Mitsubishi Heavy Industries performed the formal hand-over of the two prototype XSH-60L helicopters to the Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense at its Nagoya plant on 28 September 2021. The day following the delivery, both helicopters were flown to NAF Atsugi where they will be tested by ATLA personnel.
Although the designation is not officially confirmed, we believe this upgraded SH-60K will be named SH-60L after basic testing by ATLA has been satisfactorily finished and the helicopters will be handed over to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s 51 Kokutai for more operational function testing at Atsugi.
Both helicopters, serials 8501 and 8502, have the ATLA badge and name (防衛装備庁 in Japanese characters) on the tail boom. The first is still in its red/white prototype colours and we believe it is the original SH-60K prototype, the upgraded version of the SH-60J Seahawk manufactured under license by Mitsubishi.
Later this frame was modified to become the prototype of the UH-60K Search & Rescue helicopter with serial 8901. This project was stopped after it was announced the JMSDF would discontinue its own SAR operations.
The JMSDF once operated 103 SH-60Js of which only a handful are still operational. At the moment 72 helicopters of the SH-60K variant are active with a few more on order before that type will be superseded by the SH-60L. Six JMSDF Kokutais currently operate the various Seahawk variants, besides the test unit 51 Kokutai, also 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25 Kokutai use the type.