Navy makes formal request for 24 MH-60R helicopters from U.S.

A scale model of the MH-60R Seahawk Multi Mission Helicopter on display at Lockheed Martin Stall at the Defexpo in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

India made a formal request to the U.S. for the purchase of 24 MH-60R Multi-Role Helicopters (MRH) for the Navy in a deal estimated at $2 billion. This is among a series of defence procurements and inductions from the U.S. and Russia in last two months.

“The Government has issued the Letter of Request (LoR) on November 15 for procurement of 24 MRH from the U.S. Government under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route,” a defence official said.

The Navy is presently facing a critical shortage of helicopters with several frontline warships flying with empty helicopter decks. These helicopters are being procured as replacement for 15 Sea King ASW helicopters de-inducted from service in 1991 and one Sea King 42B MRH lost in accident. The current MRHs in service, Sea King 42Bs, were inducted in the 1980s.

In August, ahead of the inaugural India-US 2+2 dialogue, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) accorded the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the procurement.

Details of the deal
  • India issued a Letter of Request (LoR) on November 15 for purchase of 24 MRH from the U.S. Government.
  • Deal through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route of U.S. Estimated to cost around $2 billion.
  • MH-60R is the mainstay of the U.S. Navy’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability.
  • It is capable of carrying out anti-ship, anti-submarine, electronic warfare, net-centric over-the-horizon offensive and defensive roles.
  • Over 300 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters worldwide with over 600,00 flight hours accumulated.

The LoR was signed and sent after the Navy received the pricing and availability details from the U.S. Now the U.S. will get back with the price quote following which the contract negotiations would begin to conclude the final deal. As the deal is through the FMS route, the process is expected to be completed in a short timeframe.

Given the urgency of helicopters, the U.S. is likely to take off some MH-60R helicopters from the flight deck of their newest aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford. In July, the USS Gerald Ford went for a year-long upgrades and fixes.

“We will likely get about 4-5 MH-60s from the Gerald Ford immediately once the deal is signed,” the official stated and added that all the helicopters will be delivered in a phased manner from 2020-24.

In the last two months, India signed multi-billion dollar deals with Russia for S-400 long range air defence systems and four stealth frigates while shortlisting Russia for the Army’s shoulder fired air defence missiles deal. At the same time, the Army inducted the first batch of artillery guns from the U.S. and South Korea. The deals also come in the backdrop of U.S. threatening sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law.

The MH-60R was earlier selected through a competitive process but the deal fell through due to price issues and other developments following which the tender was cancelled.

This procurement will help in partially mitigating shortage of helicopters on frontline warships and bridge the Navy’s operational void in integral air Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability, the official stated.

The MH-60R which is in service with the U.S. is a modern and proven multi-mission platform capable of carrying out anti-ship, anti-submarine, electronic warfare, net-centric over-the-horizon offensive and defensive roles required for the Navy.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 7:08:38 AM |

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