US Navy allowed LM to leverage 3 copters from their inventory of brand new aircraft never been introduced into the fleet – “in order to provide them to the Indian Navy so they can begin training on a more accelerated basis”
Accelerating the delivery process, the US Navy will transfer three “brand new” MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters to the Indian Navy by the end of this year.
The US Navy has allowed Lockheed Martin to leverage three helicopters from their inventory of brand new aircraft that have never been introduced into the fleet – “in order to provide them to the Indian Navy so they can begin training on a more accelerated basis than might normally be possible.”
Originally, the delivery of the first batch of MH-60Rs was scheduled for next year. “…So by this time next year in June, we anticipate delivering the first couple of aircraft to the Indian Navy to begin training. Then an additional aircraft will be delivered in 2022 and after that I really do not want to go into specifics because the Indian Navy and the US Navy still have to lay out the specifics of the delivery,” Kane had said during a media briefing that was held virtually on 18 May 2020.
Lockheed Martin on 14 May 2020 was awarded a USD 905 million contract for the production and delivery of three MH-60R Seahawk maritime aircraft for the Navy and 21 MH-60Rs for the government of India under Foreign Military Sales (FMS). The work is expected to be complete by September 2024.
It will replenish India’s aging fleet of British-made Sea King helicopters and will add to the forces ability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions.
The value USD 905 million is for the basic aircraft prior to the modification. There are additional contract amendments and the modifications as per the Indian requirement that were in the process of negotiations with the US Navy.
The official Letter of Acceptance (LoA) for the procurement of these helicopters was signed in February 2020 during the visit of US President Donald Trump to India. In April 2019, the US approved the sale of 24 multi-role MH-60 ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopters to India at an estimated cost of USD 2.4 billion.
“India’s selection of the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ multi-mission helicopter provides the Indian Navy with the most advanced anti-surface/anti-submarine warfare helicopter in operation today. The MH-60R offers the lowest risk and best value option because the aircraft is already in full production and globally supportable,” Kane said.
India is the fifth country to add the MH-60R helicopter to its fleet after the United States, Australia, Denmark and Saudi Arabia. More than 300 MH-60R are in operation worldwide, according to Lockheed Martin.
Some of the India specific requirements include updating the platform with a new SATCOM “to be able to talk to the Indian satellites.” The Indian Government has sought for some other changes as well in the communications.
Sharing why MH60 is a good fit for India and why it is gaining attention and momentum around the world Kane said, “We have been in full production and it is really a globally supported aircraft and it is one of things that distinguishes our aircraft from competitors. Once they get out in the fleet, we know how to support them – the repairs and spare to make sure it keeps flying.”
From training perspective, the Indian crew will train along with the US crews. MH-60R Seahawk, according to the industry experts, is designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers and is touted as the “world’s most advanced maritime helicopter”.
According to Kane other thing that makes this aircraft a good fit for India is that the US Navy is continuing to invest in the capabilities of the platform, vastly improving the maritime security in the region. “The MH-60R provides a vital capability in the Indo-Pacific region and equips the Indian Navy with a tremendous capability that is ready for operations immediately upon delivery,” he added.
“We are strengthening and growing partnerships with India which provides us opportunities to not just partner with the government in modernizing the armed forces but to also act as a catalyst in advancing its indigenous manufacturing contribution to the country,” Vice President and Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin India Bill Blair said.
The US aerospace giant has established two state-of-the-art joint ventures with TASL in Hyderabad (Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Ltd. (TLMAL), and Tata Sikorsky Aerospace Ltd. (TSAL). These JVs were established 10 years ago.
The C-130J Super Hercules is Lockheed Martin’s largest programme in India and represents the first major military contract between the US and India in more than 40 years.
Blair added, “…In order to position for the upcoming requirements and particularly Strategic Partnership programmes, we expect in the future to drive and promote greater local content and leadership in India that meets the self-reliance requirements.”
Additionally, the American firm is investing in startups through a programme called the India Innovation Growth Programme 2.0, a capacity building and a tripartite initiative of the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology, Lockheed Martin and Tata Trusts.