At a ceremony held on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Lockheed Martin facility in Owego, N.Y., the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) accepted the first two MH-60R helicopters from the U.S. Navy. Australia is the first international customer to acquire this multi-mission helicopter, with a fleet of 24 to be delivered incrementally by the end of 2016.

The MH-60R "Romeo" is manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and equipped with advanced mission systems and sensors by Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training (MST). The MH-60R is the U.S. Navy's primary anti-submarine and anti-surface helicopter, and also has the capabilities for secondary missions such as search and rescue, naval surface fire support, and medical evacuation, among other advanced features. For example, the U.S. Navy recently used the helicopter to deliver supplies to people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Tom Kane, director of Naval Helicopter Programs at Lockheed Martin, opened the ceremony. During his welcoming message, Kane stated, "This is a tremendous accomplishment in 29 months, and focused teamwork helped reach this milestone."

The Commonwealth of Australia announced its selection of the MH-60R to fulfill the Australian Defense Force's AIR 9000 Phase 8 requirement in June 2011. According to "Navy Daily" on the Royal Australian Navy's website, the Phase 8 budget was $3.2 billion. As presented during the ceremony at Lockheed Martin on Dec. 10, the delivery of these first two aircraft was achieved six months ahead of schedule.

Rear Admiral Tony Dalton, head of the RAN Defense Material Organization's Helicopter Systems shared, "The Romeo is an evolutionary step forward, it's a game changer." Dalton explained that based on the fact that Australia is an island with the Pacific and Indian oceans surrounding it, the need for helicopters with anti-submarine capability is crucial. "Two hundred submarines are in the oceans, sixty-four of them nuclear. Some of them are yours. Six of them are ours. But the rest of them are out there. We hope this is the start of a long and enduring partnership."

U.S. Navy Captain A.C. Lynch spoke of the value of the larger mission, which is that of being a global partner, whereby our seas are protected by a partnership of maritime security. "I am honored to represent the U.S. Navy," stated Lynch, "and to officially help deliver the helicopter to the Commonwealth of Australia."

"Team Romeo" Lockheed employees in the audience were asked to stand during the ceremony, and were congratulated for their efforts. About 600 employees work on the Romeo team. Other Lockheed Martin employees recognized at the ceremony were Lead Engineer Rick Vanness, and Jim Champion from the Hangar Facility, both of whom walked on stage and accepted a gift from Captain Scott Lockey, aeronautical engineer and RAN project director.

Following the ceremony, Tom Kane addressed the media and shared that in November, the country of Denmark also purchased the MH-60R, the first of which will be delivered in May 2016. "We also have opportunities in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America," added Kane. Kane also stated he was optimistic about the future.

Oct. 4, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Navy. At the Dec. 10 ceremony at Lockheed Martin, the Owego Free Academy choir sang both the Australian and U.S. National Anthems, and the Owego Free Academy jazz band also performed.