Excellence in maritime manufacturing – sustaining maritime systems

Today @AuManufacturing’s editorial series Excellence in maritime manufacturing coinciding with the Indo Pacific 2022 International Maritime Exposition turns to the sustainment task. With the federal government confirming the purchase of a further 12 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, Peter Roberts profiles industry spin-offs in Australia.

The federal government yesterday announced the $8 billion purchase of 41 new helicopters for our defence forces, including 12 additional MH-60R Seahawks to be based at Nowra in the the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales.

The Seahawk naval combat helicopters are fully imported and basically off the shelf models as used by the United States, with industry spin-offs for the Lockheed Martin aircraft concentrated at the HMAS Albatross naval air station where they are based.

And they are potent – sporting Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and the Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedo.

Lockheed Martin Australia’s (LMA) Sikorsky is steadily increasing the value-added work it performs at Nowra and its reliance on a network of local SME manufacturers.

Business development manager Blair Drinkwater told @AuManufactruring the Seahawk was increasingly bringing supply chain and industry opportunities to the region.

Drinkwater said: “Sustainment really does end up making the bulk of any commitment to a platform like the MH-60R.

“When you build a sovereign network of suppliers any operator really gets great value out of enhancing their platforms with sovereign sustainment.”

Sikorsky Australia’s purpose-built Maintenance and Logistics Support facility’s activities cover everything from warehousing, training, technical spares, fault finding and data management to component and airframe repair and sub-contracting local SME manufacturers.

Attracting skilled staff to the regions is always a challenge, but as Drinkwater said: “That’s 195 personnel sustaining Australian aircraft in an Australian location.

“They continued to work right through the pandemic and didn’t miss a beat.”

The company has a commitment to nurture local skills, employing 10 apprentices and training directly and provided contracts worth $450,000 to 30 local suppliers to deliver breakdown spare parts and engineering services.

“They provide some really niche capabilities.

“We just started working with organisations to see how they can manufacture replacement parts in Australia – that’s something we are looking to do in the very near term.”

Sikorsky’s Shoalhaven programme manager Clifford Kyle said the next step for the company was to extend Shoalhaven’s offerings from the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet – soon to be 36 MH-60Rs – to export markets.

Kyle said: “We can offer a lot to the worldwide fleet.”

@AuManufacturing’s editorial series Excellence in maritime manufacturing is brought to you with the support of BAE Systems Australia.

Pictures: MH-60R Seahawk

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