warfare (SUW); anti-submarine warfare (ASW); mine countermeasures (MCM); air warfare (AW); electronic warfare (EW); search and rescue (SAR); command and control; special operations forces support; embark aviation and air capable ships; conduct logistics; conduct patient movement; and signature control.
Final responses are due by April 13.