US firm Lockheed Martin has signed a $905 million deal with India to provide 24 examples of the MH-60R helicopter to the Indian navy for anti-submarine warfare. The MH-60R helicopters reportedly to replace obsolete Indian Navy Sea King helicopters, first acquired from the UK in 1971. As per reports, the negotiation for the full package is still underway.
The newly acquired helicopters will be deployed to detect and if needed engage Chinese and Pakistani submarines and warships in the Indian Ocean Region. The US State Department declared the deal in April 2019 which is less than half the $2.6 billion package. The US at that time included the price of the choppers, several weapon systems including Hellfire missiles which can target ships, MK 54 torpedoes and precision strike rocket systems.
“The US Navy has allowed us to leverage three aircraft from their inventory of brand new aircraft that have never been introduced into the fleet — in order to provide them to the Indian Navy so they can begin training on a more accelerated basis than might normally be possible,” says Tom Kane, director of Sikorsky naval helicopter programmes.
The US Navy has already allowed Lockheed Martin to speed up the delivery process by transferring three MH-60RS from the US Navy’s inventory of undelivered MH-60R choppers to India. Indian Navy pilots and engineers now will be able to train on the chopper prior to full-scale introduction on board aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates in the fleet.
The Indian navy is also searching for 111 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace its aging fleet of Hindustan Aeronautics Chetak helicopters. The new helicopters will search and rescue casualty evacuation, passenger and cargo transportation and torpedo drop roles.