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Top 10 Anti-Submarine Warfare Helicopters


   The main role of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters is to protect the fleet from enemy submarines. These helicopters are fitted with sophisticated sensors and are armed with missiles and torpedoes to track and hunt down enemy boats. Usually anti-submarine warfare helicopters also perform anti-shipping and search and rescue tasks.

   So which is the best anti-submarine warfare helicopter in the world? Which is the most capable ASW chopper? Our Top 10 analysis is based on available specifications and data. This list do not includes helicopters, that are currently in development or at the prototype stage. It includes only helicopters that are in service.

   Currently top 10 anti-submarine warfare helicopters in the world are these:



Best anti-submarine warfare helicopters

Nr.1 MH-60R Seahawk (USA)


   The MH-60R Seahawk is a multi-mission helicopter, operated by the US Navy. It is also referred as Romeo. It is a further development of the SH-60B Seahawk, Development began in 1993. It was designed to combine features of the SH-60B and SH-60F anti-submarine warfare helicopters. First low-rate initial production helicopters were remanufactured form the SH-60Bs. However subsequent helicopters were newly built. The MH-60R was first deployed in 2009. Currently this helicopter is used by the US Navy (over 100 units) and Royal Australian Navy.

   Main missions of the MH-60R Seahawk are Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW). This helicopter can detect and track submarines and surface ships and attack with torpedoes and missiles.

   The Seahawk has advanced mission systems and sensors. It carries advanced airborne active sonar, multi-mode search radar and nose-mounted forward-looking infrared (FLIR) turret. Its multi-mode search radar has an automatic periscope detection and discrimination capability. Also it carries air-launched sonobuoys. However magnetic anomaly detector suite was removed. Data is transferred via advanced airborne fleet data link.

   The MH-60R has improved offensive capabilities comparing with SH-60B or SH-60F. It has stub wings and can carry two Mk.46, Mk.50 or Mk.54 light air-launched torpedoes, two AGM-119B Penguin anti-ship missiles or four AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.



Best anti-submarine warfare helicopters

Nr.2 AW101 (Italy / United Kingdom)


   The AgustaWestland AW101 was jointly developed by British and Italian companies. Previously it was known as Eurocopter EH101. However later Agusta and Westland Helicopters merged and formed AgustaWestland.

   This naval helicopter was designed to replace the Sea King and made its first flight in 1987. It is in service with a number of countries. Some countries use the name Merlin for this helicopter.

   The AW101 is a modern naval helicopter. It is fitted with dipping sonar and sonobuoys. However systems and equipment vary from customer to customer. It has the power and performance for autonomous anti-submarine warfare missions.

   There is also an utility version of this helicopter.



Top 10 anti-submarine warfare helicopters

Nr.3 NH90 (France / Germany / Italy / Netherlands)


   The NH90 is an international project. It was jointly developed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. It was developed as a NATO Helicopter for the 90s, hence its name. A large number of these helicopters have already been built.

   This helicopter was developed for autonomous anti-submarine warfare and anti-ship roles. Its advanced mission suite includes a 360 search radar, dipping sonar, forward-looking infra-red, magnetic anomaly detector, and electronic surveillance measures. The NH90 is capable of all-weather day and night operations even during high sea states.

   There is also an NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) version for assault transport and utility roles.



Anti-submarine warfare helicopters

Nr.4 Z-18F (China)


   The Z-18F is a specialized anti-submarine version of the Chinese Z-18 helicopter. Chinese call this helicopter the Sea Eagle. It was developed by Changhe Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG). The Z-18 is already in service with Chinese military and it seems that it is being produced in large numbers. It will gradually replace older Z-8 naval helicopters.

   This helicopter is equipped with surface search radar, dipping sonar, sonobuoys and FLIR turret. It can carry up to 4 lightweight torpedoes or missiles.

   It seems that this helicopter is fitted with a datalink and can target cruise missiles from frigates and destroyer escorts on its targets.



Top ten ASW helicopters

Nr.5 AW159 Wildcat (United Kingdom)


   The AgustaWestland AW159 is a modern naval helicopter. It was developed to replace the successful Westland Lynx. Even though it looks similar to the Westland Lynx, it has significant design differences. 95% of the components are new and only 5% are interchangeable with the latest versions of the Lynx. In 2014 it has been adopted by the Royal Navy as the Wildcat. Also it was selected by the South Korean Navy and actually won competition against the American MH-60R Seahawk.

   The AW159 is small helicopter, but is carries modern sensors, including an active dipping sonar. It can carry two Sting Ray torpedoes or depth charges. Alternatively it can be armed with four Thales Martlet lightweight multi-role air-to-surface missiles or four Sea Venom lightweight anti-ship missiles. These weapons are effective against small boats and fast attack craft. Both of these missiles can target ships and land targets.

   There is also a transport and light attack version of this helicopter for the army. Both navy and army versions have common airframe.



Top 10 ASW helicopters

Nr.6 Ka-27PL (Russia)


   The Kamov Ka-27 helicopter was developed for the Soviet Navy. It was adopted in 1982. The first production variant was the Ka-27PL. known in the west as Helix-A. Its export version is the Ka-28. Currently it is in service with various countries.

   The Ka-27 retains Kamov's well-proven contra-rotating co-axial rotor configuration. This helicopter has no tail rotor, what allows to reduce footprint on ships. This anti-submarine warfare helicopter is extremely stable and easy to fly, and automatic height hold, automatic transition to and from the hover and autohover are possible in all weather conditions.

   The Ka-27PL has all the usual ASW and ESM equipment including dipping sonar and sonobuoys as well as search radar.

   The Ka-27M is a recent version that is being tested and evaluated by the Russian Navy. It has got new radar and some other improvements.



ASW helicopter comparison

Nr.7 Westland Sea King (United Kingdom)


   The Westland Sea King is a license produced version of the Sikorsky S-61 known in the US Navy as the SH-3 Sea King. Westland Helicopters acquired rights to produce this helicopter in the United Kingdom. However it was fitted with British avionics and carried different ASW equipment than its American counterpart. This helicopter has been exported to a number of countries. Royal Navy has retired its fleet of Sea King ASW helicopters. It has been replaced by a modern AgustaWestland AW101, also known as the Merlin. However various anti-submarine warfare versions of the Westland Sea King are still operational around the world.

   This helicopter has a watertight boat-like hull. It has pontoons with floating bags, that give the Sea King a capability to land on water.

   The Westland Sea King has a crew of 2 to 4, depending on the mission.

   The Westland Sea King can carry four Mk.44, Mk.46 or Stingray torpedoes, or four depth charges. Export versions can carry Sea Eagle or Exocet missiles for anti-shipping duties.

   This naval helicopter has a moveable tail section. For storage below carrier decks the tail and the main rotor blades are folded.



Best ASW chopper

Nr.8 SH-3 Sea King (USA)


   The S-61 was developed by Sikorsky in the late 1950s primarily for the carrier-based anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role. It made its first flight in 1959. It was adopted by the US Navy as the SH-3 Sea King. It has been retired from the US Navy. However various versions of this anti-submarine warfare helicopter are in service with a number of countries around the world.

   The Sea King It was the world's first amphibious helicopter. The helicopter has a watertight boat-like hull. It has pontoons with floating bags, that give the Sea King a capability to land on water.

   The Sea King has a dipping sonar and sonobuoys for submarine detection. This ASW helicopter had a capability to carry a nuclear depth charge. Some of this later versions, such as SH-3H carried two Mk 46/44 anti-submarine torpedoes.



Top 10 anti-submarine warfare helicopters

Nr.9 SH-2G Super Seasprite (USA)


   The Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprite is a modernized and upgraded version of the previous SH-2 Seasprite. This helicopter is no longer used by the US Navy. However it is still actively used by Egypt, New Zealand and Poland.

   The Super Seasprite is a ship-based long-range anti-submarine helicopter. Secondary missions are search & rescue, anti-shipping, liaison and utility operations. It is also used for surveillance and over-the-horizon targeting. The Super Seasprite can operate from coast guard cutters, offshore patrol vessels, such as corvettes, frigates, and other larger ships with a landing deck.

   This helicopter has a low frequency dipping sonar, onboard radar, front-mounted FLIR system, aquatic data processor.

   This helicopter can be fitted with various armament. It can carry a variety of ordnance, such as AGM-119B Penguin anti-ship missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles and Mk.50 torpedoes. The helicopter has provision for two machine guns.



Top ten ASW helicopters

Nr.10 Z-9EC (China)


   The Z-9EC naval anti-submarine warfare helicopter is a further development of the Harbin Z-9. The Z-9EC version was produced for the Pakistan Naval Air Arm. It is equipped with pulse-compression radar, low frequency dipping sonar, and other systems. The Z-9EC is armed with lightweight torpedoes. It is used aboard Pakistan Navy's F-22P Zulfiquar class frigates.




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