The Indian Navy (IN) signed a $2.6 billion deal to acquire 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters from Lockheed-Martin’s Sikorsky on February 25. This deal was inked during U.S. President Donald Trump’s recently concluded visit to India in February. The deal was consummated on February 24, which also happened to be the second day of President Trump’s tour. The helicopters are being procured under the ‘Buy Global’ category as part of the plan to acquire military technology through foreign military purchases.
The deal was approved by the U.S. State Department in 2019 and is intended to counter the Chinese Navy’s increasing influence in the troubled Indian Ocean Region. In a statement released by the IN, the new MH-60R rotary-wing aircraft will replace the Sea King 42/42A helos in use since the 1970s. The IN release also mentioned that the helicopter will be manufactured as part of their commitment to India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, whereby Lockheed Martin would engage in the transfer of technology to key Indian manufacturing partners. This would also enable the absorption of niche technology, promote skill development and eventually lead to a quality of production deemed fit for a buy-back by the original equipment manufacturer i.e. Lockheed Martin.
The Sikorsky MH-60Rs were purchased as part of a ‘Maritime Capability-based Perspective Plan’, through which the IN plans to build a 200-ship fleet by 2027. The current number is 137, with the INS Vikrant slated to be inducted into the fleet next year. (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/indian-navy-aiming-at-200-ship-fleet-by-2027/articleshow/48072917.cms?from=mdr) The Indian Navy is also in talks with Russia to achieve this goal, but the deliveries of the MH-60R will commence from 2021 onward.
A key reason why the MH-60R is considered one of the better maritime rotary-wing craft in the world is that it can perform all of the missions listed below (https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/rotary-naval-ops.htm) –
- ASW – Anti-Submarine warfare – In this role, the helo will team up with a destroyer or an anti-submarine warfare-capable ship to hunt down subs
- USW – Under-Surface warfare – In this role, the helo can detect and neutralize contacts generated by its onboard or ship-borne sensors
- SUW – Surface warfare – In this role, the helo performs the role of a force multiplier, tracking and destroying threats beyond the parent ship’s radar or countermeasures range.
- ASST – Anti-ship surveillance and tracking – In this role, a helicopter is expected to function as an extension of the ship’s radar systems, and is primarily intended to track and identify hostile ships
- NSFS – Naval Surface Fire Support – Here, it functions like a spotter, providing salvo damage assessment and advice on correction, if any
- NSW – Naval Special Warfare – In this role, it operates as a springboard for ship-borne commandos, providing ingress and egress, and combat search-and-rescue support
- Minesweeping – Used to locate and mark minefields, and demolish all kinds of mines whenever needed
- VERTREP – Vertical Replenishment – Rapid replenishment of supplies in a battlefield scenario
- COMREL- Communications Relay – In this role, an MH-60R is expected to serve as a relay for over-the-horizon communications
- MOB/SAR – Mobility, Search and Rescue – self-explanatory.
This also includes the ability to seamlessly integrate with the P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft being used by the Indian Navy. The MH-60R belongs to the H-60 family of helicopters built by Sikorsky. Other members of this line include – SH-60B, SH-60F, HH-60H and the MH-60S.
Adreesh Ghoshal is an automobile engineer with a deep interest in defence technology. He lives in Mumbai.
Featured Image depicts MH-60Rs in US Navy Service. Courtesy: Lockheed Martin.
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