India is expected to sign a $2 billion-plus deal for the procurement of 24 Lockheed Martin-Sikorky MH-60R Seahawk Romeo multirole maritime helicopters from the United States by the end of the year, according to the top officer of the Indian Navy.
“The LOR (letter of request) and LOA (letter of acceptance) procedures [are on track] and we should be ready by the end of the year,” Admiral Karambir Singh was quoted as saying by The Economic Times on July 25.
The helicopters will be directly bought from the U.S. government under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense to expedite the procurement of the new helicopters.
India’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the procurement of 111 armed light naval utility helicopters (NUH) and 24 naval multirole helicopters (NMRH) for the Indian Navy under the Indian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) new strategic partnership policy in August 2018.
The MoD in February issued a new Expression of Interest (EOI) officially relaunching the entire NUH procurement process, following the breakdown of negotiations over the purchase of 16 U.S.-made Sikorsky S-70B-x helicopters, although their acquisition had already been cleared in 2014 by the DAC. The new EOI calls for 16 helicopters directly bought from abroad, and the remaining 95 to be manufactured in India. The 24 NMRHs will now be directly purchased from the United States and not fall under the MoD’s strategic partnership policy.
The U.S. State Department cleared the possible sale of 24 MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopters in April 2019 for an estimated $2.6 billion. The FMS deal includes 30 APS-153(V) Multi-Mode radars, 60 T700-GE-401C engines, 24 Airborne Low Frequency System (ALFS), 1,000 AN/SSQ-36/53/62 sonobuoys; 30 MK 54 torpedoes; 10 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles; 38 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) rockets; and 70 AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Devices, in addition to other equipment and parts.
As I explained in April:
MH-60R helicopters can carry AGM-114 Hellfires for use against small vessels and land targets, and MK 54 torpedoes for anti-submarine warfare missions, and can also be armed with APKWS 70mm laser-guided rockets. The MH-60R lacks an anti-ship missile in its normal configuration. However, according to DSCA, the fifth-generation over-the-horizon Naval Strike Missile (NSM) will be integrated into India’s MH-60Rs.
The Indian Navy has flagged helicopters as one of its most critical needs and intends to procure over 230 new helicopters in the coming years, estimated to cost over $10 billion. At the moment, the Navy operates 11 Kamov-28 and 17 Sea King ASW helicopters; however, about half of each type are not flightworthy.
Separately, the Indian Air Force took delivery of the first batch of four Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters this month.