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Update: Japan completes development of SH-60L helicopter

The second MHI (Sikorsky) SH-60L developmental prototype (serial no 8502) conducts a flight test. (ATLA)

Japan has completed the development of its improved Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) (Sikorsky) SH-60L maritime helicopter.

Designed as an improved anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter, the new SH-60L has an updated engine transmission, an ultra-high-speed datalink, and improved ASW systems, according to the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD). According to Japan's Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA), development of the SH-60L was completed on 22 December.

The SH-60L developmental programme began in 2015 with a USD63 million ATLA contract for a rotorcraft with “enhanced capacities”. According to ATLA, the requirement to develop a helicopter to replace the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's (JMSDF's) older SH-60K helicopters was initiated earlier, in Japan fiscal year (FY) 2007. The SH-60L was originally intended to enter serial production in 2022.

In September 2022 Janes reported that the MoD had requested JPY60.3 billion (USD423.1 million) to procure six SH-60Ls as part of its 2023 defence budget. Janes assesses that the aircraft will almost certainly be used on the JMSDF's new Mogami-class frigates. Janes inventory states that the JMSDF currently operates two Mogami-class frigates. Japan has announced plans to build 10 ships of the class under its Mid-Term Defense Program for FY2019–23. It is unclear, however, when the SH-60Ls will begin replacing the earlier SH-60Ks.

“The new helicopter will be … in operation in the near future,” ATLA has said.

According to Janes inventory data, the JMSDF operates 69 SH-60Ks, which started to enter service in 2002, and 14 older SH-60Js, which entered service in 1991. According to MHI, the SH-60J is a licensed modification of the US Navy's SH-60B Seahawk.

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