India is reportedly ready to approve a $2.6 billion deal for MH-60R Sea Hawk Helicopters from the U.S. defence firm Lockheed Martin ahead of a proposed visit by U.S. President Donald Trump this month, according to Reuters.
The MH-60 Seahawk (or Sea Hawk) is a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission United States Navy helicopter based on the United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family.
Designed for hunting submarines as well as knocking out ships and conducting search-and-rescue operations at sea, the Lockheed Martin-built helicopters would replenish India’s ageing fleet of British-made Sea King helicopters.
PM Modi’s cabinet committee on security is expected to clear the purchase of 24 MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters for the Indian navy in the next two weeks, a defence official and an industry source briefed on the matter separately told Reuters. “It’s a government-to-government deal, it is close,” said the industry source.
To shorten lengthy negotiations between Lockheed and the Indian government, the helicopters that will be deployed on India’s warships will be bought through the U.S. foreign military sales route, under which the two governments will agree details of the deal.
“The proposed sale will provide India with the capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay.”
India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence, the notification said, adding that India will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region, it said.
Currently deployed with the US Navy as the primary anti-submarine warfare anti-surface weapon system for open ocean and littoral zones, the helicopters are considered the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter.
According to industry experts, it is the most capable naval helicopter available today designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers. MH-60 Romeo Seahawks would add lethal capabilities of the Indian Navy, which experts say is the need of the hour given the aggressive behaviour of China in the Indian Ocean region.
According to US Naval Air System Command, the MH-60R Seahawk missions are anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, surveillance, communications relay, combat search and rescue, naval gunfire support and logistics support.
As the Navy’s next-generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter, the MH-60R Seahawk is considered to be the cornerstone of the Navy’s Helicopter Concept of Operations.