Last week, the chief of staff of the Republic of China Navy (ROCN), Vice Admiral Hsiao Wei-ming, confirmed that Taiwan is seeking to purchase several MH-60R Seahawk anti-submarine warfare helicopters from the United States, Focus Taiwan reports.
We plan to purchase 10 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters,” Vice Admiral Hsiao said during a testimony in front of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Once acquired, the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter will be the most advanced anti-submarine warfare helicopter in the ROCN, according to Hsiao, and will replace the Navy’s aging fleet of MD Defender 500 aircraft. Defense News quoted one expert calling the MD Defender 500 “worn out” and incapable of finding “a submarine unless it was washed up on the beach.”
In July, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense still did not want to commit to the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and tried to downplay its interest. “Taiwan is looking to replace its ageing fleet of MD 500, the Republic of China Navy is still considering what next-generation anti-submarine helicopters meet its requirements,” a ministry spokesperson said back then. “MH-60R is currently not the only option being considered by the RoCN,” which is now “conducting a full assessment of its interests and combat needs before identifying a specific helicopter,” he added, according to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly.
As The Diplomat reported before, a possible letter of acceptance could be signed in 2016. The deal for the procurement of ten helicopters via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program is estimated at $700 to $800 million. In August, Taiwan also announced that it will upgrade 18 Sikorsky S-70C anti-submarine warfare helicopters by the end of 2017.
According to DefenseWorld.Net, the MH-60 Seahawk can be launched from frigates, destroyers, cruisers, amphibious ships and aircraft carriers. Next to anti-submarine warfare missions, the aircraft can be deployed in anti-surface warfare, search and rescue operations, naval gunfire support, surveillance, communications relay, logistics support and personnel transfer and vertical replenishment.
It equipped with a dipping sonar and armed with torpedoes and machine guns. The helicopter’s operational range is around 450 nautical miles.
Outside the United States, only two other countries –Australia and Denmark—are operating the MH-60R variant. The helicopters would serve as an important new capability for the ROCN.
The Republic of China Army is currently investigating the grounding of the majority of its 30 AH-64E Apache “Guardian” gunships –one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopters –purchased from the United States between 2013 and 2014 (See: “Grounded: Taiwan’s US-Made Attack Helicopter Fleet Is Rusting Away”).