India’s Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved on February 19 the procurement of 24 Lockheed Martin-Sikorky MH-60R Seahawk Romeo multirole maritime helicopters worth $2.6 billion, according to local media reports.
“The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) cleared the procurement of 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters for the navy,” an official was quoted as saying by The Economic Times on February 19.
The approval comes only days ahead of a much anticipated visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to the subcontinent. It marks the first official state visit of Trump to India since taking office in 2017.
The MH-60Rs will be bought directly from the U.S. government under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to expedite the induction of the new helicopters into the Indian Navy.
The Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) already approved in August 2018 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.
The MoD in February 2019 issued a new Expression of Interest (EOI) restarting the entire NUH procurement process due to a breakdown of negotiations over the purchase of 16 U.S.-made Sikorsky S-70B-x helicopters despite the acquisition already approved by the DAC in 2014.
The new EOI calls for 16 helicopters directly bought from abroad, and the remaining 95 to be manufactured in India. However, given that the the 24 NMRHs will now be directly purchased from the United States, they do not fall under the MoD’s strategic partnership policy.
The U.S. State Department cleared the sale of 24 MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopters in April 2019 for an estimated $2.6 billion. The FMS sale 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, next to other equipment and parts.
As I explained last 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 aims to procure over 230 new helicopters this decade for an estimated $10 billion. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of State authorized the possible sale of a U.S. Integrated Air Defense Weapon System for India.