India has signed a contract with the U.S to procure 24 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ maritime multi-mission helicopters for the Indian Navy.
The deal was signed on Feb. 25 on the sidelines of U.S. President Donald Trump’s ongoing visit to India. The first six helicopters are expected to be delivered to the Indian Navy earlier next year.
The procurement, worth $2.4 billion, was cleared by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) earlier this month.
The sale of 24 MH-60R helicopters to India, through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, was approved by the U.S. State Department in April last year. The approval was based on the Letter of Request (LOR) issued by the Government of India to the U.S. Government in late 2018 following the procurement approval by India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in September that year.
The principal contractor of the sale is the Rotary and Mission Systems division of Lockheed Martin, the parent company of Sikorsky.
The newly acquired helicopters will replace the Indian Navy’s aging fleet of Sikorsky UH-3H Sea King and Westland Sea King Mk.42B (British license-built version of Sikorsky Sea King) helicopters.
The MH-60Rs will provide the Indian Navy the capability to perform anti-surface (ASuW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment (VERTREP), search and rescue (SAR), and communications relay.
The helicopters will become an integral part of the Indian Navy’s frontline warships like the aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. Availability of the new helicopters with the Navy would plug the existing capability gap as the majority of its around 140 warships are operating without helicopters.
The procurement of just 24 helicopters is to satisfy the immediate requirement of the Navy. The Navy is also pursuing a larger buy of 123 helicopters through its Naval Multi-Role Helicopter (NMRH) program.
MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’
The Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopter was developed by Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky to replace the U.S. Navy’s Sikorsky SH-60B and SH-60F helicopter fleet and is designed to combine the features of both the helicopters.
The MH-60R Seahawk is also called ‘Romeo’ based on the military phonetic alphabet pronunciation of its variant letter.
The helicopter is capable of conducting a range of naval missions including anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), search-and-rescue (SAR), naval gunfire support (NGFS), surveillance, communications relay, logistics support and personnel transfer and vertical replenishment (VERTREP).
The helicopter can be launched and recovered by any air-capable frigate, destroyer, cruiser, fast combat support ship, amphibious assault ship, or aircraft carrier operated by the U.S. Navy.