India and the US, during US President Trump’s 36-hour whirlwind visit, finalised defence deals worth USD 3 billion under which 30 military helicopters will be procured from two American defence majors for Indian armed forces. Included in this is the Indian Navy’s procurement of 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters at a cost of $2.6 billion.
The deal was sealed under a G2G deal under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.
These helicopters would serve as replacements for the Sea King 42/42A helicopters that were already decommissioned in the 1990s. The choppers will operate from frontline ships and aircraft carriers providing them the critical attributes of flexibility of operation, enhanced surveillance and attacking capability.
The delivery of these helicopters is planned as early 2021 and comes at a time when the Indian Ocean Region is witnessing an increasing security threat due to proliferation of submarines.
The MH-60 is famously called as ‘Romeo’ and is known as a helicopter that can hunt submarines deep inside the ocean. Made by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, the helicopters can be effectively employed for offensive and defensive roles including Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Ship Strike, Low Intensity Maritime Operations, Search and Rescue, over the horizon Network Centric Operations and Electronic Warfare.
The acquisition of the MH-60R helicopters also provides the Indian Navy with a key capability and effectively contributes to the Make in India initiative. Lockheed Martin would transfer technology to Indian Partners for manufacture of products and services.
This would then help in the absorption of niche technology, skill development and manufacture of eligible products leading to generation of jobs, skilling of MSMEs and indigenous production of products for buy-back by the OEM.