With the MoD’s issuance of a Letter of Request (LOR) for purchasing 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters, the Indian Navy is now one step closer towards acquiring and inducting the same
The Ministry of Defence, on November 13, issued a LOR to the United States Department of Defence for procuring 24 naval multi-role MH-60 ‘Romeo’ helicopters. This move follows from the MoD’s issuance of an ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ (AON) for the same on August 25. The Rs 13,500 crore deal for acquiring 24 MH-60Rs is a government to government deal executed under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route which is expected to be inked within a year.
The Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky MH-60R, an anti-ship anti-submarine multi-role helicopter, is supposed to replace the ageing Sea King and Kamov-28 fleet, most of which are not even operational as of date. The induction of these heavy-duty choppers, expected around 2020-2024, will come as a shot in the arm for the Indian Navy. The reason why MH-60Rs will boost India’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities is not only because it’s going to replenish the ageing fleet of Sea Kings and Kamovs, but that, it will also come with state-of-the-art surveillance, detection, and weapon systems that will bolster the Indian Navy’s ASW capabilities for the future.
Commenting on the procurement, Cmde Anil Jai Singh (retd) said “The Indian Navy urgently needs anti-submarine warfare capable multi-role helicopters that can detect and attack submarines. MH-60Rs would definitely help in plugging our Navy’s ASW capability gap as they meet the Indian Navy’s current operational requirements”.
The government had issued a similar RFI (Request for Information) for acquiring NMRHs (Naval Multi-Role Helicopters) back in 2011 and 2013 as well. In a previous iteration of the NMRH contract, the Indian Navy had inclined towards the Sikorsky S-70B. But with Lockheed Martin’s acquisition of Sikorsky and the expanded requirement in mind, the S-70 Bravo fell off the table, making way for the more capable MH-60 Romeo and the number pushed up to 24.
The move to acquire the 24 MH-60Rs is the first major step towards an expanded requirement detailed by the Indian Navy last year for 123 medium multi-role helicopters to replace the current Mk. 42B and UH-3H Sea King fleet. With the procurement for 24 MH-60Rs receiving a go-ahead from the MoD, the Navy’s formal future requirement for such ASW capable multi-role-helicopters now stands at 147 helicopters, making it one of the largest naval acquisition plans in the world. The acquisition of the remaining 123 ‘N-MRH’ helicopters will be executed under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model, which might take some time to materialise.