Diesel boats beware

Diesel subs, diesel subs, everyone's worried about diesel subs. With the advent of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) and the proliferation of German- and Russian-made diesel designs -- including to our favorite bugaboo Iran -- a lot of folks in the U.S. Navy are working really hard on ways to find and kill these quiet, lethal boats.mh-60r.jpgEnter the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin MH-60R Seahawk helicopter. This new bird will boost the Navy's ability to root out pesky diesels and make the littorals safe for $5-billion carriers.The so-called "Romeo" is a major driver behind a massive overhaul of the Navy's helicopter fleet. Five years ago the Navy flew seven helo models each in relatively stovepiped missions. SH-60B Seahawks droned along the outer edges of a battlegroup sensing for magnetic disturbances caused by large submarines. SH-60Fs dipped sonars into the middle zone of a carrier group to spot infiltrating submarines. HH-60Hs rescued downed pilots. MH-53E Sea Dragons towed mine-detecting gear. CH-46 Sea Knights hauled supplies. What the Navy needed was a larger helo force that it could swing between missions -- say, to swarm an enemy coast on day one clearing out the diesel subs then switch to fighting small suicide boats on day two while retaining the ability to do urgent resupply, noncombatant evacuation or search and rescue.The Romeo model of the Seahawk will perform all these missions and more -- and do them better than earlier choppers thanks to better equipment and aircrew training. The key to the latter is a new simulator built by firm Manned Flight Simulators that can replicate the tricky acoustics of littoral waters.The first four Romeos have been fielded by San Diego-based training squadron HSM-41. As many as 300 more worth $3 billion will follow in the next decade. Alongside the transport- and cargo-optimized MH-60S, which shares an airframe and cockpit with the Romeo, the MH-60R will provide the Navy a large, flexible and lethal helo force capable of taking out quiet diesel subs and blazing a trail for vulnerable carriers in coastal waters.Read on at Military.com. And check out my Flickr for pics.--David Axe

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