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Lockheed Bags Contract To Equip Indian MH-60R Helicopters With Low-Frequency Sonars

After bagging a $905 million deal for supplying 24 MH-60R helicopters to the Indian Navy in May 2020, Lockheed Martin is all set to deliver Airborne Low-Frequency Sonars (ALFSs) worth more than $181 million to India, according to US Department of Defence.

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The press report read – Lockheed Martin Corp is awarded a $181,744,524 modification to previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract N00019-19-C-0013.  This modification provides for the production, delivery and integration of 24 Airborne Low-Frequency Sonars (ALFS) for the government of India; eight ALFS for the Navy and seven ALFS for the government of Denmark, into MH-60R Seahawk aircraft.  Work will be performed in Brest, France (77%); Portsmouth, Rhode Island (15%); and Owego, New York (8%), and is expected to be completed by December 2024. 

The deal was announced on 4th August and includes production, delivery and integration of the ALFS on 24 helicopters for the Indian Navy, 8 systems for the U.S. Navy and 7 for the Danish Navy MH-60R helicopters. It is seen as a significant booster for the Indian Navy in its undersea warfare capabilities and has come at a key point amid heightening tensions with China.

Lockheed MH-60R deal for the Indian Navy

Struggling with its old Sea King helicopters, the Indian Navy has been long-standing in the queue to acquire new multirole utility helicopters for ASW (anti-submarine warfare) and search & rescue operations.

The MH-60R helicopters were chosen as a replacement for the Sea Kings and were cleared for purchase by the Defense Ministry in August 2018. The deal of sell 24 helicopters was approved by the Trump administration however the initial cost estimated was $2.6 billion which included spares, maintenance logistical support and munitions including Hellfire Missiles, MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes, 50 cannons and precision rocket systems.

The deal was inked during President Trump’s visit to India in February 2020, and Lockheed was given an order to supply 24 MH-60R helicopters to the Indian Navy for the initial cost of $905 million, which excluded the support and maintenance. “What has been announced today is just the cost of the helicopters minus the weapons and other systems”, an officer had explained to Financial Express.

The AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low-Frequency Sonar

Designed, developed and manufactured by the defence and aerospace giant Raytheon Technologies, the AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low Frequency is the primary undersea warfare sensor for the MH-60R helicopters manufactured by Lockheed.

According to the manufacturer, “the AN/AQS-22 is the only in-service dipping sonar with the multi-frequency operation. This capability enables the AN/AQS-22 to adapt its performance to varying environmental conditions”.

“With a rapid search rate, the AN/AQS-22 identifies and neutralizes threats sooner, enabling it to cover a larger area. The AN/AQS-22 also permits a longer detection range over a wider area, reducing the number of helicopters required to perform active anti-submarine warfare (ASW) screening”.

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