By Carlo Munoz
Published: 8 August 2011
Washington: For the first time, the Navy’s MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter is heading to a foreign military.
The two helos delivered to the Thai navy today will give those forces the same combat search and rescue to troop transport capabilities as their U.S. Navy counterparts, said Michael Sears, the Navy’s international deputy program manager for the MH-60 program.
“MH-60S ‘Sierra’ helicopters have proven to be highly reliable utility aircraft for the U.S. Navy fleet. We are honored to provide Thailand with the same capability,” Sears said in a statement issued today.
Along with Thailand, Lockheed has locked in foreign sales of the new helo to the Australians, and possibly Danish, South Korean and Saudi Arabian militaries. The Australian helicopters are set to deliver by fiscal year 2014, Navy officials say.
The Knighthawk sales highlight a trend among American defense industry firms, who are reaching out to growing markets in Asia and the Middle East to keep their spreadsheets in the black.
U.S. defense firms are entering a “about a five- to seven-year window of opportunity that only comes along once in a while in the international arena,” Boeing military aviation chief Chris Chadwick told AOL Defense earlier this year.
The potential sales that could be pushed through that window, he added, will be largely focused on Asia and the Middle East.
That push by industry is already well underway.
Northrop Grumman is already moving to accelerate sales of its RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Japan and Australia.
Boeing recently released a new international version of the Navy’s F-18 fighter jet, which came shortly after the company finalized a ten-plane, $4.1 billion dollar deal in June.
Along with the MH-60, the Navy has already handed over delivery and pricing data to the Saudis on the Littoral Combat Ship, in response to the Saudi Naval Expansion Plan II.
Washington and Riyadh have also discussed sales of the R version of the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft and MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned drone as part of that plan.
All told, U.S. defense companies could clear between $10 to $20 billion in military sales as part of SNEP II.