Crew safe after ditching Australian MH-60R at sea

Avatar for Dan ParsonsBy Dan Parsons | October 14, 2021

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 14 seconds.

Australia has grounded its fleet of MH-60R Seahawks after one of the helicopters was ditched in the Philippine Sea on Oct. 13. 

All three crew onboard the aircraft suffered only minor injuries and are safe aboard an Australian naval vessel after the emergency at-sea touchdown during what the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) says was a routine flight. 

Australia MH-60R
A MH-60R ‘Romeo’ Maritime Combat Helicopter, NUSQN 725, loaded with a Mk 54 torpedo during a firing exercise in Florida. Royal Australian Navy Photo

The aircraft was operating from the air warfare destroyer HMAS Brisbane as part of a regional presence deployment with the frigate HMAS Warramunga, when the crew conducted an emergency landing in the water.

Rescue boats launched from Brisbane rescued the crew about 20 minutes later, according to a statement from the Australian DoD. The crew received first aid for minor injuries upon their return to the Brisbane.

Commander of the Australian Fleet, Rear Adm. Mark Hammond, commended the crews of both ships involved for their quick response to the emergency.

“The successful rescue is credit to the devotion to duty and skill of the officers and sailors of HMAS Brisbane,” Hammond said in a statement. “Their immediate actions ensured the survival of the aircrew, validating the significant training undertaken in the event an emergency of this nature occurs. With the aircrew safe, investigating the circumstances that led to the helicopter ditching is the priority at the moment. As a precaution, we have temporarily paused flying operations of the MH-60R Seahawk fleet.”

Australia operates a fleet of 24 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawks, primarily as a sub-hunter and anti-surface ship aircraft. On Oct. 8, the U.S. State Department approved the sale to Australia of another 12 helicopters for $985 million.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a statement announcing the sale. “Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific.”

“This proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay,” DSCA added. “Australia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.”

The aircraft are equipped with Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedoes. Seahawks deploy from the decks of ANZAC class frigates, Hobart class air warfare destroyers and big-deck amphibious assault ships called landing helicopter docks or LHDs.

Both ships involved in the rescue continue to search the area for any debris, which will aid in determining the cause of the incident, according to the Australian DoD.

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